FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Set to return to the field following back-to-back College World Series appearances, the Arkansas baseball program on Tuesday released its 2020 schedule, which features a 32-game home slate, including home SEC series against Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Auburn and Georgia. In addition, Arkansas will travel to Texas in late February to play Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor in the Minute Maid Classic at the home of the Houston Astros.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn enters his 18th season at the helm of the baseball team and is coming off another College World Series appearance, the first in back-to-back years and 10th appearance in school history.
With its last two CWS appearances, including a finals appearance in 2018, Arkansas has elevated its program to one of its highest levels in school history. Well-known college baseball website, D1Baseball.com, recently ranked the Razorbacks’ program as the third best in the nation, 10 spots higher than its previous ranking in 2017. Van Horn, with his eight trips to the CWS in his career, has more appearances than any active coach in the nation.
Even with the departures of a number of players that were key cogs in the Razorbacks’ run to the College World Series last year, Arkansas still returns a number of veterans with experience, including two-thirds of its rotation in sophomores Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander.
Noland and Wicklander were among the top freshmen arms in the SEC last year as the duo combined for a 4.16 ERA, nine victories, 145 strikeouts and only 51 walks. Noland was named as a Perfect Game Freshman All-American and both were named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
On the offensive side, Arkansas brings back its top hitter in Matt Goodheart, who finished with a .345 batting average over 58 games as the designated hitter and was named to the All-SEC Second Team and SEC All-Tournament Team. The Hogs also return two of the top bats in the nation in juniors Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad, who are both projected as two of the top MLB prospects going into the 2020 season.
Over the last two years, Martin and Kjerstad have taken the conference by storm, combining for 59 home runs and each are just outside the career top-10 for home runs in Arkansas history. Kjerstad has hit .325 or higher in each of his first two seasons and matched his hit total (87) from 2018 and drove in another 51 RBIs along with 17 home runs. As for Martin, even though his average dipped slightly (.286), he still hit more home runs (15) and had more RBIs (57) than his freshman season.
2020 Schedule By The Numbers
– 16 teams with 30 or more wins in 2019 (Five with 40 or more)
– 10 NCAA Tournament teams
– 1 conference overall champions (Illinois State)
– 4 NCAA Super Regional teams (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn)
– 2 College World Series appearances (Mississippi State, Auburn)
Can’t Miss Games At Baum-Walker
Razorbacks vs. Eastern Illinois – Feb. 14-16
Arkansas opens its 98th season of competition against the Eastern Illinois Panthers for the second-straight year. This will be the 12th series between the two programs since 1984 and third since 2016. The Hogs swept the Panthers last year, including a doubleheader Opening Day due to weather and outscored them, 30-12. Arkansas has not lost the opening series to a season since 2001, two years before Van Horn took over as head coach.
Razorbacks vs. Alabama – March 20-22
The Hogs will open the home portion of its SEC schedule against the Alabama Crimson Tide one week after facing Mississippi State on the road. Arkansas has won seven of its last nine games against the Tide, including three-straight series victories. The last time Alabama visited Baum-Walker Stadium, it was a three-game sweep for the Hogs and was one of eight series sweeps at home in 2018.
Razorbacks vs. Florida – April 2-4 (Thursday-Saturday)
For the first time since 2016, the SEC perennial power Florida Gators will visit Fayetteville for a major weekend series to kick off the month of April. The Razorbacks and Gators have only faced off in the regular season four times in the last eight seasons and three of those series have been in Gainesville. Florida got the sweep in 2016, but Arkansas has had the Gators’ number in the postseason as of late winning twice in the SEC Tournament and once in the College World Series semifinals in 2018.
Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M – April 9-11 (Thursday-Saturday)
The strong start to the month of April continues for Arkansas as division-rival Texas A&M returns to Baum-Walker Stadium in what is expected to be a crucial series at the halfway point of the conference season. The Aggies won 39 games a year ago and reached the NCAA Regionals for the 13th-straight season. Arkansas has won six of its last nine games against Texas A&M and pulled off the sweep the last time the Aggies visited Fayetteville. The Hogs have also won five of the seven regular-season series since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2013.
Razorbacks vs. Auburn – April 24-26
One of two College World Series teams on Arkansas’ schedule, Auburn will return to Baum-Walker Stadium in late April and will bring one of the top returning clubs in the conference. The Tigers have gradually improved their stock over the years since hiring head coach Butch Thompson and that culminated last year with their first College World Series appearance since 1997. Last year, Arkansas won an important road series on The Plains, including a wild 15-inning affair and will be going for its third-straight home series sweep over Auburn in 2020.
Razorbacks vs. Georgia – May 8-10
Arkansas’ final home series for the 2020 season will be against another top team from the SEC Eastern Division in Georgia. The Bulldogs won 46 games last year and have been a national seed in the NCAA Tournament for two-consecutive years under head coach Scott Stricklin. Arkansas has won 10 of its last 13 games against the Bulldogs dating back to 2012, including a three-game sweep in Fayetteville in 2017 and hasn’t lost a home series to Georgia since 2008.
For more information on Razorback Baseball, follow @RazorbackBSB on Twitter.