After being written off by critics and some of their own fans, the Hogs have proven once again that anything can happen in baseball. The Arkansas Razorbacks (43-19, 18-12) are back in Omaha and will take on the 2-seed Stanford Cardinal (47-16, 21-9) for their College World Series opener in a rematch from February.
Waiting in the wings are two familiar foes with the 15-seed Auburn Tigers (42-20, 16-13) and Ole Miss Rebels (37-22, 14-16) as the SEC West flexes its muscles in the NCAA Tournament by providing half of the field for the College World Series.
The Razorbacks looked like the wheels were falling off to end the year, but head coach Dave Van Horn has secured them and the Hogs are on a roll and proving the critics and doubters wrong. Some have even put the Razorbacks as their predicted National Champions.
Arkansas vs Stanford Round 1
The Hogs and Cardinal face off Saturday June, 18 at 1:00 p.m. central time on ESPN. When the two teams played in the Karbach Round Rock Classic earlier this year, Stanford won the game 5-0 and allowed only three hits. The Razorbacks struck out 15 times in the game with senior designated hitter Brady Slavens and freshman first baseman Peyton Stovall combining for seven of them.
Junior starting pitcher Quinn Mathews tossed six innings of two-hit baseball for Stanford baseball and freshman phenom Braden Montgomery closed the game after loading the bases with no outs. Sophomore Tommy O’Rourke tossed two scoreless frames and struck out four. In a game that featured only two extra-base hits, junior designated hitter Brett Barrera hit his second of 11 home runs this season and drove in three runs. Sophomore second baseman Tommy Troy collected three hits and a walk in the game.
Following that big win over the Hogs, Stanford went on to lose their first two series in conference play before winning 20 of 24 PAC-12 games to end the year. The Cardinal then went 4-0 to win the PAC-12 Tournament to enter the NCAA Tournament on a 15-game winning streak.
The Cardinal have also shown their grit in the NCAA Tournament, having to dig out of a hole in both rounds so far. After a loss on Saturday in the Regionals, they won three games in two days to advance. They had to score three in the bottom of the ninth inning in the decisive game seven of the regional.
They lost their first game vs Super Regional foe UConn before winning the next two, but needed to surmount an early 3-run lead in game three vs UConn as well.
So, as of late, the Stanford baseball isn’t hitting as well as it did earlier in the season. Recent opponents have done a good job of keeping the top of the order Cardinal hitters to hitting below .300 when they were almost all hitting well above it.
Careful There, Ye Cardinal Padawan
On Thursday, Stanford’s Alex Williams made sure the world still knew his team was feeling plenty confident when he said he felt Stanford’s offense was still better than Arkansas’:
In the above clip, you’ll see that Williams meant no disrespect. He’s plenty effusive of the Razorbacks in the context of that one kindling of the line. Still, at the end of the clip, it’s funny to see Stanford baseball coach David ueruer try to walk back the statement by editing his player’s words. “What Alex meant is that he hopes our offense is better than Arkansas’ offense,” Esquer said with a wink and smile. No way does Esquer want to provide bulletin board material to a blistering hot Hogs team.
A contingent of Arkansas baseball fans, however, were not about to back off. On Twitter, they bore down with the fury of a thousand frowny-face emojis and forest-related memes:
Arkansas’ Path to the College World Series
For Arkansas, they had to go through one of the most intense and dramatic Regionals in recent memory. They had to play three back-and-forth games with the hosting Oklahoma State Cowboys and figure out how to overcome their scorching hot lineup.
The Razorbacks advanced to the Super Regionals in Chapel Hill after going 3-1 in Stillwater. It was a vast contrast to the Regional as the Razorbacks won in two games and only needed three extra-base hits and eight total runs to win in dramatic fashion in game two. After blowing the lead in the seventh and allowing the go-ahead run to score in the ninth, the Razorbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth and won it on a walkoff single by Slavens.
