FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With the division races heating up across the Southeastern Conference, the sixth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks head into their final regular-season home series this weekend with the 21st-ranked Texas A&M Aggies in hopes of not only holding its lead in the Western Division, but also continuing its strong play at Baum Stadium.
Game one of the three-game series with the Aggies is set to begin on Friday at Baum Stadium with a first pitch time of 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Playing at home has been one of the strongest assets of this year’s Razorback squad. In those home games, the Hogs are 26-3 and hitting .337 as a team with 251 runs scored (8.7 runs/game) and 49 home runs. Nine different players are hitting over .300 in home games with junior Eric Cole leading all Razorback hitters with a .376 batting average.
Cole has been a catalyst in the Arkansas starting lineup since being moved up to the lead-off spot on April 29 against No. 4 Texas Tech. Over the last seven games, Cole is leading the team with a .379 batting average (11-for-29) and has gotten on base in the first inning in four of those games.
On the mound, Arkansas will continue with its three-man rotation of juniors Blaine Knight and Kacey Murphy, and redshirt sophomore Isaiah Campbell. Knight continues to be a steady pitcher for the Hogs as he’s the only undefeated pitcher in the SEC at 7-0 and his 2.77 ERA is good for sixth-best in the league among starting pitchers.
As for Murphy, the southpaw has worked five or more innings in each of his last five starts and has not given up more than three earned runs in any of his 11 appearances this year. Murphy actually holds the best ERA on the team at 2.57 and that total is good for fourth-lowest in the league.
Prior to game two’s contest between the Razorbacks and Aggies, the Arkansas Baseball program will take time to honor its three seniors in Carson Shaddy, Luke Bonfield, and Jared Gates. Shaddy and Bonfield are each finishing up four-year careers, while Gates, who transferred in from junior college, is finishing his second season in Razorback red.
Both Shaddy and Bonfield have suited up for the Razorbacks more than 180 times since 2015 and have combined for 51 homers and 245 RBIs, while helping the Hogs to their most recent trip to the College World Series (2015). As for Gates, the Kansas-native has solidified himself into Arkansas history when he hit a mammoth insurance home run in last year’s NCAA Fayetteville Regional just before 3 a.m., sending the regional to a deciding seventh game. Over his 64 games as a Hog, Gates has 45 hits, nine home runs, and 30 RBIs.
All games this weekend will broadcast to a national audience as Friday’s series opener will be on the SEC Network, while Saturday and Sunday’s games will be on ESPN2. Tom Hart (PxP), Kyle Peterson (Analyst) and Eduardo Perez (Analyst) will be on the call for all three games.
As always, Arkansas’ Sportscaster of the Year Phil Elson will call all three games on the radio for the Razorback Sports Network from IMG with former Razorback Bubba Carpenter. That radio broadcasts are also available on the Razorback Gameday app.
IMPORTANT LINKS (ALL TIMES CENTRAL)
Fri, May 11 – Arkansas vs. Texas A&M – 6 p.m. – LIVE STATS | WATCH (SEC Network)
Sat, May 10 – Arkansas vs. Texas A&M – 1 p.m. – LIVE STATS | WATCH (ESPN2)
Sun, May 12 – Arkansas vs. Texas A&M – 12 p.m. – LIVE STATS | WATCH (ESPN2)
FRI: ARK RHP Blaine Knight (7-0, 2.77 ERA, 66 SO, 10 BB) vs. TAMU RHP Mitchell Kilkenny (8-2, 2.20 ERA, 71 SO, 19 BB)
SAT: ARK LHP Kacey Murphy (5-4, 2.57 ERA, 58 SO, 10 BB) vs. TAMU LHP John Doxaxis (6-3, 3.04 ERA, 57 SO, 20 BB)
SUN: ARK RHP Isaiah Campbell (3-5, 4.76 ERA, 43 SO, 23 BB) vs. TAMU RHP Stephen Kolek (5-4, 3.78 ERA, 52 SO, 31 BB)
RAZORBACK PRIME 9
>> Junior outfielder Eric Cole had an outstanding series against LSU last week, going 5-for-12 (.417) at the plate, including a two-homer game on Friday. He’s the seventh Hog to record a multi-homer game this year.
>> The Razorbacks are still atop the SEC West at 14-10 in conference play and will look to continue their strong play at home. This year, the Hogs have the best home winning percentage in the SEC (.897).
>> Blaine Knight is currently the only SEC pitcher with an undefeated record at 7-0. In nine of his 12 starts, Knight has thrown six or more innings and struck out four or more.
>> Heston Kjerstad (.357, 10 HR) and Casey Martin (.340, 10 HR) are the only Division I freshmen with a .330 average or higher and ten or more home runs.
>> Jake Reindl earned his fifth save of the season against LSU last week. He has yet to give up an extra-base hit in SEC play and has struck out 17 over his last 9.2 innings.
>> The Razorbacks are currently the best hitting team in the SEC with a .306 combined batting average and also leads the SEC in hits (502), home runs (74), and slugging percentage (.498).
>> Following last week’s SEC and NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week award, junior pitcher Barrett Loseke had another strong weekend against LSU, earning his second win of the season, pitching four scoreless innings and allowing just one hit.
>> After hitting just .190 in his first 17 games of the season, sophomore Dominic Fletcher has had the hot bat, hitting .358 in SEC games (eighth-highest among SEC hitters), including .389 over his last 10 games overall.
>> In 28 games this year, Arkansas has totaled 10 or more hits. In those games, the Hogs are 22-6 with 18 of those wins coming at Baum Stadium.