After taking Game 1 of the Arkansas vs Vanderbilt series, the Razorbacks are on the verge of their second regular-season SEC title in three years — but that apparently doesn’t mean anything to SEC Network analyst Todd Walker.
In a segment following Arkansas’ 8-2 win over the Commodores, Walker — a former LSU standout who went on to play 12 seasons in the big leagues — named the four SEC teams he thought have the best chance to win the national championship this year and left off the team currently in first place.
Instead, his top four teams were Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt. When asked about the obvious omission, Walker didn’t exactly have a great answer.
“I’m a big believer in Dave Van Horn,” Walker said. “Of course, they’ve got some missing parts, as well, but when Hagen Smith’s on the mound or Hunter Hollan, they’re very, very good. They lost Peyton Stovall for the year, Jared Wegner’s back, so their offense is looking a little better. I only have four choices, so I had to pick the four best ones.”
Interestingly, he put the Volunteers at No. 1 on his list. Not only were the Volunteers swept in Fayetteville a month ago, but they are just 3-12 away from Lindsey Nelson Stadium and have yet to fully lock up a top-16 seed that would allow them to host a regional. To do that, they likely need to win 2 of 3 at South Carolina this weekend, as they are 14-13 in SEC play and No. 23 in the RPI. Walker also cited Tennessee’s “three frontline starters” — but Chase Dollander and Drew Beam have ERAs over 5.00 in SEC play.
LSU checks in at No. 3 on the list, largely due to having arguably the top two MLB Draft prospects in Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews, but even Walker acknowledges that the Tigers “have some issues,” including having “no dominant arm” in the bullpen and no third starter.
Even with all of their injuries, the Razorbacks don’t have that problem. Smith and Hollan are legit SEC ace-type arms, while Brady Tygart is coming on strong in his return from a UCL strain and guys like Gage Wood, Will McEntire and Cody Adcock have pitched really well recently. That’s at least four more proven arms than LSU and their top two guys have been better than Tennessee’s more heralded top two.
As if that wasn’t enough, part of Walker’s reasoning for putting Vanderbilt at No. 4 was its three left-handed starters — two of which are dealing with injuries and won’t pitch the final two weekends of the regular season. He also said Enrique Bradfield Jr. “has to get hot” for the Commodores to make a run and “he hasn’t done it yet,” despite him hitting .313 over the last 13 games while the rest of Vanderbilt’s lineup has gone ice cold.
UPDATE – More on Walker’s take in the context of Hogs’ Game 2 loss here:
Then there’s the fact that Arkansas could potentially wrap up the SEC title by the end of the day Friday.
The Razorbacks can clinch the SEC West with just one more win over Vanderbilt or one loss by LSU against Georgia.
A win over the Commodores would also guarantee Arkansas at least a share of the overall championship, as would a loss by Florida against Kentucky. If both of those things happen, the Razorbacks would secure the outright title.
As always, Best of Arkansas Sports will be watching Game 2 of the Arkansas vs Vanderbilt series and providing live, inning-by-inning updates below, as well as periodical updates of Friday’s LSU-Georgia and Florida-Kentucky games…
|Arkansas at Vanderbilt||7 p.m. CT (SEC Network)||8-2 ARK, T8|
|LSU at Georgia||5 p.m. CT (SECN+)||8-4 LSU, F|
|Florida at Kentucky||5:30 p.m. CT (SECN+)||6-4 KENT, F|
LIVE UPDATES — Arkansas vs Vanderbilt
As expected, Arkansas will start sophomore right-hander Brady Tygart in Game 2. He’s expected to have a pitch count in the 55-60 range in his fourth start since returning from a UCL strain.
T-1st: Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 0
Josenberger struck out to start the game and Bohrofen followed with a deep fly that stayed just fair down the right field line. However, replays seemed to indicate that it might have been foul – but the play stood as called when it was reviewed. Wegner then walked on four pitches and Diggs singled to right.
That set up an RBI double into the left field corner by Cali. Wegner scored easily, but Nate Thompson also waved in Diggs and he was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning. It cost the Hogs a run because Slavens beat the shift with a single through the left side and instead of scoring two, it just drove in Cali. That was it, as Holt flied out to right to end the inning. It was a 21-pitch inning for Futrell.
B-1st: Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 0
Tygart quickly got ahead 0-2 against Bradfield, threw three straight balls and then struck him out. Diaz hit a grounder to the left side and Bolton made a fantastic play to get to it and throw to first, then Slavens completed it with a nice stretch. Schreck thought he checked his swing for a two-out walk, but the third base ump said he went around, so it was a strikeout instead. Tygart threw 14 pitches.