|Pos||Name||Season Stats||Playoff Stats (6 gms)||Supers Stats|
|CF||Braydon Webb||.282 avg 15 hr 40 RBI .971 ops||8-27(.296) 1 hr 4 RBI||4-9 1 hr 2 RBI|
|DH||Brady Slavens||.259 avg 15 hr 55 RBI .876 ops||8-27(.296) 2 hr 8 RBI||4-10 3 RBI|
|3B||Cayden Wallace||.299 avg 15 hr 57 RBI .947 ops||8-24(.333) 4 hr 9 RBI||2-7 1 RBI|
|C||Michael Turner||.311 avg 9 hr 48 RBI .879 ops||11-27(.407) 2 hr 11 RBI||3-9|
|RF||Chris Lanzilli||.322 avg 8 hr 33 RBI .912 ops||8-23(.348) 1 hr 4 RBI||2-7|
|2B||Robert Moore||.223 avg 8 hr 42 RBI .786 ops||3-21(.143) 2 hr 4 RBI||0-5|
|SS||Jalen Battles||.293 avg 10 hr 44 RBI .849 ops||8-25(.320) 1 hr 7 RBI||2-7 1 RBI|
|1B||Peyton Stovall||.286 avg 5 hr 21 RBI .786 ops||12-24(.500) 1 hr 3 RBI||4-8 1 hr 1 RBI|
|LF||Zack Gregory||.225 avg 5 hr 16 RBI .834 ops||2-19(.105)||0-4|
The offense has been led by senior catcher Michael Turner, sophomore third baseman Cayden Wallace and Peyton Stovall. Turner and Stovall were both struggling before the NCAA Tournament started but now they lead the team in hits since it started.
Turner was 7-43 over the last 10 games before the Regional and Stovall was 2-19 in the six games before arriving in Stillwater. Now Turner is 11-27 with two home runs and 11 RBIs and Stovall leads the team in batting, hitting 12-24 with a home run and three RBIs.
Wallace was scorching going into Chapel Hill. He had nine home runs and 17 RBIs in 10 games before the game Monday in Stillwater. He has cooled off since, batting 2-10 with no home runs and one run driven in over the last three games.
Senior shortstop Jalen Battles and senior right fielder Chris Lanzilli have both been hitting well lately. Over the past 15 games, Battles is hitting .364 with three home runs and 16 RBIs, including the grand slam that opened the game up Saturday against Oklahoma State. Lanzilli is on an 11-game hit streak where he is batting .386 with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
Slavens and senior center fielder Braydon Webb both collected four hits in Chapel Hill, but were both struggling to find hits before the weekend started. Slavens was 8-40(.200) in the 11 games leading up to the Super Regional and Webb was 5-26(.192) in the SEC Tournament and Stillwater Regional. However, Slavens made his hits count when he got one, swatting two dingers and driving home five runs in Stillwater.
Junior second baseman Robert Moore and junior left fielder Zack Gregory have both been struggling to find hits, but both continue to get on base. In the eight games since the SEC Tournament started, Moore is 4-29(.138), but has drawn four walks and taken three hit-by-pitches. It appeared he may find his mojo after a two home run performance Saturday of the Regional, but he is 1-15 since. Gregory has only five hits in the past 21 games he has appeared in, hitting .104, but he has 10 walks and nine hit-by-pitches in the same time span.
The Arkansas hitters have come through when needed in the tournament, with clutch hits whenever needed, similar to how the 2021 squad was able to be so dominant through late game heroics. That is also what has been missing this season.
The lineup is finally clicking and showing that determination from last year. The only two hitters that are struggling in the lineup are also the two best hitters at getting free passes and two of the better fielding players, so everyone in the lineup is contributing in some way.
Stanford Baseball Hitting
|Pos||Name||Season Stats||Playoff Stats (8 gms)||Supers Stats|
|CF||Brock Jones||.327 avg 20 hr 56 RBI 1.120 ops||11-35(.314) 3 hr 8 RBI||5-13 3 hr 6 RBI|
|1B||Carter Graham||.333 avg 22 hr 78 RBI 1.054 ops||7-27(.259) 2 hr 8 RBI||2-11 1 RBI|
|2B||Brett Barrera||.355 avg 11 hr 52 RBI .981 ops||11-38(.289) 1 hr 3 RBI||6-14 1 hr 2 RBI|
|RF||Braden Montgomery||.297 avg 18 hr 57 RBI .970 ops||9-33(.273) 2 hr 8 RBI||2-10 2 hr 6 RBI|
|C||Kody Huff||.325 avg 13 hr 51 RBI 1.005 ops||12-29(.414) 2 hr 10 RBI||5-12 1 hr 7 RBI|
|3B||Drew Bowser||.297 avg 18 hr 50 RBI .941 ops||10-34(.294) 6 hr 12 RBI||4-13 3 hr 4 RBI|
|DH||Tommy Troy||.347 avg 7 hr 23 RBI .960 ops||20-35(.571) 4 hr 9 RBI||8-15 2 hr 2 RBI|
|LF||Eddie Park||.318 avg 0 hr 15 RBI .781 ops||19-33(.576) 2 RBI||5-13|
|SS||Adam Crampton||.306 avg 1 hr 39 RBI .762 ops||10-27(.370) 6 RBI||5-11 2 RBI|
The Stanford lineup has been on fire as of late, with most of the starters collecting hits in nearly every game down the stretch. As a team, they hit .311 with 117 home runs. Arkansas hits .274 with 100 home runs. Every player in the Stanford starting lineup bats .297 or better. Braydon Webb’s team-best .971 ops is right above Braden Montgomery’s .970, which is fifth on the Cardinal.
