Same record, different feel for Diamond Hogs

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is shown during a game against Alabama on Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Fayetteville.
( Hank Layton)
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is shown during a game against Alabama on Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Arkansas’ baseball record of 36-12 overall, 17-7 SEC is almost a mirror image of a year ago.

The 2022 Razorbacks entered their regular-season home finale against Vanderbilt on Mother’s Day weekend at 36-12 and 16-8 in SEC play. 

Arkansas led the SEC West by two games at this time last year. The Razorbacks lead the division by one-half game and are tied for the SEC lead this week.

“I would have never guessed our records were that close,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said last week when comparing the teams, “because this year has been a fight. Last year was a little bit easier, but I think sometimes when you have to fight it makes you better.” 

Arkansas was projected to host a regional and maybe even be a top-eight national seed last May — the same things being projected for this year’s team. 

But there is one major difference between the Razorbacks now and then: their standing in the Ratings Performance Index, better known as RPI. 

Arkansas’ RPI was not strong last season, and fell to 41st after the team lost six of its final eight games before the NCAA Tournament. The result was no division championship, a road trip to Oklahoma State for a regional, then to North Carolina for a super regional as Baum-Walker Stadium sat empty for the postseason for the first time since 2016. 

As third-ranked Arkansas prepares to host seventh-ranked South Carolina this weekend, the RPI situation is much better. The Razorbacks’ RPI ranks fifth nationally and has a chance to move up with series remaining against South Carolina (RPI No. 3) and Vanderbilt (RPI No. 6).

The boost in RPI is thanks in part to a stronger non-conference schedule. Of Arkansas’ 15 non-conference opponents, 4 teams — Army (Patriot League), Wright State (Horizon League), Southeast Missouri State (Ohio Valley) and Lipscomb (ASUN) — lead their conference, and 4 other teams — Oklahoma State (Big 12), Missouri State (Missouri Valley), Arkansas-Little Rock (Ohio Valley) and Grambling State (SWAC) — are second in their conference standings. 

Arkansas' non-conference schedule strength is ranked 57th nationally, according to It was ranked 157th last year.

“You look at that big win we got against Army,” Van Horn said last week of a 7-5 victory on March 7. “They were beating us [by four runs] and then we came back and beat them, and now they’re beating everybody, so they're helping us. You know, it's the mid-week games — you'd like to put some games on there [where] you could throw five freshmen in a lineup, a freshman pitcher and you’ve still got a really good chance to win, but usually you’re playing a team who doesn't help your RPI.” 

To that point, Van Horn said he is taking longer to assemble the 2024 schedule with RPI in mind. 

“It just helps you relax a little bit knowing, ‘OK, we're whatever in league play…but our RPI is in the top 10,’” Van Horn said last week. “We should be in pretty good shape to get into a regional.” 

Getting to a regional is not a concern for this Arkansas team. Questions center around the health of star players, whether the Razorbacks will finish strong and win the conference or division, and whether they secure one of the top-eight seeds that guarantee home-field advantage before the College World Series. 

Arkansas sophomore second baseman Peyton Stovall said Tuesday the older players on the roster should help the team’s chances of finishing strong against a tough schedule.

“I think it kind of goes without saying that there’s guys on the team that are older that have been at different schools,” said Stovall, who added, “and they know what it takes, and what it’s going to [take] to make a run at this thing.”


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