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Key Matchups on 2021 Arkansas Baseball Schedule Key Matchups on 2021 Arkansas Baseball Schedule
All five conference road series the Hogs plays in the 2021 Arkansas baseball schedule are against top 20 ranked teams, three in the top... Key Matchups on 2021 Arkansas Baseball Schedule

--Braden Sarver

The first games of the 2021 Arkansas baseball season are just around the corner. In 2021, the Hogs look to return to Omaha for the third straight full season, but will have some large gaps to fill with Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin leaving in the MLB Draft. Thankfully for Arkansas, they brought in one of their best recruiting classes in school history. 

The Hogs have intriguing prospects Cayden Wallace and Jalen Battles filling in those newly open spots. 

Arkansas also boasts a preseason All-American in Christian Franklin according to NCAA.com. He will look to build on an impressive, but short, 2020 where he hit .381 with three home runs and 11 RBIs over 16 games. 

Franklin is one of four starting position players from the 2019 team still on the roster. He is joined by designated hitter Matt Goodheart, catcher Casey Opitz and third baseman Jacob Nesbit. 

The core four are joined by preseason second-team All-American Robert Moore and Braydon Webb who started during that short 2020 baseball season. 

There is still a question mark around first base. The starting position was formerly held by Cole Austin. It could be Zack Gregory or Arkansas could convert third base prospect Brady Slavens into a first baseman. Matt Goodheart could potentially play first base this year as well. 

As far as pitchers go, Arkansas will return two weekend starters in Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander. The third starter and midweek starters are still to be determined, but Arkansas has an array of options. 

The Hogs bullpen will also return some key arms for the 2021 Arkansas baseball schedule, such as closer Zebulon Vermillion, Kevin Kopps, and Kole Ramage as well as others. 

The road to Omaha will not be easy, as the SEC will be as tough as ever. Baseball America ranked nine teams from the SEC in the top 25, and five in the top 10. Arkansas sits at 14, sixth in the SEC.  D1 Baseball has Arkansas ranked eighth, fifth in the SEC. 

Arkansas will have to play eight conference series with teams ranked by either Baseball America or D1Baseball (Texas A&M and Georgia are the two unranked opponents that Arkansas will face in conference play).  All five conference road series Arkansas plays are against top 20 ranked teams, three in the top 10. 

Vanderbilt is the only ranked SEC team that missed the Razorbacks’ schedule. (Kentucky and Missouri are the other two SEC teams not on the Hogs’ schedule). 

(Texas A&M and Georgia are the two unranked opponents that Arkansas will face in conference play). 

Scroll below the schedule for a preview of games:

2021 Arkansas Baseball Schedule

Feb. 19 – vs. Texas

Feb. 20 – vs. Texas Tech

Feb. 21 – vs. TCU

Feb. 25-28 – vs. Southeast Missouri State

March 5-7 – vs. Murray State

March 12-14 – at Louisiana Tech

March 16 – vs. Oklahoma

March 19-21 – vs. Alabama*

March 23-24 – vs. Memphis

March 26-28 – at Mississippi State*

March 30 – vs. Central Arkansas

April 2-4 – vs. Auburn*

April 6-7 – vs. Little Rock

April 9-11 – at Ole Miss*

April 13-14 – vs. UAPB

April 16-18 – vs. Texas A&M*

April 20 – vs. Grambling State

April 23-25 – at South Carolina*

April 27 – vs. Missouri State

April 30-May 2 – at LSU*

May 7-9 – vs. Georgia*

May 11 – vs. Arkansas State

May 14-16 – at Tennessee*

May 20-22 – vs. Florida*

May 25-30 – SEC Tournament (Hoover, Ala.)

Home games in bold

As you can see, Arkansas’ baseball schedule in 2021 does not kick off with anything like a cake walk. For the second consecutive season Arkansas will compete in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on the road.

Dates: February 19-21

Opponents: Texas Tech, Texas, and TCU

Location: Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas

All-Time Series: 

TTU: Arkansas leads 46-15

UT: Texas leads 56-32

TCU: Arkansas leads 47-19

Arkansas vs Texas Tech

This is a tough start to the season. The Hogs will have their hands full with three top 15 teams, including the No. 3 Red Raiders. It’s an early test that could set the tone for the year. 

It’s not make or break since Arkansas has an experienced team. They return six of their regular bats from 2020 and two weekend starters. 

If it does not go as planned in Arlington, the team can turn it around quickly. They finished 2020 11-5 despite going 0-3 in Houston last year. 