The lineup is loaded with big hitters, with a very good top seven who all have an ops above .940 and six have double-digit home runs and 50 or more RBIs. However, the bottom of the order is doing a lot of work as of late.
Tommy Troy and sophomore left fielder Eddie Park hit in the bottom third of the order, and have both hit above .500 in the NCAA Tournament. Park went 10-11 in the last three games of the Regional. He was 4-33 in the last nine games before the Pac-12 Tournament, but is hitting .545 since it started. Troy is hitting .528 with five home runs and 11 RBIs over the past 13 games.
Junior shortstop Adam Crampton has also been producing from the bottom of the order. Going 5-11 in the Super Regionals boosted his average to .405 in the 12 games since the Pac-12 Tournament started. In that same time span, junior catcher Kody Huff is batting .386 with five home runs and 16 RBIs.
Sophomore third baseman is having a great year, with a .297 average, 18 home runs and 50 RBIs, but most of his production has come in the last 20 games. He had his 17-game hit streak snapped in their last game, but on that streak, he hit .371 with 12 home runs and 27 runs batted in. He also had a home run and three RBIs two games before his streak, so he has 13 bombs and 30 RBIs in the last 20 games after he had 5 home runs and drove in 20 runs in his first 40 games of the year.
Freshman right fielder and pitcher Braden Montgomery also had a hit streak snapped in their last game. His 11-game streak stopped after he hit .306 with three home runs and 11 runs driven in. The recent hitting is on pace with his outstanding season, where he has 18 round trips and 57 RBIs, hitting clean-up for the No. 2 overall team in the country.
The top three of the order is very dangerous for the Cardinal lineup. While they have not been as hot as the bottom of the order as of late, it is one of the most dangerous three-headed monsters in college baseball with 53 home runs and 186 RBIs between them.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Stanford
Radio: On Razorback Sports Network from Learfield/IMG, including locally in Fayetteville on 92.1 FM or through the Razorback app, with Phil Elson (play-by-play) and Razorback great Bubba Carpenter (analyst) on the call.
The winner of Saturday afternoon’s game between Arkansas and Stanford will advance to play the winner of Saturday night’s game between Ole Miss and Auburn on Monday, with first pitch set for 6 p.m. on ESPN. The loser of Saturday’s games, meanwhile, will play in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Monday on ESPN.
The Arkansas baseball program’s all-time record in the College World Series is 15-20, including two runner-up finishes in 1979 and 2018.
Roc Riggio 2.0 Alert?
Stanford junior center fielder Brock Jones has been hitting leadoff despite leading the team with a 1.120 ops and 20 home runs. He has been good and not great so far in the tournament. Outside of his three home run performance in game one of the Super Regionals, he is batting .267 with three RBIs. But he was hot coming into the tournament and may bring that fire back. In the last nine games before the Regionals, he hit .432 with six home runs and 15 RBIs. 15 of his home runs have come in the last 27 games.
Also, beware this guy’s potential to morph into another Roc Riggio:
Junior second baseman Brent Barrera is the opposite side of the story. He came into the Super Regionals on a cold streak. He was just 6-32 in the previous seven games. He then produced six hits against UConn. Barrera leads the team in average at .355 and hits in the middle of the order despite having fewer home runs than the players around him. He is still a player to watch.
Sophomore first baseman Carter Graham may be the best hitter in a lineup full of great hitters. He bats .333 and leads the team with 22 home runs and 78 RBIs. However, lately he has been doing damage in just one game here and there. In 11 games since the Pac-12 Tournament started, he is 12-43 with three home runs and 12 RBIs, but seven hits, two home runs and seven RBIs came in two games and he was 5-33 with a home run and three RBIs in the other nine.
