The Razorbacks are down yet another arm — and a position player — for this weekend’s Arkansas vs Mississippi State series in Starkville, Miss.
Right-hander Dylan Carter, a top bullpen arm, announced Wednesday that his latest MRI revealed a torn UCL, which requires Tommy John surgery. The next day, Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn revealed second baseman Peyton Stovall would miss the series because of tendonitis in his shoulder.
Carter is the third pitcher to go down with a season-ending injury this year, joining projected ace Jaxon Wiggins, who needed Tommy John before the season, and middle reliever Koty Frank, who suffered a torn lat in early March.
“We’re going to go on and find a way to make it work and pitch guys that may or may not be ready, but we’re going to find a way to make this thing work,” pitching coach Matt Hobbs said in an interview on 103.7 The Buzz this week. “We’ve been able to move on and pitch some other guys, develop some younger kids, give some other guys some opportunities.
“It’s been different. You’ve got to be creative. You’ve got to be willing to do things that you didn’t want to do at the beginning of the year.”
On top of those injuries, ace left-hander Hunter Hollan is still dealing with what Van Horn has described as shin splints and won’t start Game 1, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Friday. Instead, the Razorbacks are going to give him an extra day or two to rest and he’ll start either Saturday (6 p.m. CT) or Sunday (1 p.m. CT).
“He’s been doing what he’s supposed to do to get ready to pitch and start a game as far as working on the mound, throwing his bullpen and pretty much everything he can do,” Van Horn said. “He’s healthy except he’s got a leg that’s been bothering him. It seems to be getting better, so we feel like, as of today, that he’s going to get on the mound in Starkville.”
That has forced left-hander Hagen Smith to move back into the starting rotation after serving as a “wildcard” capable of taking on multiple roles the first seven weeks of SEC play. He has been Arkansas’ best pitcher this year, posting a 2.64 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .187 batting average.
“He’s known for a week he was going to do this, so he’s had plenty of time to prepare,” Van Horn said. “He’s been preparing anyway with his bullpens throughout the season. I think he’s looking forward to going out there and starting the game.”
Although Van Horn has left the rest of the rotation as “TBA,” just as he has for several weeks, it’s expected that Hollan and right-hander Brady Tygart will get the nod in those two games — but it’s unknown in what order.
Tygart is still working his way back from his own injury, missing nearly two months with a UCL sprain, and will be on a pitch count once again. He threw 20 pitches in one inning last week against Texas A&M and is expected to throw 35-40 pitches this week.
Right-hander Will McEntire will then likely follow Tygart, who is essentially serving as an “opener.” He threw 5 2/3 innings in that role last week.
Behind him and the rest of the starters is a bit of a mystery given the loss of Carter. Freshman Gage Wood has emerged as a legit closer and will probably slot in behind Smith, assuming he goes deep enough, in Game 1.
However, Carter’s 16 relief appearances are the second most on the team and he was someone who could go multiple innings and pitch twice in a weekend.
“You don’t replace him really,” Van Horn said. “When he was rolling along there, he was pitching 90-93 (mph) and throwing the slider for a strike and pitching in some really tough, leverage situations.”
He didn’t initially name them specifically, but freshmen Ben Bybee and Christian Foutch are two pitchers Arkansas is hoping it can lean on moving forward without Carter.
Bybee has shown some flashes of potential this year, but has mostly been inconsistent and Van Horn said he needs to stop “tip-toeing around the strike zone.” Foutch had been very good for the Razorbacks until his last four outings, in which he’s allowed 12 straight batters to reach. For him, it’s more of a confidence issue.
“We gotta have some guys pick it up,” Van Horn said. “We’ve had a couple guys in the bullpen that haven’t done well lately and they have good arms and it’s time to get it going again. … They’ve gotta get some outs for us.”
The Razorbacks also have a couple of other options available in the bullpen:
- RHP Cody Adcock: Pitched much better of late, posting a 2.64 in 17 innings since a tough outing at Ole Miss (including just 1 ER in 7 IP over last two SEC outings)
- LHP Parker Coil: Another inconsistent freshman, but seems to be pitching much better… Earned a five-out save against Texas A&M and has allowed only one earned run in 6 1/3 innings across his last three appearances
- RHP Austin Ledbetter: Struggled for much of the season, but threw four scoreless innings against Lipscomb on Tuesday
- LHP Zack Morris: Expected to be a key arm, but struggled for much of the season… Looked good for 1 2/3 innings against Texas A&M and threw two scoreless innings against Lipscomb
In the field, Arkansas baseball is still without outfielders Jared Wegner (thumb) and Tavian Josenberger (hamstring). It will also be missing Stovall this weekend as he battles a lingering shoulder injury that has bothered him for several weeks.
