FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas baseball has been picked to finish first in the SEC Western Division by the league’s coaches, as the SEC released its 2020 Preseason Poll and All-SEC squads a little over a week before the start of the season.
In addition to the division projection and one overall SEC Champion vote, four Razorbacks were recognized on the Coaches Preseason All-SEC First Team, the most of any program in the conference. Casey Opitz (catcher), Casey Martin (shortstop), Heston Kjerstad (outfield) and Matt Goodheart (designated hitter/utility) were all honored by the SEC coaches.
No other program had more than two first team honorees.
Opitz, from Centennial, Colorado, recorded 43 hits, three doubles and three homers, to go with 33 RBIs and 31 runs scored over 50 starts as he moved into the starting catching role last season. He had a memorable Super Regional in Fayetteville, tallying four hits in nine at-bats, with one homer, five RBIs and two runs scored as the Razorbacks advanced to the College World Series for the 10th time in program history.
He put together a strong year behind the plate, throwing out 22-of-24 runners attempting to steal a base, while committing only four errors in 531 chances. The Hogs were 36-14 in 2019 when Opitz was part of the starting battery.
Martin, a junior from Lonoke, Arkansas, finished his sophomore season with a .286/.548/.364 line at the plate, starting all 66 games. He tallied 81 hits, 40 for extra bases with 21 doubles, four triples and 15 homers. Martin also recorded 57 RBIs and scored 67 runs, both figures ranking second on the squad last season.
He earned All-SEC Second Team honors as a sophomore after hitting .295 in conference play with 38 hits, 28 runs and a team-high nine homers and 22 RBIs. Martin tied for the team lead in multi-hit performances with 26 and was second in multi-RBI games with 16. Overall, his 155 total bases were good enough for 15th in the NCAA last season.
A junior from Amarillo, Texas, Kjerstad put together a .327 batting average last year over 65 starts, leading the team in hits (87) and home runs (17). It was the second consecutive season he’s tallied 87 knocks, as he drove in 51 RBIs and scored 53 runs in 2019.
With his 58 RBIs in 2018, the feat made him the first Razorback to have 50 or more in his first two seasons since Rodney Nye in 1988 & 1999. He finished the year with 24 multi-hit performances, good for third on the team, with half of his multi-hit games consisting of three or more. Kjerstad finished the 2019 season as a Second Team All-SEC honoree.
Goodheart, from Magnolia, Arkansas, led the team at the plate last season with a .345 average over 58 games as the designated hitter. He recorded 70 hits, 16 doubles, two triple and five homers, with 47 RBIs and 35 runs scored.
In conference play, Goodheart hit .369 with 14 extra-base hits, leading to an All-SEC Second Team designation. He also earned SEC All-Tournament Team honors, leading the Hogs with a .273 clip. Overall in NCAA postseason play, he went 11-for-33 with homers against TCU and Ole Miss in the Regional and Super Regional rounds, respectively.
The 2020 slate kicks off with Eastern Illinois for the second-straight season, beginning on Friday, Feb. 14, at 3 p.m. at Baum-Walker Stadium.
1. Arkansas (5) – 82
2. Mississippi State (4) – 73
T3. Auburn (2) – 67
T3. LSU (3) – 67
5. Texas A&M – 44
6. Ole Miss – 38
7. Alabama – 21
() – First place votes
SEC Champion: Vanderbilt (8), Florida (2), Arkansas (1), Auburn (1), Georgia (1), Mississippi State (1)
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