Even one win in this tournament will be satisfying, two wins would be great, and three wins would be a huge confidence booster going into the season. Three wins would take a near miracle, though, considering the level of competition and it being the first weekend of the season. 

Arkansas will open the season Friday, February 19 with No. 3 Texas Tech. Arkansas leads the all-time series, but in their last meeting the Red Raiders eliminated the Razorbacks from the 2019 College World Series. 

Texas Tech has a preseason All-American second-team pitcher in Micah Dallas. They also have two players on the third team: shortstop Cal Conley and outfielder Dylan Neuse. 

They have a very talented team and Arkansas can prove they’re the real deal right out of the gate with a win.  For that to happen, Connor Noland must pitch an incredible game in his first start of the year. 

Arkansas vs Texas

Noland started that 2019 game in Omaha. He allowed two runs in four innings. Dylan Neuse also played and went 0-3 with a walk. 

They then play No. 12 Texas on Saturday. Arkansas played Texas last season in the Shriners College Classic in Minute Maid Park. The Hogs lost all three games to their Big 12 opponents. 

Texas will always be an exciting game. Longhorn and Razorback fans have little love lost and love to beat each other. Texas won the matchup last year and the teams split a two game series in 2019. 

The Longhorns have two great pitchers on their roster, so the Razorbacks will likely have to deal with one of them. Ty Madden is a first team preseason All-American and Pete Hansen has been put as high as the second-team. 

Madden and Patrick Wicklander were the opposing starters in the game last year. Madden allowed three runs over six innings. Hansen pitched as well, allowing no runs on one hit over an inning and two thirds. 

Wicklander was Arkansas’ Saturday starter last season and he was able to start the season on a roll. However, The Longhorns ended that roll.

Coming into that game he hadn’t allowed a run. He gave up six runs in an inning-plus of work. He struggled to get his momentum back after this start. This could be a redemption game for him. 

Wicklander also pitched against them in 2019, allowing four runs over four innings in a winning effort for Arkansas, helped by a grand slam off the bat of Franklin in the second inning.  

Arkansas vs TCU

On Sunday, February 21, Arkansas will play No. 13 TCU. In their last meetings, Arkansas defeated the Horned Frogs twice in the 2019 Fayetteville Regional. 

They played in Fayetteville in 2019, but TCU will have the home-field advantage with this game being in Arlington, despite it technically being a neutral-site game.

Baseball America has these teams ranked right next to each other. The Horned Frogs are ranked one spot in front of the Hogs at 13. Assuming their rankings are accurate this should be a very even game. 

Pitcher Haylen Green for TCU has been ranked on the first team preseason All-Americans. The Hogs could potentially face four All-American pitchers in their first weekend. 

Green pitched two and two-thirds innings, allowing one run, in the first matchup of the Regional. Wicklander pitched five scoreless frames in the second game. 

Arkansas vs Oklahoma

Date: March 16

Location: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 14-12

The No. 23 Sooners will come into Baum for a mid-week game. They met last season as part of the Shriners Baseball Classic, with OU taking the victory. 

Pitcher Jason Ruffcorn is on the preseason All-American first team. Ruffcorn collected the save in the game last season by getting Kjerstad to ground into a double play for the final two outs. 

Noland started for the Hogs and allowed just two runs over five and a third innings. Arkansas lost after Oklahoma scored three unearned runs off two errors in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie. 

The game was very winnable for the Razorbacks. Defensive miscues cost them late. The power was present in the MLB ballpark with Robert Moore and Jacob Nesbit both going deep. 

Arkansas should look to redeem that embarrassing loss with an impressive performance. 

Historic Games

Date: March 30, April 6-7, 13-14, May 11

Opponents: UCA, UALR, UAPB, Arkansas State

Location: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

All-Time Series: 

UCA: 0-0

UALR: UALR leads 1-0
UAPB: Arkansas leads 1-0
A State: 0-0

The Arkansas Razorbacks will welcome in all major sports programs from around Arkansas. The Razorbacks in all sports have been looking into more inter-state matchups. 

As recently announced the Razorbacks’ football team will host the Arkansas State Red Wolves in 2025 for the first time ever, but in baseball they will have their first ever matchup this season. 

Arkansas vs Arkansas State for the first time ever May 11, 2021. They will also play Central Arkansas for the first time March 30, 2021. 

For the second time ever Arkansas meets UALR in a two-game midweek series on April 6 and 7. They will play UAPB a week later on April 13 and 14. 

Arkansas played Little Rock and Pine Bluff for the first time in 2019, beating Pine Bluff in seven innings, but losing to UALR 17-7.  

