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Arkansas is on the road again, heading to Baton Rouge, La., for a three games against LSU this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know about the series…
Friday, April 30 – 6 p.m. CT (SEC Network)
Saturday, May 1 – 6:30 p.m. CT (SECN+)
Sunday, May 2 – 2 p.m. CT (SECN+)
The series opener between Arkansas and LSU will be nationally televised on the SEC Network, while the second two games of the series will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus, meaning they can be watched online on ESPN3.com or the ESPN app with a cable provider’s log-in credentials.
There are expected to be thunderstorms in the Baton Rouge area Friday morning, but they should move out before the 6 p.m. first pitch for Game 1. Temperatures will be in the 70s with some wind out of the east-northeast, according to the Weather Channel.
It could also rain Saturday, but the chance is low – 22 percent at 6 p.m. – and drops even more at 7 p.m. (7%). Winds will be a little stronger, but temperatures will still be in the 70s.
Where it gets dicey is Sunday, as the Weather Channel is calling for a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms. That means the Razorbacks could potentially have to play a doubleheader for a fourth straight weekend.
Arkansas’ Starting Rotation (2021 stats)
Friday – Jr. LHP Patrick Wicklander (10 games/6 starts, 2-1, 2.20 ERA, 44 K/14 BB, 41 IP)
Saturday – So. RHP Peyton Pallette (11 games/8 starts, 1-2, 3.98 ERA, 56 K/16 BB, 43 IP)
Sunday – TBA
Coming off back-to-back strong performances, Wicklander and Pallette have seemingly locked down the top two spots in Arkansas’ weekend rotation.
The third spot remains up in the air, though. Head coach Dave Van Horn mentioned left-hander Lael Lockhart and right-handers Zebulon Vermillion and Caleb Bolden as possibilities to start Game 3.
For a more complete breakdown of the Razorbacks’ rotation, click here.
In the Polls
For the third straight week, Arkansas is the unanimous No. 1 team in college baseball. As the top-ranked team in all six major polls, it is also No. 1 in the Rivals Composite Poll.
Although it was a preseason top-10 team, LSU has struggled in SEC play and is no longer ranked.
Scouting the Opponent
Record: 25-15 (6-12 SEC)
Head coach: Paul Mainieri (15th season)
Series history: Tigers lead 74-34
LSU’s starting rotation (2021 stats)
Friday – Jr. RHP Landon Marceaux (10 games/10 starts, 4-3, 2.10 ERA, 72 K/13 BB, 60 IP)
Saturday – Jr. RHP AJ Labas (10 games/10 starts, 3-0, 3.15 ERA, 56 K/10 BB, 60 IP)
Sunday – TBA
LSU’s top hitters (2021 stats)
~RF Dylan Crews: .362/.470/.625, 10 HR, 23 RBI
~1B Tre’ Morgan: .358/.468/.556, 4 HR, 30 RBI
~3B Cade Doughty: .307/.367/.569, 9 HR, 39 RBI
~SS Jordan Thompson: .289/.360/.474, 7 HR, 20 RBI
~LF Gavin Dugas: .288/.369/.610, 12 HR, 44 RBI
Notes and Tidbits
~Much like Arkansas, LSU has not named a Game 3 starter yet. If he’s not needed out of the bullpen in the first two games, right-hander Devin Fontenot could get the nod, but he’s the Tigers’ top reliever with a 2.95 ERA and three saves. A few other possibilities are freshman right-handers Blake Money (1-2, 7.20 ERA), Will Hellmers (6-1, 3.09 ERA) and Garrett Edwards (2-2, 4.15 ERA).
~The reason there’s an open spot in LSU’s rotation is because projected ace Jaden Hill suffered a torn UCL earlier this month and recently underwent Tommy John surgery. The right-hander from Ashdown, Ark., had been considered a possible top-10 pick in this summer’s MLB Draft.
~Offensively, the Tigers are led by a fantastic freshman trio. Dylan Crews was Perfect Game’s second-highest ranked recruit in the Class of 2020 to make it to college (No. 13) and he’s lived up to the hype. Coming into this weekend, he’s reached base in 19 straight games and he ranks in the top 10 in the SEC in all three slash categories. Jordan Thompson was also a heralded prospect (No. 53 overall) and has been a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection, while Tre’ Morgan (No. 220) has exceeded expectations and is coming off an 8-for-14 performance against Ole Miss that earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
~LSU slugger Gavin Dugas missed his first game of the season Tuesday, as back spasms kept him out of the midweek matchup with Grambling State. However, the left fielder should be good to go this weekend. His 12 home runs are tied for fifth in the SEC, while his 44 RBIs rank fourth in the conference.
~Similar to its road trips to the Mississippi schools, Arkansas will be playing in front of a packed house this weekend. LSU announced earlier this week that Alex Box Stadium was expanding to 100 percent capacity, just in time for its series against the Razorbacks. Tailgating will once again be allowed and masks won’t be required.
~Trips to Baton Rouge have typically not gone well for Arkansas. Since joining the SEC in 1992, the Razorbacks have won only one series at LSU’s home ballpark. That came in 2004, when they swept the three games on their way to a regular-season SEC title in Van Horn’s second season. Including some non-conference matchups, Arkansas is just 12-36 all-time in Baton Rouge.
Van Horn, on facing a struggling LSU team on the road:
“It’s been a tough place for us, a tough place to win a series. I think with this team, we have a chance to win a series anywhere we go. I wouldn’t say (LSU is) having a tough year or a bad year. I just think that maybe some things haven’t gone their way. They have a lot of talent. They’ve had an injury on the mound that hurt them earlier in the season. They seem to be playing really well now, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Van Horn, on the scouting report for LSU:
“They’re really athletic. They’ve got some really good freshmen that are playing real well for them, so mix in some of the older guys, the veterans, and you saw they were within a few outs – well, one out, really, in the bottom of that eighth inning – from sweeping Ole Miss on the road. We know how hard it is to sweep anybody, but especially Ole Miss at their ball park. They’re capable, like any team in the league, of having a great weekend and getting after you pretty good, so we’re not taking anybody lightly.”
Stat of the Week
It is well publicized that Arkansas leads the country in home runs with 74, which is seven more than the next-closest team (Old Dominion). What makes that even more remarkable is that the Razorbacks don’t have one guy carrying the load.
Matt Goodheart leads the team with 11 home runs, but there are four other players within two of his total. Robert Moore and Brady Slavens each have 10 long balls, while Christian Franklin and Cayden Wallace have nine apiece.
Those five players have a combined 49 home runs, which would be tied for 23rd nationally by themselves. No other team has more than three players with nine-plus homers.
Arkansas homered in all three games at South Carolina last weekend, but hit “only” four total across the three games. That gives the Razorbacks 74 for the season, which still leads all of Division I.
That is also several games ahead of the 2018 team’s pace, when Arkansas hit a single-season school-record 98 home runs. It didn’t hit No. 74 until the 48th game of that season and had just 61 home runs through 39 games.