It will be two veteran pitchers and one newcomer that will be opportunity to start games for the Arkansas baseball program this weekend at the College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas.

Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn announced Wednesday that left handed sophomore Hagen Smith (7-2, 4.46 ERA last season), right handed junior Will McEntire (2-2, 2.59) and junior college transfer southpaw Hunter Hollan (9-3, 3.59) at San Jacinto College will toe the pitching rubber at Globe Life Field.

Arkansas, ranked sixth in the USA Today Coaches poll and eighth by D-I baseball,  is scheduled to play Texas Friday at 7 p.m., TCU Saturday at 7 and Oklahoma State Sunday afternoon at 2:30 in the event which matches three SEC and three Big 12 squads.

The opener with Texas on Friday night is expected to have some 25,000 people inside the Texas Rangers ballpark, which has a retractable roof.

“We are excited to get the season started obviously,” Van Horn said. “The guys are just ready to play somebody else. I think scrimmaging gets really old and we have done that since early September.

“We’ll just kind of see where we are at. Obviously on top of just opening the season, we are going to be playing some great competition in a really nice environment. We know the temperature is going to be good, the weather is going to be good and there will be a lot of fans. It should be fun.

“But I think more than anything this weekend, we will learn a lot about our team, really what we need to work on.”

That pitching trio got the assignments after junior Jaxson Wiggins (6-3, 6.55) that was diagnosed last week with a season-ending injury that will require Tommy John surgery.

“We will go with Hagen Smith right out of the gate, then Will McEntire and then Hunter Hollan on Sunday,” Van Horn said. “There were some guys battling. I thought Cody Adcock has thrown really well and is very versatile and obviously Wiggins would have been in the rotation. Those were the five or six guys that we were looking at.”

Van Horn didn’t try to downplay the loss of Wiggins, who was arguably Arkansas best pitcher in preseason scrimmages.

“It didn’t help us for sure,” Van Horn said. “That’s a lot of innings. Really good stuff, third year in the program. A lot of times, it’s the junior year that they really take off, especially when you are a big guy getting things together. We disappointed for us, but really disappointed for Jaxon and his family. I know that he was really looking forward to pitching for the Razorbacks and having a big year.

“It will be a challenge, but we will just have to have some other guys step up and play really good baseball.”

Oklahoma State is ranked ninth, Vanderbilt 10th and TCU 15th by D-1 Baseball while the USA Today Coaches poll has Oklahoma State 8th, Vanderbilt 9th and Texas 24th.

Unranked Missouri is also part of the event, which has the Razorbacks excited per Van Horn. 

“I would say yes because all three teams are ranked in at least a few polls and these are teams that were in regionals last year and are projected to be there again this year,” Van Horn said. “I think the focus is on, the guys are a little bit more serious about it and know that we are going to have to play really well to win.”

While Arkansas should have plenty of fans on hand, Van Horn feels his  his team is opening its season on the road.

“There are a lot of times when you open at home when it is a little easier, you are in your own element and environment,” Van Horn said. “We are going on the road and really playing, almost when you look at it, all three teams that we are playing have used the stadium a lot. 

“You have two teams from Texas that have been in there a little bit. TCU has played a bunch of games there last year and probably the year before and Oklahoma State moved a series or two down there last year.

“So they have played a lot more in that ballpark than we have. So to me, this is almost kind of like a true road game.”

Photo by John D. James