Hogs back home for regional, heat

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Monday, May 28, 2018
Arkansas' Hunter Wilson (6) celebrates as he crosses home plate after hitting a grand slam during the ninth inning of a Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college baseball game against Florida, Friday, May 25, 2018, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Arkansas' Hunter Wilson (6) celebrates as he crosses home plate after hitting a grand slam during the ninth inning of a Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college baseball game against Florida, Friday, May 25, 2018, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Hot postseason baseball is on tap for Baum Stadium this weekend.

Literally hot baseball.

Baum Stadium, home of the Arkansas Razorbacks, was selected as one of the 16 host sites for NCAA baseball regionals Sunday, and the forecast says it will be toasty in Northwest Arkansas.

The top eight seeds and the 64-team bracket will be revealed at 11 a.m. today, and the Razorbacks are expected to claim one of those coveted spots. That means the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, would not have to leave home to earn a place at the College World Series.

The host selection was considered a given after the Razorbacks (39-18) claimed a share of the SEC West, won two games at the SEC Tournament and maintained a top 10 spot in the RPI rankings and the national polls all season.

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn, speaking after Saturday's 2-1 loss to postseason nemesis LSU, indicated he and his staff had already been checking out the weather forecast.

"Just get back and let them get their feet back underneath them, probably get a couple of strength and conditioning type workouts," Van Horn said of the plan for this week.

"Practice Monday afternoon, see who we're going to play and get ready to host a regional. We looked at the weather, and it's supposed to be in the mid to upper 90s all weekend, which is very unusual for this time of year."

The Razorbacks spent 11 nights on the road and went 3-3 while playing at Georgia and the SEC Tournament. The 2-1 showing in Hoover, with a victory over Florida, the No. 1-ranked RPI team in the nation, helped bolster the Hogs' neutral-site credentials.

Arkansas will host a regional for the second consecutive year, the fifth time in Van Horn's 16 years and the sixth time overall.

The other host schools or sites include SEC venues Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss, as well as Clemson, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Florida State, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oregon State, Stanford, Stetson, Texas and Texas Tech.

Arkansas endured a series of injuries and illnesses to key players for a stretch during the second half of league play that affected second baseman Carson Shaddy, pitcher Matt Cronin, catcher Grant Koch and shortstop Jax Biggers.

Cronin is nearing top form after a bout with mononucleosis and Koch has been back for nearly two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle.

Shaddy is not fully recovered from taking a pitch off his right hand at Mississippi State. Biggers returned during the SEC Tournament from a broken bone on the index finger of his left hand and went 3 for 6 with a run scored. His replacement, Jack Kenley, was 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored in his only start in Hoover.

"The guys who have injuries, we'll let them get healed up a little bit," Van Horn said.

The rest will be particularly good for Shaddy (0 for 12 in Hoover) whose hand has been bothering him lately, Van Horn added.

The Razorbacks were 21 for 66 (.318) with 21 runs scored, 5 home runs and a double through 2 games in Hoover before LSU held the Hogs to 3 hits on Saturday.

"We have a really good offense," senior first baseman Jared Gates said Saturday. "We just kind of ran into a buzz saw tonight. But overall it was a good week of hitting for us. We're very excited to get back home, get in front of our fans and win a regional."

Martin, who went 4 for 12 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI while hitting sixth at the SEC Tournament, said the week in Hoover was productive after the Hogs lost the series at Georgia.

"Honestly, we came here and I thought we competed really good and played hard," said Martin, who was the Razorbacks' lone representative on the SEC All-Tournament team. "We had a really good week ... being here since Sunday.

Sophomore right-hander Isaiah Campbell said he came away from his 5-inning performance against LSU with confidence, despite taking a hard-luck 2-1 loss.

"This start does a lot for me," Campbell said. "It gives me confidence going into regionals next week. I just went out there and competed."

Sports on 05/28/2018

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