Four Arkansas errors led to seven unearned Trojan runs in the 2019 game. Wicklander started the game and was pulled in the fourth inning after three runs had scored the previous frame, despite none being earned. 

Cole Ramage allowed a fifth inning grand slam which started the downhill trend for the Razorbacks. The bullpen did not help as 10 runs scored in the last three innings of the game for Little Rock. 

Connor Noland got the start against UAPB, but only pitched two innings. The Razorbacks would go on to squash the Golden Lions 16-4 in seven innings. Matt Goodheart reached base five times and scored three runs in the game. 

Arkansas vs Alabama

Date: March 19-21

Location: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

All-Time Series: Alabama leads 48-43

Arkansas will start their conference schedule with a home series with the No. 25 Crimson Tide. 

The Razorbacks took two of three in 2019 in a series of blowouts. Matt Goodheart went 5-8 with a walk in two games against the Tide. Nesbit was 4-12 with a home run in the series as well. 

Noland and Wicklander both pitched and struggled in the Saturday game. Noland allowed three runs on three hits and two walks over an inning and a third. Wicklander walked all three batters he faced, and they would all come in to score.  

Alabama pitcher Sam Prielipp is a preseason first-team All-American. The Tide also have catcher Sam Praytor on the third-team. 

In 2020, Prielipp did not allow a run over his four starts. He pitched 21 innings, struck out 35 batters, and had a whip of only 0.52. Praytor hit .350 and swatted six home runs in the short season. 

Based on 2019, this should be a high scoring series. If Noland and Wicklander struggle against them again, they will need the lineup to back them up. 

Arkansas vs Mississippi State

Date: March 26-28

Location: Starkville, Mississippi

All-Time Series: Miss State leads 56-46

The rivalry between the Hogs and Bulldogs has been heating up in recent years. The intensity picked up when both teams won a heated game in the 2017 SEC Tournament. 

The last four regular season series have been swept by the home team. That includes the most recent meeting when Arkansas swept then No. 2 Mississippi State in Baum-Walker Stadium in 2019. 

No. 8 Mississippi State will bring second team preseason All-American pitcher Christian MacLeod into action. He could potentially face off with Connor Noland who pitched a shutout for seven and two-thirds in the Sunday game in 2019. 

MacLeod gave up just two runs over 21 innings in 2020. He ended with a 0.86 era, a 0.71 whip, and 35 strikeouts. 

The entire lineup was hitting well against the Bulldogs in 2019. Arkansas scored nine runs per game in the series. 

Jacob Nesbit who launched a three-run home run in the series finale last season, in a four rbi game. Matt Goodheart reached base seven times and had an rbi in each game. Franklin scored in each game and reached base six times. 

It will be tough for Arkansas, since they have lost eight straight games in Starkville. If everyone can repeat their performances from 2019, there should be a good chance that Arkansas comes out with at least one victory.

Arkansas vs Ole Miss

Date: April 9-11

Location: Oxford, Mississippi

All-Time Series: Tied 51-51

This is another rivalry that has gained recent intensity. Arkansas and Ole Miss played 8 games in 2019 and split the season series 4-4.

The Rebels won the regular season series, then they met twice in the SEC Tournament with Ole Miss knocking the Hogs out of the tournament. Then, Arkansas hosted and beat the Rebels in the Super Regionals to advance to the College World Series. 

No. 4 Ole Miss is coming in hot this year. They have a pair of pitchers that have appeared as high as second-team preseason All-Americans: Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy. 

In 2020, Hoglund had a 1.16 era over four starts and struck out 37 in his 23.1 innings. Nikhazy sported a 2.35 era with 31 strikeouts over 23 innings pitched. 

Arkansas faced Nikhazy twice and Hogland three times in 2019. The Razorbacks scored eight runs over 10.2 innings from Nikhazy. Arkansas scored 10 runs over 11.1 innings from Hoglund. 

Both starters got hit well in the Super Regionals. Nikhazy allowed five runs over five innings and Hoglund got jumped on for six runs in two innings of work. 

This will be another tough series the Hogs will have to grind out. It should not be a sweep with how competitive the teams were in 2019.

 It will be hard to beat the fourth ranked team in their house, so one win would still be a good series. It would not be surprising to see Arkansas go in and steal the series though. 

Matt Goodheart hit well against Rebel pitching. He went 12-34 with 10 RBIs, six runs scored, five free passes, and two home runs. Franklin hit well in the regular season series, going 4-11 with a home run. He would struggle in the postseason. He was 0-12 with a couple free bases. 