T-2nd: Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 0
The second inning was much smoother for Futrell. He got Rowland to pop out to second, Bolton to ground out to second and Josenberger to look at strike three. He needed 16 pitches for the 1-2-3 frame, bringing his total to 37 pitches.
B-2nd: Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 0
Noland hit a chopper toward the middle of the field, but Bolton got to it and threw him out at first. In a full count, Bulger took strike three – a call he didn’t like. Then Tygart froze LaNeve with a curveball for his fourth strikeout. He’s gone six up, six down on just 30 pitches.
T-3rd: Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 0
Much like Josenberger to end the second inning, Bohrofen and Wegner each looked at strike three. Diggs did put it in play, but it was a pop up to second. Futrell has retired seven straight, with the last three requiring 18 pitches. He’s up to 55 for the game.
B-3rd: Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 2
Tygart got a couple of quick outs, getting Austin to fly out to right and then striking out Vastine, but McKenzie ended the no-hitter in a big way, launching a homer over the tall left field wall. It’s the first run Tygart has allowed as a starter after throwing 8 2/3 scoreless innings in which he had allowed just one run. Bradfield followed with a home run, as well. Diaz popped out in foul territory to end the inning. Tygart is up to 50 pitches.
T-4th: Arkansas 4, Vanderbilt 2
Cali opened the fourth inning with soft liner to third and Slavens followed with a shot into the right field corner. It bounced out of play, making it a ground-rule double. Holt then lined a ball off the tall wall in left for an RBI double. Rowland looked at strike three for the second out and then Bolton did the same to end the inning. Futrell is up to 73 pitches through four innings.
B-4th: Arkansas 4, Vanderbilt 2
Tygart is still on the mound for Arkansas. He struck out Schreck and Noland before getting a first-pitch ground out to third by Bulger. At 62 pitches, he’s probably done.
T-5th: Arkansas 4, Vanderbilt 2
Josenberger struck out for the third time today to start the fifth inning. Bohrofen hit a slow roller to second and Austin – who made two errors in Game 1 – made the play. Wegner then looked at strike three, ending Futrell’s quickest inning of the night. It was just 11 pitches, bringing him to 84 for the game.
B-5th: Arkansas 4, Vanderbilt 2
Left-hander Zack Morris is now pitching for Arkansas. He struck out LaNeve (looking) and Austin (swinging) before Vastine tried bunting his way on. It went back to Morris and he made the play. It was an 11-pitch inning.
T-6th: Arkansas 7, Vanderbilt 2
Diggs hit a chopper back to the pitcher and was thrown out to start the inning. Cali followed by beating the shift with a single through the right side. Slavens then smoked a single into right and Cali went first to third. With runners on the corners, Holt crushed a three-run home run.
After a Rowland fly out to left, it looked like Futrell would get out of it on a grounder to third by Bolton, but Diaz’s throw sailed on him and Bolton reached on the E5. Instead, the inning ended when Josenberger popped out to shallow right, caught by the second baseman. Futrell is up to 106 pitches, so he’s likely done.
B-6th: Arkansas 7, Vanderbilt 2
McKenzie struck out to start the inning. Bradfield looked like he might have a hit, but his drive to right-center hung up long enough for Bohrofen to run under it. Diaz then looked at strike three. Morris has retired all six guys he’s faced with four strikeouts. He’s thrown 26 pitches.
T-7th: Arkansas 7, Vanderbilt 2
Right-hander Bryce Cunningham took over to start the seventh. He retired the Razorbacks in order, getting three straight groundouts – Bohrofen to first, Wegner to third and Diggs to short.
B-7th: Arkansas 7, Vanderbilt 2
Morris got Schreck to ground out to second and then struck out Noland, but after retiring the first eight batters he faced, he walked Bulger on four pitches. He bounced back to strike out LaNeve. Morris has thrown 42 pitches through three innings.
T-8th: Arkansas 8, Vanderbilt 2
Cali and Slavens grounded out to second to start the inning. The latter of those looked like it might be a hit, but Vanderbilt was positioned perfectly. With two outs, Holt was hit by a pitch and then took second on a wild pitch. Rowland followed with a walk. Bolton delivered an RBI single through the left side, with Holt racing around from second and sliding into home just ahead of the throw. Josenberger walked to load the bases, but Bohrofen popped out in foul territory to leave them loaded.