There is some concern that it could keep him out longer than just this weekend, but Van Horn is hopeful that getting an extra week off will help speed up the recovery process.
“Really the only thing I can tell you is it’s inflammation, which basically means tendonitis,” Van Horn said. “It’s bothersome because we’ve got to get that inflammation to calm down and go away a little bit. They’re working hard to get that taken care of.”
In his absence, the Razorbacks will start either Harold Coll or Peyton Holt. Coll has been the backup shortstop this year, but started at second against Lipscomb on Tuesday because Holt was still recovering from an ankle sprain suffered over the weekend. However, Holt was apparently healthy enough to be inserted into that game as a pinch runner.
As always, Best of Arkansas Sports will be following all three games this weekend and providing live, inning-by-inning updates from the Arkansas vs Mississippi State series below…
LIVE UPDATES — Arkansas vs Mississippi State
Pregame Tidbits (Game 1)
The only starting pitcher Mississippi State has named is right-hander Cade Smith for Game 1. He has a 5.54 ERA in 26 innings this season, but has actually been a little better in SEC play. His 4.26 conference ERA is the second-best on the Bulldogs’ entire staff, which has an abysmal 9.82 team ERA in 21 conference games this year.
The all-time Arkansas vs Mississippi State series is pretty even, with the Bulldogs holding a 57-54 advantage, but the Razorbacks have dominated it recently, winning eight of the last nine matchups. They actually had an eight-game winning streak before Mississippi State salvaged Game 3 in 12 innings last year.
It is the 22nd SEC game of the season for Arkansas baseball, but JUCO transfer Peyton Holt is making his first career SEC start, while freshman Mason Neville is making his second SEC start. They are playing second base and left field, respectively.
As expected, Peyton Stovall is not on the 27-man roster, which means he is unavailable to play this weekend. One player who is on the roster, though, is injured center fielder Tavian Josenberger.
Dylan Carter had his Tommy John surgery Friday:
T-1st: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 0
Diggs worked the count full before drawing a leadoff walk and Bohrofen followed with a two-run homer to right. After a weak ground out to first by McLaughlin, Slavens ripped a sharp grounder to first. Hancock briefly bobbled it, but recovered in time to throw to the pitcher covering the bag. He was called out on the field, but replays seemed to show they got to the bag at the same time. Arkansas challenged it, but there wasn’t enough to overturn, so it stood as called. Cali then struck out to end the inning, but strike three appeared to be outside.
B-1st: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 0
Smith needed only 12 pitches to retire the Bulldogs in order in the home half of the first. He struck out Mershon, got Ledbetter to fly out to right and then Hines grounded right into the shift, with Cali making the play up the middle.
T-2nd: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 0
He worked the count full to start the inning, but Neville struck out swinging when he wasn’t quick enough on a fastball. Holt also went down swinging and then Rowland hit a line drive right at the second baseman. It was a 10-pitch inning for Cade Smith, who’s at 28 through two innings.
B-2nd: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 0
Jordan looked at strike three for the first out. Clark put together a nice at bat, battling back to work the count full, but ended up chasing a pitch out of the zone. Alford put the best swing on a ball by an MSU hitter today, but it was a line drive right to Neville in left. Hagen Smith has now thrown 28 pitches.
T-3rd: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 0
Bolton got ahead 3-0 to start the inning, but ended up flying out to left. Diggs followed with a strikeout on a pitch he couldn’t check his swing. In a full count, Bohrofen was rung up for the final out. Cade Smith has retired nine straight since the leadoff walk and two-run homer.
B-3rd: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 1
Hancock hit a slow roller down the first base line, but Smith was able to field it near the line, spin and throw him out at first. He got up 0-2 against Larry, but plunked him to give Mississippi State its first base runner. He bounced back to strike out Highfill. Mershon drew a walk, though, putting runners on first and second. Ledbetter made him pay for those mistakes, delivering a two-out RBI single through the right side. Hines popped out to end the inning, with Holt making the catch in very shallow center. It was a 28-pitch inning by Smith, who has suddenly thrown 56 pitches through three innings.
