No. 1 Arkansas will open SEC Tournament play today at 4:30 p.m. CT against Georgia.
The Bulldogs advanced to today’s game beating LSU 4-1 on Tuesday as freshman pitcher Jaden Woods threw 3.2 innings of hitless ball. Arkansas was 2-1 against the Bulldogs during the regular season with the games played at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Lefty Lael Lockhart (2-2, 4.53 ERA) will take the mound for Arkansas today against Georgia’s Liam Sullivan (1-1, 3.82). The Hogs finished the regular season 42-10, including 22-8 in the SEC, and became only the second team in SEC history to win each of its series. The Razorbacks finished out the season with an impressive sweep of Florida.
“Our starter tomorrow is Lockhart,” Van Horn said Tuesday. “We don’t have a starter for Game 2 yet. We’ll make that decision after the game. See who we’re playing. We would like to get all of our weekend guys, starter guys, on the mound one way or another. Whether it’s a start or they have to come out of the pen. It just depends on where we’re at with wins and losses. Not overuse anybody, but at the same time try to win some games.”
As far as a pitch count will Lockhart be on one?
“I think he’d be on more of a normal pitch count,” Van Horn said. “He hasn’t pitched in a while, and then he won’t pitch for at least another 10 days. We’ll see how the game is going. If he’s still going good after five innings and he’s under 100 pitches, he might get another inning. But we haven’t thrown him over 100 pitches probably all year.”
Van Horn’s Hogs beat Georgia 3-0 and 5-3 while losing 7-3 in a May 7-9 series.
“Georgia is a big, physical team that’s got a couple of good arms in the bullpen,” Van Horn said. “I’m not sure who they’re starting either. We’ll be able to figure out who they’re pitching the next day by who they’re starting, obviously. But I think it’s going to be a really good ballgame. I just feel that LSU’s probably playing a little bit better right now. Georgia’s going to have to pick it up a little bit if they’re going to win.”
Lefty Patrick Wicklander has turned into Arkansas’ ace starter for Friday nights. Van Horn talked about how he will use him during the post season.
“We definitely want to get Wicklander on the mound,” Van Horn said. “Probably see how it goes, see who wins tonight. Obviously, we play tomorrow, and we’ll know who we’re playing and we’re going to throw Lockhart, but after that we definitely want to get Wicklander out there whether he’s coming out of the pen or starting. Hopefully we can win some games and start matching up. We’ll look at some numbers. If one team is better hitting lefties or righties, we could make a change there. But as far as in-game, we might use guys a little more than normal just trying to get them in the game matching up, the guys that are out of the pen.”
In addition to Wicklander, Van Horn’s other ace has been Kevin Kopps working out of the bullpen two of the three games on weekends. However, since Arkansas’ seeding is almost certainly determined by now don’t necessarily to see as much of Kopps.
“Well you know he’ll be ready to go if we need him in the next day or two,” Van Horn said. “One time. I don’t know if you’ll see him throw back to back. You might see him one game if we need him for three innings and then he doesn’t pitch for a day. Or then if he does it’s gonna be one inning. Something along that line. I mean, these games are important but you know we’ll just have to see what the stress load is or how stressful were the innings he’s pitched. Were they easy? What’s the temperature. We’re going to take care of him. But he needs to work. He wants to work.“
While some of the pitching is still in question for this tournament, don’t expect to see a lot of position players sitting out.
“Well we’ll stick with the same lineup for the most part,” Van Horn said. “But I might plug a guy in every now and then. We really only have a couple of extra position players. I mean, am I gonna catch (Casey) Opitz every game? It depends on how he feels. The temperature. He could’ve signed a professional contract. He came back. He wants to play here. I feel good about (Dylan) Leach. We’ll just see how that goes. We’re going to try to win every game, but you just don’t want to run anybody into the ground either.”
Van Horn knows this tournament is hard to win and gave a good reply to the question of why it’s that way.