The Stanford lineup is explosive and can do damage from anywhere at any time. Most of the lineup has been red-hot as of late and will make this a very competitive game on the offensive side. It’s the powerhouse of Stanford and the gritty offense of Arkansas.
Arkansas vs Stanford Pitching
The Razorbacks are likely to go with senior right-hander Connor Noland. He was the ace all season and, for most of it, he enjoyed a sub-three ERA. However, he had a rocky end to the regular season that saw his ERA balloon up over four.
Now it seems like he may have gotten back into a rhythm at just the right time. He started game one of the Stillwater Regional with seven innings, allowing one-run on six hits and four strikeouts. He started game one of the Super Regionals as well and went 6.2 shutout innings on six strikeouts.
Stanford will counter with their own senior right-hander Alex Williams. He will enter Saturday with an 8-3 record and a 2.88 ERA and 90 strikeouts over 97 innings. He has not been good since the regular season ended. He has made one appearance in the Pac-12 Tournament, Regionals and Super Regionals and allowed 15 runs over 10.2 innings.
However, before that he was in a dominant state, allowing three runs in 59.2 innings over eight appearances. It will be worth watching to see which Alex Williams shows up Saturday.
The Cardinal have eight pitchers in total with over 30 innings pitched. With Williams being the only pitcher to have all of their appearances come in starts, anyone could appear from the Stanford bullpen.
Sophomore lefty Ryan Bruno has been their best pitcher who exclusively comes from the bullpen. He has a 2.61 ERA over 38 innings with 68 strikeouts. Junior lefty Quinn Mathews, who started against Arkansas in February, has a similar 2.62 ERA over 96.1 innings with 110 strikeouts in 26 games including nine starts. Sophomore right hander Brandt Pancer has also been a good tool for them, pitching a 3.26 ERA over 38.2 innings out of the pen.
The Razorbacks have a few names they have turned to during the playoff situations. Freshman Hagen Smith was the starter when these teams clashed earlier, but he has been doing great work out of the bullpen recently. He picked up a save in the decisive game of the Stillwater Regional where he shut the door with bases loaded and got the save in game one against North Carolina.
Arkansas has also turned to junior left hander Zack Morris in important stretches. He got his only start of the year in game seven of the Stillwater Regional and tossed 3.1 shutout innings. Arkansas has also relied on freshman closer Brady Tygart and sophomore Will McEntire. McEntire got the start in game two at Chapel Hill where he went 5.2 shutout innings. Tygart struggled with Oklahoma State, like everyone else did, allowing six runs over 2.1 innings in two games. He bounced back with a scoreless inning of relief Sunday against UNC.
Arkansas vs Stanford College World Series Prediction
This is a real heavyweight clash in college baseball. Both teams have dangerous lineups and weapons on the mound. Stanford was rolling the competition coming into the NCAA Tournament while it appeared the Razorbacks might have been falling apart at the seams.
Now the Cardinal are not hitting and the Razorbacks are proving critics wrong. Both teams have had to come from behind to win games this postseason. They appear to be evenly matched. Stanford might have the edge, since they won the first meeting and are ranked as the 2-seed, but if they knew what would happen before the first pitch, then there would be no reason to play the game. Both teams have had ups and downs since then and both seem to be better than when they played before.
This may be a similar back-and-forth battle to the Oklahoma State-Arkansas trilogy, but probably with less offense since the stadium in Omaha is a bit bigger and will likely hold the ball in the yard better. Expect it to be an intense battle before it all said and done. This game could go either way, depending on which pitcher brings their A-plus stuff. Both have been dominant at times and both have had their issues as of late.
There should be more offense from the Razorbacks as well. The offense was still thawing off the winter rust when these teams played before. Stanford will probably have better at-bats and more power in their swings as well. They have been hitting plenty of homers lately. It is likely most of the runs will score later in the game after the bullpens have been activated. Especially with how resilient the two teams have been.
There are a lot of similarities to the 2018 Oregon State team and Stanford and there are also similarities to the current Hogs and the ones from that year as well. I think these team could end up meeting again in the finals of his College World Series. In that 2018 College World Series Finals, Arkansas took game one. They will do it again, probably by scoring a late run to complete a small comeback or break a long-standing tie.
Score Prediction: Arkansas wins 7-6
Also, when it comes to mascots, Arkansas clearly wins. The reason the Cardinal students have big brains, we see, is so they can figure “what the hell their mascot is,” says college baseball show host Stephen Schoch in this funny breakdown:
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