T-4th: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 1
McLaughlin flied out to left to start the inning. Just like he did his first time up, Slavens hit it hard down the first base line, but this time Hancock was able to catch the line drive in foul territory for the out. With two outs, Cali singled into right to break up Cade Smith’s stretch of 11 consecutive Razorbacks retired. Neville fouled off a few pitches before chasing an elevated fastball for the strikeout. Smith is up to 62 pitches, so if nothing else, Arkansas made him throw 20 pitches that inning.
B-4th: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 1
Since plunking Larry, Hagen Smith has struggled to find the zone. He walked Jordan on four pitches to start the fourth, with at least a couple of them not being anywhere close to strikes. He got ahead 0-2 against Clark, but then hit him with a pitch. Alford squared to bunt, but got ahead 3-0 and Mississippi State apparently took the bunt off – and it backfired, as he struck out swinging. Hancock hit a grounder to second, but it was too slow to turn a double play. The Hogs had to settle for the force at second. With runners on the corners, Larry looked at strike three to end the inning. The bad news is that Hagen Smith is already up to 79 pitches.
T-5th: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 1
Holt hit a chopper to short and was thrown out to start the inning. Rowland made solid contact again, but this time it was a deep fly out to right. Cade Smith thought he had a strikeout of Bolton, but his 2-2 pitch was called outside and Bolton ended up walking in a full count. Diggs grounded out to first to end the inning, though. Smith is up to 77 pitches through five innings.
B-5th: Mississippi State 2, Arkansas 2
Highfill opened the home half of the fifth with a walk and then appeared to steal second, but had to go back to first because of umpire’s interference. Arkansas couldn’t capitalize on the break because Smith ended up walking Mershon. During Ledbetter’s at bat, Highfill was thrown out trying to steal third for the first out of the inning. For some reason, Mershon stayed put at first. It was a costly mistake because Ledbetter hit a single up the middle. Instead of scoring a run, there are now runners on the corners with one out.
A wild pitch moved Ledbetter to second, but Mershon had to stay put at third. He was able to score on the next pitch, though, as it got by Rowland for his first passed ball allowed of the season. Hines ended up walking, putting runners on the corners once again. In a full count, Smith blew a fastball by Jordan for a strikeout. Smith ended the inning by striking out Clark. That’s probably it for him because he’s thrown 112 pitches.
T-6th: Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2
For the second time today, Bohrofen goes down looking. McLaughlin followed with a single into center and then Slavens crushed a two-run home run through the wind to right. Cali followed with a single to right, prompting a mound visit. Cade Smith bounced back to strike out Neville and then got Holt to fly out to center. He’s at 97 pitches, so that’s probably it for him.
B-6th: Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2
Right-hander Cody Adcock is the new pitcher for Arkansas. He got Alford to ground out to third and Hancock to fly out to right before striking out Larry to end the inning. He threw just 13 pitches.
T-7th: Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2
Mississippi State goes to the bullpen to start the seventh, bringing in left-hander Cole Cheatham. For the third time tonight, Rowland hit the ball hard, but just like his first two at bats, he doesn’t get a hit out of it. This time it’s a deep fly caught on the track in center. Bolton thought strike two was actually strike three, so he had to hustle back to the box. He did make contact, but it was a ground out to short. Diggs also grounded out to short, ending the inning.
B-7th: Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2
Gage Wood is now pitching for Arkansas. He got Highfill to look at strike three, but then walked Mershon in a full count. He stole second to put a runner in scoring position for Ledbetter, who looked at strike three for the second out. Hines struck out to end the inning. Wood – who will likely be asked to finish the game – threw 20 pitches.
T-8th: Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2
Bohrofen popped out to second for the first out. McLaughlin grounded out to third. Slavens flied out to right. Cheatham has retired all six Razorbacks he’s faced so far.
B-8th: Arkansas 4, Mississippi State 2
Jordan flied out to center to start the home half of the eighth. Clark followed by flying out to left. Alford hit a grounder to short and Bolton’s throw bounced, but Slavens picked it for the final out. Wood threw nine pitches that inning and is up to 29 through two innings.
T-9th: Arkansas 6, Mississippi State 2
Cali went the other way again, this time getting a double to right. Neville laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third and he scampered home on a wild pitch, giving Arkansas an important insurance run. After a strikeout by Holt, Rowland drew a full-count, two-out walk. Bolton followed with a five-pitch walk.
