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𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘺 𝘊𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮 𝘊𝘭𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘵! Make sure to check them out on Instagram @cream_clothing_.
𝕿𝖍𝖎𝖘 𝖎𝖘 𝕭𝖆𝖘𝖊𝖇𝖆𝖑𝖑.
The expectation for the 2021 season remains the same: Omaha.
The 54 game season begins outside of the friendly confines of Baum Stadium for the first time since 2007. Texas Tech, Texas, and TCU stand in the way of Arkansas in the brand new Globe Life Field for the College Baseball Showdown presented by State Farm.
Dave Van Horn is in search of his seventh trip to Omaha and first national championship in his time in Fayetteville. Even with the rocky start in the Covid shortened 16-game season, I still think that team could’ve made a run to the very end. The offense was loaded. The pitching was still a couple steps behind, but I feel they could’ve pieced together a good enough year to find themselves in a super regional.
Anyways, let’s dissect this squad starting on the bump. Most Hog fans, including myself, anticipated two year starters Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander to clinch a spot in the rotation. Instead, DVH went with Zebulon Vermillion, Peyton Pallette, and Lael Lockhart to get the nod this weekend.
Starting with Zeb, he was the presumable closer in 2020. To see him jump into a “Friday night” role is a substantial jump. I don’t exactly foresee Zeb staying in this position throughout the year due to his lack of starting experience with the Hogs. With that being said, I have full confidence he can give us a solid 4-6 innings as a starter. Flame thrower Pallette is throwing in the mid 90’s this year after arriving on campus last year in the low 90’s. The Benton, AR native allowed only 1 ER in his 5.2 innings of relief last season throughout his four relief appearances. The Houston transfer Lockhart was the Friday night guy last season for the Cougs. He also split time at first base, but will likely focus on pitching during his time here.
I’ll give you my thoughts on Noland and Wicklander not being in the starting rotation. The bottom line, nothing is set in stone. I don’t think these guys necessarily got worse over the break. I think DVH is using this as a motivational tactic. It would NOT surprise me one bit if we see a Wicklander/Noland/Lockhart rotation for the conference opener in a month. Those guys are pitchers with a successful track record as a starter. Plus, DVH knows what he is doing. The pitching this year doesn’t seem to feature one or two high end guys. We won’t have a Blaine Knight or Isaiah Campbell this year. However, the quality depth may be better and more valuable for this team in the long run. You have familiar names like Elijah Trest, Kole Ramage, Kevin Kopps, Caleb Bolden, etc. to be solid relievers. I’ll give pitching a B+ heading into the season. I trust pitching coach Matt Hobbs to get these guys where they need to be.
In the field, the duo of Christian Franklin and Robert Moore lead Arkansas. The Jr. OF and So. INF find themselves on the preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list. Captain Casey Opitz is behind the dish. I’m most excited to watch him play. Out of all the catchers to come through Fayetteville, he stands out with his craftsmanship and leadership. A SS by the name of Jalen Battles will start alongside 3B Jacob Nesbit. Battles transferred out of McLennan community college where he hit .320 as a freshman. Have heard a lot of good things about him. At 1B, I could see Brady Slavens and Cullen Smith splitting time. Matt Goodheart will likely see most of his playing time in the DH role. Cayden Wallace and Braydon Webb will man the corner OF spots. I have a good, not great feeling about the offense. It feels like a lot of weight has been placed on the shoulders of Franklin. I think I’d give the offense a B+ as well. I slightly, slightly like the pitching staff more than the offense. Both sides will experience highs and lows.
This team is consistently ranked in the top 15, as high as No. 8 and as low as No. 22 in the six major polls to open the year. For this team to make it to Omaha, a Friday night guy has to be established. Playing musical chairs with the starting rotation is an ingredient to be staying home for the College World Series in June.
#9 National Seed
Win a Regional
Lose in Super Regional
Baseball. Is. Back.