Fayetteville Regional Features Arkansas Ties Galore

Dave Van Horn, Arkansas baseball, NCAA Tournament, Fayetteville Regional
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

For the sixth time in seven years, Arkansas baseball will host NCAA Tournament games at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Already announced as a regional host, the Razorbacks were tabbed the No. 5 overall seed during the NCAA Tournament baseball selection show Monday afternoon, with Louisiana Tech, Kansas State and Southeast Missouri State coming to town as the 2, 3 and 4 seeds, respectively, this weekend.

If it survives the four-team, double-elimination Fayetteville Regional, Arkansas would then host a best-of-three super regional against the winner of the Charlottesville Regional, which is hosted by No. 12 seed Virginia and also features Mississippi State, St. John’s and Penn.

The Razorbacks are vying for their first national championship, as their best finishes have been as runner-up in 1979 and 2018. Those are two of 11 College World Series appearances in school history, which is tied with North Carolina for the third-most among Division I schools without a title.

Before it can worry about getting itself off that list, though, Arkansas must first get through the Fayetteville Regional. It has hosted 10 previous regionals since the NCAA Tournament went to its current format in 1999, but won only half of them.

Most recently, the Razorbacks were the No. 3 national seed last year, but ran into a red-hot TCU team and failed to advance to the super regionals.

Here’s a closer look at the draw they received for the 2024 Fayetteville Regional…

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2024 Fayetteville Regional

2 seed: Louisiana Tech

Record: 45-17 (18-6 CUSA)
RPI: No. 29 | KPI: No. 40
Conference Finish: 1st out of 9
Series History: Arkansas leads 30-7 (last: Arkansas swept a weekend series in 2023)

A true regional opponent, Louisiana Tech has been a mid-major powerhouse in recent years. The Bulldogs bounced back from a disappointing sub-.500 season last year to win the CUSA regular-season title and notched their third 40-win season in the last four years.

Louisiana Tech was set to come to Baum-Walker Stadium in 2021 when it hosted the Ruston Regional as the No. 16 overall seed, but was knocked off by North Carolina State, sending the Wolfpack to Fayetteville instead.

This year’s team is led by CUSA Player of the Year Ethan Bates. That name should sound familiar to Arkansas baseball fans because he is from Hot Springs and starred at Lakeside High before signing with the Razorbacks.

However, after starting eight games on that legendary 2021 team as a freshman, Bates entered the transfer portal. He spent a year at Navarro J.C. before ending up at Louisiana Tech, where he’s become a two-way star the last two seasons.

This year, he’s hitting .340 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs while posting a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP as the Bulldogs’ closer, limiting opponents to a .178 batting average in 43 2/3 innings across 35 appearances on the mound. That also made him one of 10 semifinalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award.

It’s not just Bates, though. He’s one of five regulars hitting at least .300 and one of four who’ve hit at least 15 home runs.

The Bulldogs haven’t been quite as good on the mound, but are still effective with a team ERA of 4.99 (No. 51 nationally) and WHIP of 1.41 (No. 31). Their top starter is left-hander Luke Nichols, who is 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 77 innings.

Lane Burroughs is in his eighth season as the Louisiana Tech baseball coach and was named the CUSA co-Coach of the Year. He has ties to the Arkansas baseball coach, as Dave Van Horn actually hired him as an assistant at Northwestern State, where they worked together for about a semester before Van Horn left to take the Nebraska job.

3 seed: Kansas State

Record: 32-24 (15-15 Big 12)
RPI: No. 45 | KPI: No. 43
Conference Finish: t-6th out of 13
Series History: Arkansas leads 30-20 (last: Arkansas won midweek game 6-5 at Kauffman Stadium in 2017)

Led by sixth-year head coach Pete Hughes, Kansas State snuck into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid after finishing in the middle of the pack in the Big 12.

A few years ago, his roster was littered with multiple Natural State natives, including former Arkansas pitcher Blake Adams. None of them are still around, but the Wildcats still have some talent.

They are led by redshirt junior Brady Day, who was actually taken in the 12th round of last year’s MLB Draft, but chose to return to school. It seems like a good decision because he’s hit .332 with 8 home runs and 53 RBIs, plus has more walks (43) than strikeouts (34) and is 16 of 18 on stolen base attempts.

He’s just one of several players Arkansas would need to be careful with on the base paths, as Kansas State ranks 10th nationally with 127 stolen bases as a team. The Wildcats also really work the count, ranking 32nd in the country with 304 total walks.

On the mound, Kansas State has a 5.44 team ERA, but it ranks in the top 50 nationally with a 1.44 WHIP. It thrives on strikeouts and not issuing a lot of walks.

Right-hander Tyson Neighbors is one of the top relievers in the Big 12. In addition to his 3.24 ERA, he has a 1.14 WHIP and a whopping 55 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings, limiting opponents to a miniscule .195 batting average.

4 seed: Southeast Missouri State

Record: 34-25 (18-9 OVC)
RPI: No. 132 | KPI: No. 169
Conference Finish: 2nd out of 10
Series History: Arkansas leads 11-5 (last: Arkansas won midweek game 12-2 in 2023)

Southeast Missouri State finished one game behind Little Rock for the regular-season OVC title, but the Trojans went 0-2 in the OVC Tournament to open the door for the Redhawks. They took advantage of that, beating Morehead State in the championship game to clinch the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

In their lone game against an SEC foe this season, the Redhawks actually won – albeit against in-state foe Missouri. They beat the Tigers 8-3 in a midweek game in Columbia on Feb. 27.

Despite being located not very far from the Natural State in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Southeast Missouri State doesn’t have any Arkansas natives on its roster, but there are a couple of ties to the Razorbacks on its coaching staff.

Head coach Andy Sawyers played for Dave Van Horn at Nebraska and then worked for him as a volunteer assistant for the Cornhuskers. His associate head coach is an even more recognizable name to Arkansas baseball fans: Trevor Ezell.

The Bryant High product began his career at SEMO, but transferred to Arkansas for his final season of eligibility. With the Razorbacks, he was a second-team All-SEC selection who hit .329 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs in 2019.

As for this year’s Southeast Missouri State baseball squad, it is a balanced offensive team that has struggled some on the mound.

Almost every starter in the Redhawks’ lineup is either hitting .300 or has double-digit home runs. As a team, they’re hitting .292 with 100 home runs, the latter of which ranks 31st nationally.

Three different players lead them in the three Triple Crown categories, with Michael Mugan hitting a team-high .322 (with 12 HR and 47 RBI), Ben Palmer with a team-high 17 home runs (.285, 48 RBI) and Josh Cameron with a team-high 52 RBIs (.306, 14 HR). Of that group, only Cameron was named first-team All-OVC.

On the flip side, only one pitcher with more than two innings this season has a sub-4 ERA. However, right-hander Kyle Miller was still a first-team All-OVC selection as a reliever, as his 4.88 ERA might be a little misleading. He has an impressive 1.08 WHIP, plus seven saves and 35 strikeouts to only 8 walks in 27 2/3 innings.

2024 NCAA Tournament National Seeds

Here’s a rundown of the top 16 seeds for this year’s NCAA Tournament, which includes Arkansas baseball in the Fayetteville Regional. They will host four-team, double-elimination regionals this weekend.

  1. Tennessee
  2. Kentucky
  3. Texas A&M
  4. North Carolina
  5. Arkansas
  6. Clemson
  7. Georgia
  8. Florida State
  9. Oklahoma
  10. North Carolina State
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Virginia
  13. Arizona
  14. UC-Santa Barbara
  15. Oregon State
  16. East Carolina


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