That led to a pitching change, with Mississippi State bringing in right-hander KC Hunt. Diggs ripped a line drive to the right side and the first baseman couldn’t make a diving catch. The ball deflected away and Rowland was able to score. Another insurance run. With runners on the corners, Bohrofen struck out to end the inning.
B-9th: Arkansas 6, Mississippi State 2
Hancock worked the count full before flying out to left. Larry grounded out to short, with Bolton making a tremendous play for the out. Pinch hitter Bryce Chance drew a two-out walk to extend the game and prompt a mound visit from Matt Hobbs. He took second on defensive indifference and then Mershon walked in a full count. That means the tying run is on deck. But that’s where it remained, as Ledbetter looked at strike three to end the game.
FINAL: Arkansas 6, Mississippi State 2
BOX SCORE – Arkansas vs Mississippi State (Game 1)
Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs Mississippi State
|Mississippi State Baseball||Arkansas Baseball|
|1. David Mershon – SS||1. Kendall Diggs – RF|
|2. Colton Ledbetter – CF||2. Jace Bohrofen – CF|
|3. Hunter Hines – DH||3. Ben McLaughlin – DH|
|4. Dakota Jordan – LF||4. Brady Slavens – 1B|
|5. Kellum Clark – RF||5. Caleb Cali – 3B|
|6. Slate Alford – 3B||6. Mason Neville – LF|
|7. Luke Hancock – 1B||7. Peyton Holt – 2B|
|8. Amani Larry – 2B||8. Parker Rowland – C|
|9. Ross Highfill – C||9. John Bolton – SS|
|Pitching: Jr. RHP Cade Smith||Pitching: So. LHP Hagen Smith|
Baseball Schedule This Week
Tuesday — Lipscomb 8, Arkansas 6 (11 innings)
Friday — at Mississippi State — 6 p.m. CT (SECN+)
Saturday — at Mississippi State — 6 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Sunday — at Mississippi State — 1 p.m. CT (SECN+)
Accountability Check — 2023 Arkansas Baseball Predictions
Best of Arkansas Sports managing editor Andrew Hutchinson published his week-by-week predictions for the 2023 season just before the Razorbacks opened the year at the College Baseball Showdown. Those predictions can be read in full here, but we’ll also be doing weekly “accountability checks” in this space.
Prediction: 1-0 in the midweek / 34-12 overall, 13-8 in SEC play
The annual game at Dickey-Stephens Park is against Lipscomb this year. On paper, this should be a win for the Razorbacks. However, they’d traditionally played really tight games down there, even against bad teams. Lipscomb is decent — picked fourth in the 14-team ASUN — so this one will go down to the wire, but Arkansas avoids the upset.
Actual: 0-1 in the midweek / 33-12 overall, 14-7 in SEC play
We correctly predicted the game would go down to the wire, but we never could have expected the game to go 11 innings. Given all of the injuries, it’s not surprising Arkansas lost the game, especially considering how the Razorbacks have always struggled down there.
Composite College Baseball Top 25
Unlike football and basketball, which have just the AP and Coaches Polls all year (with football adding the CFP rankings late in the season), college baseball has five major polls. (Collegiate Baseball used to be included, but it was dropped to due severe inconsistencies in its rankings.)
To get a better feel for how teams stack up, BoAS has combined those rankings into a single top 25 by using a points system in which a No. 1 ranking = 25 points, No. 2 = 24 points and all the way to No. 25 = 1 point. We will update this each week throughout the season…
|2. Wake Forest||ACC||—||120|
|3. South Carolina||SEC||—||112|
|t-7. Coastal Carolina||Sun Belt||-1||92|
|t-10. Miami (Fla.)||ACC||+7||68|
|t-10. UConn||Big East||+5||68|
|12. Campbell||Big South||-4||66|
|13. West Virginia||Big 12||+8||63|
|t-14. Dallas Baptist||CUSA||+2||60|
|t-14. East Carolina||AAC||-2||60|
|19. Boston College||ACC||-8||32|
|20. Oregon State||Pac-12||+6||30|
|21. Arizona State||Pac-12||-3||23|
|22. Texas Tech||Big 12||-9||15|
|25. Oklahoma State||Big 12||—||9|
MOVED IN: Oregon State (20), UTSA (24)
MOVED OUT: Louisville (23), Indiana (24)
- SEC: 7
- ACC: 5
- Pac-12: 4
- Big 12: 3
- C-USA: 2
- AAC: 1
- Big East: 1
- Big South: 1
- Sun Belt: 1
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…