Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Walt Beazley)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The 10th-ranked Arkansas baseball team reaches the midway point of the Southeastern Conference schedule this weekend as the Razorbacks host No. 2 LSU in a top-10 showdown at Baum Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. on Friday, 6:05 p.m. on Saturday and 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.
The Razorbacks, 24-10 on the season and 8-4 in SEC play, are coming off a doubleheader split against New Mexico on Tuesday. Arkansas won the second game of the doubleheader, 4-3, after dropping the first game, 3-0. The Razorbacks are off to an 8-4 start in SEC play and enter the weekend three games behind LSU in the Western Division standings. At 8-4, Arkansas is off to its best start in conference play since the 2010 team started league play with a 9-3 record.
Arkansas is hitting .276 as a team for the season. Tyler Spoon leads the Razorbacks at the plate with a .336 batting average, three homers and 35 RBI. Matt Vinson is batting .328 and has a homer and 16 RBI, while Brian Anderson is batting .320 with two homers and 22 RBI. Joe Serrano is swinging the bat at a .300 clip with a home run and 12 RBI.
The Razorback pitching staff enters the weekend with the nation's best ERA at 1.56. Arkansas will start junior right hander Barrett Astin in the series opener on Friday. Astin has a 2-1 record with a 2.31 ERA in 10 appearances, including six starts. Junior righty Ryne Stanek will make his ninth start of the season in Saturday's contest. Stanek has a 3-2 record with a 1.90 ERA. Senior southpaw Randall Fant will start the series finale on Sunday. Fant is 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA in six starts.
The Arkansas bullpen has compiled a 9-2 record with nine saves and a 0.96 ERA. Out of the bullpen, Jalen Beeks has pitched in a team-leading 15 games and has a team-high four wins with two saves and a 0.70 ERA. Brandon Moore has appeared in 13 games and has a 1-2 record with a 1.72 ERA. Colby Suggs leads the Razorbacks with four saves and has a 2.70 ERA in 11 appearances. Michael Gunn and Chris Oliver have each pitched in eight games and have not allowed an earned run this season.
LSU brings a 32-2 overall record and an 11-1 mark in SEC play into this weekend's series. The Tigers, who have won 14 consecutive games, are currently three games ahead in the SEC's Western Division. LSU is coming off a two-game midweek sweep of Southern on Tuesday and Wednesday. In their most recent conference series, the Tigers swept a three-game series from Kentucky.
LSU leads the SEC with a .322 batting average and are led at the plate by Mason Katz, who leads the conference in all three Triple Crown categories with a .447 batting average, 13 home runs and 60 RBI. Alex Bregman is batting .444 with three homers and 35 RBI, while Raph Rhymes is hitting .349 with two round-trippers and 28 RBI. Christian Ibarra has a .336 average with three homers and 27 RBI and Mark Laird is hitting .320 with nine RBI.
On the mound, the Tigers boast a team ERA of 2.39, second in the conference. LSU will start sophomore right hander Aaron Nola in the series opener on Friday. Nola has a 5-0 record with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts this season. On Saturday, junior righty Ryan Eades will take the mound. Eades is 7-0 with a 1.30 ERA in eight starts. Sophomore left hander Cody Glenn will get the nod in the series finale. Glenn is 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA in eight starts.
Chris Cotton has made a team-leading 19 appearances out of the LSU bullpen and has a 1-0 record with eight saves and a 1.29 ERA. Joey Bourgeois has pitched in 18 games and is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA, while Will LaMarche has a 1-0 record with a 3.52 ERA in 14 appearances. Hunter Devall and Nick Rumbelow have each pitched in 13 games. Devall is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA and Rumbelow is 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA.
Arkansas and LSU have played 80 times previously with the Tigers holding a 54-26 edge in the all-time series. LSU has won 18 of the 31 games played in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks dropped all three games to the Tigers in the 2012 season series.
The series opener will be available on RazorVision,
while the final two games of the series will be televised on Cox Sports
Television. All three games of the weekend series will be available on
the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG. Three-time Arkansas
Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett and former Arkansas Sports
Information Director Rick Schaeffer will have the call. A live blog and
live stats for each game will be available on ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also follow updates of each game on @RazorbackBSB, the official Twitter account of the Razorback baseball team.
Only general admission tickets remain for Friday and Sunday's games.
Advance general admission tickets are no longer available for Saturday's
game, however any remaining general admission tickets will be put on
sale on Saturday at the Baum Stadium ticket office. General admission
tickets are $8 and can be purchased by calling 1-800-982-HOGS (4647), by
logging on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com or on gameday at Baum Stadium, while supplies last.
Promotional giveaways are planned for all three games of this weekend's
series. On Friday, fans can receive Razorback trading cards, sponsored
by Arvest. Saturday is Razorback Tablet Sleeve Night, while Sunday is
Razorback Padfolio Day.