Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Diamond Hogs 20th in first published preseason poll
An Arkansas hat and glove sit in the dugout prior to a game against Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is ranked No. 20 in the first college baseball poll of the 2022 preseason.
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper released its top 50 poll Monday. Future SEC member Texas is ranked atop the poll, followed by No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 3 LSU.
Florida (6), Mississippi State (9) and Ole Miss (19) are ranked ahead of the Razorbacks among SEC teams. Arkansas is scheduled to host Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in 2022, and the Razorbacks are scheduled to play at Florida.
Stanford, which is scheduled to play Arkansas on Feb. 26 at the Round Rock Classic in Texas, is ranked fifth in the poll.
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The Collegiate Baseball poll is one of six major polls in the sport. The USA Today Coaches poll is the poll of record for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and will be released in late January or early February.
There is typically some disagreement among the polls before the season. Last year, for instance, Arkansas was ranked 22nd in the preseason Collegiate Baseball poll, but in the top 10 of three other preseason polls.
The Razorbacks return four every-day starters and multiple other contributors in the field, but must replace 61% of the innings pitched from last season's team that went 50-13 and won the SEC.
The biggest losses from the 2021 team include consensus national player of the year Kevin Kopps in the bullpen, as well as starting catcher Casey Opitz, starting center fielder Christian Franklin and No. 1 starting pitcher Patrick Wicklander.
Aaron Fitt, a voter in the D1Baseball.com poll, said last month that he thought Arkansas was the best team he saw during a fall practice tour.
"I just think that they're loaded in every facet," Fitt said on the WholeHog Baseball Podcast. "That roster is built to win big.
"You walk in wondering how they're going to fill some of these holes — they did lose some key pieces from last year's club — and you walk out feeling like, 'All right, they fill these holes well.'"
Arkansas is scheduled to begin preseason practice next month and will open the season with a three-game series against Illinois State beginning Feb. 18 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
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