Arkansas CWS Preview

June 15, 2012
By

Arkansas Razorbacks
(Advanced through Houston Regional and Waco Super-Regional)

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Record: 44-20
Conference: Southeastern (2nd Place Western Division)

Head Coach: Dave Van Horn (10th season at Arkansas; 24th season overall)

First Game In Omaha: Sat., June 16 vs. Kent State (4 CT; ESPN)
Series vs. Kent State: First Meeting
Previous Meeting: First Meeting

D.J. Baxendale

ROAD TO OMAHA
It shouldn’t be a particular surprise that Arkansas – a youthful, but talented squad regarded highly entering the season – ended up in the College World Series. But the journey was anything but smooth. The Razorbacks spent the first month and a half of the season ranked in the national top five and stood 22-3 heading into a big road series against LSU. Arkansas left Baton Rouge after having been swept (though a pair of games were decided by one run – the finale in 11 innings). The Razorbacks battled through the perennially-rugged SEC, a slog that was highlighted by winning two out of three against eventual NCAA national No. 1 seed Florida and going 1-2 vs. two-time defending national champ South Carolina. Eventually, though, the Razorbacks fell out of the Top 25 and slipped under .500 in league play before a sweep of Tennessee on the final weekend allowed Arkansas to finish second in the Western Division, behind LSU, with a 16-14 record. The SEC tournament would prove a disappointment, though, as the Razorbacks dropped their first two games while being outscored 11-1.

The Road to Omaha forced Arkansas to conquer the Lone Star State and some of its best teams. The Razorbacks, the No. 2 seed in the Houston regional, rallied for a 5-4 opening victory over third-seeded Sam Houston State and then managed just two hits – but scored the lone run – in a 1-0 victory over host and top-seeded Rice. After the Bearkats eliminated the Owls, Arkansas took down SHSU to advance. Next up was a trip to Waco to face the national No. 4 seed, Baylor. The Bears imposed their will in an 8-1 game-one triumph and then held a 4-3 lead entering the bottom of the ninth of the second game. But Arkansas would load the bases and then get back-to-back RBI hit batsmen to force a deciding game. In game three, the Razorbacks worked out of a pair of bases-loaded situations early, but couldn’t manage much offense of their own. Neither team could scratch out a run – combining for just 10 hits in the game – until defensive replacement Jake Wise slapped a seeing-eye single into shallow left field and Brian Anderson scored from second in the 10th to give Arkansas what would be the lone run in a 1-0 win and it seventh trip to Omaha.

“It was just a great baseball game,” said coach Dave Van Horn. “At this level, one to nothing and extra innings to go to Omaha – I do not know if it gets any better. I know baseball purists probably love this game. As a coach, it was very stressful and thank goodness it is over.”

• PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING
The reason for Arkansas’ success is no secret. The Razorbacks have one of the best pitching staffs in the country – which has allowed them to pile up wins all season and overcome some offensive shortcomings. The Razorbacks rank seventh nationallay – and tops among teams at the CWS – in team ERA with a 2.90 mark. They are also fifth in hits allowed per nine innings (7.66) and have registered 10 shutouts on the season, the second-most in program history.

The Razorbacks feature a strong rotation of DJ Baxendale (7-5, 3.18 ERA),  Ryne Stanek (7-4, 2.91 ERA) and Randall Fant (2-2, 3.00 ERA) and have several strong arms in the bullpen, aswell – including Barrett Astin, who has 10 saves on the season.

Among teams in this year’s CWS, the Razorbacks are the lowest-scoring (5.3 runs/game) and have had trouble offensively at times. But their pitching staff has been able to keep them in games. In the Houston Regional, UA hit just .228, but went 3-0 thanks to their staff allowing just one earned run in 27 innings (0.33 ERA). Against Baylor in the Super Regional, Arkansas didn’t allow the Bears to score in the final 14 innings of the season, which gave its offense enough time to manufacture enough runs to advance.

Roster Breakdown:
… 3 Seniors, 10 Juniors, 11 Sophomores, 17 Freshmen
… home states: 17 from AR … 8 from TX … 4 from CA … 3 from OK … 2 each from KS, LA & MO … 1 each from AZ, CO and IN.

Probable Lineup
1. Tim Carver SS – 6-0/185 – R-Sr. – Fayetteville, AR (Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year 25-Player Watch List)
… .304, 30 RBI, 35 Runs, 2 HR, 0 Triples, 14 Doubles, .384 Slg.%, .343 OB%, 10 BB, 7 HBP, 34 K, 14-25 SB
… Drafted in 19th round (608th overall) of 2012 Draft by Phillies

2. Jacob Mahan DH – 6-0/185 – Jr. – Camarillo, CA
… .266, 18 RBI, 15 Runs, 0 HR, 0 Triples, 3 Doubles, .288 Slg.%, 11 BB, 2 HBP, 18 K, 2-2 SB
… Played last two seasons at Oxnard College

3. Matt Reynolds 3B – 6-1/200 – Jr. – Tulsa, OK (Collegiate Baseball All-America Third Team; All-SEC First Team; All-SEC Defensive Team; SEBaseball.com All-SEC Team)
… .338*, 43 RBI*, 48 Runs*, 7 HR*, 0 Triples, 20 Doubles*, .523 Slg.%*, .443 OB%*, 39 BB*, 6 HBP, 28 K, 15-20 SB*
… One of team’s three captains
… Played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer
… Both of his older sisters played collegiate volleyball: Megan at Drury and Kelsey at Central Oklahoma
… Drafted in 2nd round (71st overall) of 2012 Draft by Mets