B-8th: Vanderbilt 10, Arkansas 8
Arkansas turns to freshman right-hander Gage Wood in the eighth. Austin hit a grounder back up the middle and Wood couldn’t field it cleanly, giving him a leadoff infield single. Wood then walked Vastine in a full count, prompting a mound visit by Matt Hobbs. McKenzie then followed with a sac bunt attempt and popped it up, only for neither Cali nor Wood to go for the catch, so it fell for a single to load the bases with no outs.
It only got worse after that. Bradfield hit a fly ball to shallow center and Holt and Bolton collided as the latter made the catch. Austin was able to tag up on the play for a run, turning it into a sac fly. More importantly, Bolton was hurt on the play and had to come out. He was replaced by Harold Coll.
Diaz followed with a single into right. He hit it hard enough that Vastine couldn’t score from second, so it loaded the bases again. Schreck was plunked in an 0-2 count to make it 8-4. That’s it for Wood. The new pitcher is right-hander Cody Adcock, he’ll be facing the tying run at the plate with only one out.
Noland, who has two grand slams and is hitting .400 with the bases loaded this season, got behind 0-2 and then took four straight balls to draw an RBI walk. Adcock then gave up a two-run single to Bulger and that’s it for him. Freshman left-hander Parker Coil is next out of the pen. His first pitch was crushed for a three-run homer by LaNeve.
Coil got Austin to foul out to Slavens for the second out of the inning. Vastine went down swinging to end the inning.
T-9th: Vanderbilt 10, Arkansas 8
Vanderbilt brings in closer Nick Maldonado in the ninth. Wegner grounded out to short for the first out. It looked like Diggs might get one run back on a home run to center, but Bradfield robbed him for the second out. Cali kept it alive with a single into left. Slavens struck out to end the game.
FINAL: Vanderbilt 10, Arkansas 8
BOX SCORE – Arkansas vs Vanderbilt
Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs Vanderbilt
|Vanderbilt Baseball||Arkansas Baseball|
|1. Enrique Bradfield Jr. – CF||1. Tavian Josenberger – CF|
|2. Davis Diaz – 3B||2. Jace Bohrofen – RF|
|3. RJ Schreck – RF||3. Jared Wegner – LF|
|4. Parker Noland – 1B||4. Kendall Diggs – DH|
|5. Jack Bulger – C||5. Caleb Cali – 3B|
|6. Troy LaNeve – DH||6. Brady Slavens – 1B|
|7. RJ Austin – 2B||7. Peyton Holt – 2B|
|8. Jonathan Vastine – SS||8. Parker Rowland – C|
|9. T.J. McKenzie – LF||9. John Bolton SS|
|Pitching: So. LHP Devin Futrell||Pitching: So. RHP Brady Tygart|
How to Watch Arkansas vs Vanderbilt
Thursday, May 18 – Arkansas 8, Vanderbilt 2
Friday, May 19 – 7 p.m. CT (SEC Network)
Saturday, May 20 – 2 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: 3-0 on the weekend / 39-13 overall, 18-9 in SEC play
Baum-Walker Stadium should be buzzing ahead of Arkansas’ final regular-season home series. The Gamecocks are a top-25 team in some preseason polls, but they’ll run into a buzzsaw this weekend, as the Razorbacks put themselves in the middle of the SEC West race with a sweep.
Actual: 2-1 on the weekend / 38-13 overall, 19-8 in SEC play
It wasn’t a sweep like we predicted, but Arkansas still won two of three against South Carolina last weekend. The Razorbacks are tracking one game ahead of our predictions in SEC play, but are pretty much spot-on with our overall record prediction – the difference being a midweek game against Arkansas State getting rained out.
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 due to 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…
|1. Wake Forest||ACC||—||125|
|6. West Virginia||Big 12||+6||92|
|7. Coastal Carolina||Sun Belt||+1||90|
|10. Miami (Fla.)||ACC||—||76|
|11. South Carolina||SEC||-5||71|
|12. UConn||Big East||+1||69|
|13. Campbell||Big South||-2||66|
|14. East Carolina||AAC||—||60|
|16. Dallas Baptist||C-USA||-1||56|
|19. Oregon State||Pac-12||—||43|
|21. Oklahoma State||Big 12||+1||21|
|22. Boston College||ACC||-1||20|
|23. Maryland||Big Ten||—||15|
|25. Southern Miss||Sun Belt||+4||9|
MOVED IN: Auburn (24), Southern Miss (25)
MOVED OUT: UTSA (24), Texas Tech (25)
- SEC: 8
- ACC: 6
- Big 12: 2
- Pac-12: 2
- Sun Belt: 2
- AAC: 1
- Big East: 1
- Big South: 1
- Big Ten: 1
- C-USA: 1
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…