“What makes it so hard to win?,” Van Horn said. “Probably the teams that are here are all really good. Some teams this tournament means more to them as far as just trying to get in the NCAA Tournament. Some times those teams might play a little bit tight. Sometimes they might play harder. It doesn’t always mean because you play harder you’ve got to do something that you’re gonna win?
“The key to winning this tournament is you’ve got to pitch well, drive in runs with two outs and to get in that winner’s bracket would be nice because you get a day off. But it’s just a great tournament. Usually in this tournament there’s gonna be 12 that start out, it goes to 8 pretty quick, after one day, and then you’re gonna have to beat teams that are pretty much ranked in the top 20, some of the best teams in the country and there’s no let up. There’s no room for error really.”
The rest of this report is from the University of Arkansas Communication’s Office.
Matchups & History
Georgia LHP Liam Sullivan (1-1, 3.82 ERA) vs. Arkansas LHP Lael Lockhart (2-2, 4.53 ERA)
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs will clash for the third time ever in Hoover this weekend. Georgia has won both previous matchups at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, including a 3-1 decision in the third round of the 2019 tournament. Arkansas, however, owns a 36-25 record in all-time meetings, taking two of three in the teams’ series earlier this season at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas is seeking its first SEC tournament title, holding a record of 34-42 in all-time appearances. The Hogs’ last conference tournament title win came in 1985 as a member of the Southwest Conference.
Wednesday’s contest between Arkansas and Georgia will broadcast nationally on the SEC Network with Dave Neal (play-by-play), Kyle Peterson (analyst) and Todd Walker (analyst) on the call.
The game can also be heard on the Razorback Sports Network from Learfield/IMG, including locally in Fayetteville on 92.1 FM. Phil Elson and Bubba Carpenter will have the call from Hoover.
Conway – KASR-FM 92.7
El Dorado – KELD-AM 107.1 (FM Translator)
Fayetteville – KQSM-FM 92.1
Forrest City – KXJK-AM 950
Forrest City – KXJK-FM 106.5
Fort Smith – KERX-FM 95.3
Little Rock – KABZ-FM 103.7
Marshall – KBCN-FM 104.3
Mena – KTTG-FM 96.3
Rogers – KURM-AM 790
Rogers – KURM-FM 100.3
Stuttgart – KWAK-FM 105.5
Texarkana, TX – KKTK-AM 1400
Death, Taxes, Hogs are No. 1
Arkansas remained the unanimous No. 1 team in college baseball for Week 15 of the season, leading all six major polls released Monday. Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, D1Baseball, NCBWA, Perfect Game and USA Today each kept the Razorbacks atop their respective rankings for the seventh straight week.
It is the ninth time this season that Arkansas is the undisputed No. 1 team in the nation as well as the 13th consecutive week that the Hogs maintain the top spot in at least one of the six polls.
Two of the conference’s very best are Arkansas Razorbacks. Dave Van Horn was named SEC Coach of the Year, and Kevin Kopps was named SEC Pitcher of the Year Monday, taking home the conference’s top honors after historic regular seasons.
Van Horn, in his 19th season as Arkansas’ head coach, was voted SEC Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. He also won the award in 2004, earning the honor after leading the Razorbacks to an outright SEC championship as a second-year head coach.
This year, Van Horn led the unanimously top-ranked Razorbacks to an outright SEC championship and 22 conference wins in the regular season. Under his guidance, the Hogs won all 10 of their conference series to become only the second SEC team in history to do so in a season.
Kopps, meanwhile, is 10-0 with a nation-best 0.75 ERA in 60.1 innings of work this season, striking out 97 batters while allowing only five runs on the year. He is the first Arkansas student-athlete to win the league’s Pitcher of the Year award since Nick Schmidt in 2006.
Seven Razorbacks were named to various All-SEC teams, including Kopps (1st; Defensive), Robert Moore (1st; Newcomer; Defensive), Matt Goodheart (1st), Christian Franklin (2nd; Defensive), Patrick Wicklander (2nd), Cayden Wallace (Freshman) and Peyton Pallette (Newcomer).