4. Dominic Ficociello 1B – 6-4/185 – So. – Fullerton, CA (Two-Time All-SEC Defensive Team)
… .301, 40 RBI, 45 Runs, 6 HR, 1 Triple, 14 Doubles, .444 Slg.%, .396 OB%, 33 BB, 8 HBP*, 41 K, 4-8 SB
… Played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer

5. Brian Anderson RF – 6-3/185 – Fr. – Edmond, OK (SEBaseball.com All-SEC Freshman Team)
… .287, 10 RBI, 21 Runs, 2 HR, 0 Triples, 4 Doubles, .380 Slg.%, .395 OB%, 12 BB, 8 HBP*, 28 K, 1-4 SB

6. Bo Bigham 2B – 5-10/185 – Sr. – Texarkana, AR (All-SEC Second Team)
… .261, 18 RBI, 28 Runs, 1 HR, 0 Triples, 9 Doubles, .320 Slg.%, 11 BB, 3 HBP, 28 K, 8-11 SB
… One of team’s three captains

7. Matt Vinson CF – 6-2/210 – Jr. – Alma, AR
… .208, 10 RBI, 16 Runs, 0 HR, 1 Triple, 4 Doubles, .264 Slg.%, 23 BB, 0 HBP, 31 K, 1-4 SB

8. John Clay Reeves C – 6-0/200 – Fr. – Monroe, LA
… .281, 57 AB, 4 RBI, 5 Runs, 0 HR, 0 Triples, 3 Doubles, .333 Slg.%, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 11 K, 1-1 SB

9. Derrick Bleeker LF – 6-5/225 – Jr. – Longmont, CO
… .252, 23 RBI, 20 Runs, 6 HR, 3 Triples*, 10 Doubles, .471 Slg.%, 12 BB, 2 HBP, 34 K, 2-2 SB, 8 GDP*
… Made two appearances on the mound this season, pitching 1.1 scoreless innings
… After freshman season at Arkansas, played 2011 at Howard Junior College before returning to UA
… Drafted in 37th round (1122nd overall) of 2012 Draft by Orioles

Starting Pitching (3)
DJ Baxendale – 6-2/190 – Jr. – RHP – Jacksonville, AR (One of 5 Finalists for Premier Player of College Baseball; SEBaseball.com All-SEC Team)
… Drafted in 10th round (310th overall) of 2012 Draft by Twins
… (7-5) 3.18 ERA, 96.1 IP*, 89 K*, 23 BB, .241 Opp. BA (90 H*), 9 HR allowed*, 29 XBH allowed*, 7 HBP
… One of team’s three captains
… Played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer

Ryne Stanek – 6-4/180 – So. – RHP – Overland Park, KS (SEBaseball.com All-SEC Team, Houston Regional Most Outstanding Player)
… (7-4) 2.91 ERA, 86.2 IP, 80 K, 33 BB*, .235 Opp. BA (72 H), 2 HR allowed, 9 WP*
… Will represent the United States as part of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team for the second summer in a row.

Randall Fant – 6-4/185 – Jr. – LHP – Texarkana, TX
… (2-2) 3.00 ERA, 51.0 IP, 39 K, 10 BB, .275 Opp. BA (55 H), 2 HR allowed, 7 HBP
… Drafted in 29th round (893rd overall) of 2012 Draft by Indians

Bullpen
Brandon Moore – 6-3/228 – So. – RHP – Van Buren, AR
… (5-2) 2.71 ERA, 2 SV, 73.0 IP, 35 K, 10 BB, .241 OPP BA (65 H)
… Named to SEC Community Service Team for involvement in several service projects, including Lift Up America, the SEC Together We CAN Food Drive, the Sweat Hawgs and Book Hogs program and Miracle League Baseball.

Trent Daniel – 6-2/195 – RJr. – LHP – Bryant, AR
… (2-0) 5.23 ERA, 1 SV, 31.0 IP, 24 K, 13 BB, .265 OPP BA (31 H), 6 HBP, O HR allowed
… Played at Arkansas-Fort Smith as a freshman

Barrett Astin – 6-1/200 – So. – RHP – Forrest City, AR
… (3-5) 2.15 ERA, 10 SV, 30 APP*, 54.1 IP, 59 K, 24 BB, .215 OPP BA (44 H), 6 WP, 8 HBP*, 0 HR allowed

Nolan Sanburn – 6-1/205 – So. – RHP – Kokomo, IN
… (4-1) 2.52 ERA, 39.1 IP, 47 K, 22 BB, .197 OPP BA (28 H), 8 WP*, 6 HBP
… Drafted in 2nd round (74th overall) of 2012 Draft by A’s

Colby Suggs – 6-0/225 – So. – RHP – Sulphur Springs, TX
… (7-0*) 1.22 ERA, 37.0 IP, 35 K, 16 BB, .211 OPP BA (26 H)

Tyler Wright – 6-2/175 – Jr. – LHP – Houston, TX
… (1-0) 2.60 ERA, 17.1 IP, 19 K, 12 BB, .234 OPP BA (15 H)
… Played two seasons at San Jacinto Community College

We’re just thrilled to be here. This season has been something else. It’s been exciting and disappointing, a little bit of everything.” – Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn

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