Casey Opitz struggled through the first six games he played against Ole Miss, hitting just 2-20. He exploded in the clinching game in the Super Regional. He was 3-3 with a home run and four RBIs. 

This should be a highly competitive series again in 2021. Ole Miss has been touted as one of the top teams in baseball, but Arkansas has enough talent to compete with anyone. This series should come down to grit and mental toughness. Whoever wants it more will win this series. 

Arkansas vs South Carolina

Date: April 23-25

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 42-34

The No. 18 Gamecocks will host the Razorbacks in a rematch of the 2018 Super Regionals. This will be their first matchup since then. 

Arkansas fans remember that series as it catapulted them on a run to the College World Series finals with Oregon State. I’m sure South Carolina fans remember that series as well, but less fondly. 

It was another series of games, much like with Mississippi State, that was heated and added new intensity between the teams. They also met in the SEC Tournament that season, with the Hogs winning. Arkansas took the season series 5-2. 

This series will be in South Carolina however, and the Gamecocks will have the home field advantage. The last time Arkansas went to South Carolina was in 2016 and they were swept. 

It will be a tough series on the road. South Carolina’s first baseman Wes Clarke has had his name attached to the third team preseason All-American list. Clarke hit eight home runs in just 16 games in 2020. 

The Razorbacks will look to neutralize him on the path to victory. And try and steal the series. With the recent success of Arkansas vs the Gamecocks in 2018, they have more momentum going into the matchup since nobody on either team was there in 2016. 

I can see Arkansas going into Columbia and taking the series. They are one of the lower ranked teams Arkansas will face on the road in conference play so the Razorbacks need to go in and win the series to prove they’re contenders still. 

Arkansas vs Missouri State

Date: April 27

Location: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

All-Time series: Arkansas leads 55-26

The Arkansas Razorbacks welcome back Missouri State. Hog fans should definitely remember back to 2017 when Missouri State eliminated Arkansas in the NCAA Regional in Fayetteville. The Hogs and Bears faced off three times in the regional, with Missouri State taking two victories. 

The Razorbacks have gained some revenge winning the games in 2018 and 2019. Arkansas will look to maintain dominance and continue to seek revenge for that 2017 Super Regional. 

Arkansas vs LSU

Date: April 30-May 2

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

All-Time Series: LSU leads 74-34

Arkansas will look to beat their biggest rivals again in 2021. 

Arkansas won its first series vs the Tigers in 2019 since they swept LSU at home in 2011. The Razorbacks have also not won a series in Baton Rouge since they swept LSU in 2004. The No.10 Tigers have had the Razorbacks’ number in recent years, but in 2019 Arkansas turned the tide. 

Arkansas beat LSU pretty handedly for the first two games, and had it not been for an 8th inning home run by the first batter after a pitching change they would have completed the sweep. All three of LSU’s runs scored on that hit as they won the series finale 3-2. 

Dominating the Tigers in Baton Rouge will not be easy. LSU has two pitchers who have made preseason All-American first team lists. Pitchers Jaden Hill and Devin Fontenot. They are both high level pitchers. 

Hill made four appearances last season and allowed just one hit over 11.2 innings. He collected two saves and struck out 17 batters as well. Over seven appearances Fontenot racked up four saves and 17 strikeouts over 10 innings and finished with a 0.90 era. 

Arkansas will look to counter. Conor Noland pitched five and a third shutout frames against the Tigers in 2019. Casey Opitz had an incredible two games to open the series as well. He was 3-5 with four walks. He scored four runs and recorded two rbis, both on a home run in the series opener. 

The Razorbacks will need to have good performances from their pitchers to compete. The Razorbacks are definitely capable of taking one game, however winning the series will be tough. Recent history favors LSU.

I don’t think this series will be a sweep for either team, but Arkansas will need to play their A-game to win the series.

Arkansas vs Florida

Date: May 20-22

Location: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

All-Time Series: Tied 32-32

Florida is the No. 1 ranked college baseball team according to both Baseball America and D1Baseball.com. It is a big season finale for Arkansas. 

The Gators started 2020 16-0 before losing their last game to Florida State. 

Florida has a slew of players peppering preseason All-American lists. On the first team, outfielders Jud Fabian and pitcher Tommy Mace make regular appearances. The second team includes pitchers Jake Leftwich and Ben Specht. Pitcher Hunter Barco has been named to the third team. 

Fabian had a .294 average with five home runs and 13 rbis last season. Tommy Mace made four starts and had a 1.67 era over 27 innings. 

Leftwich was less impressive with a 4.15  era over four starts. Specht had a 0.75 era in nine appearances. He tallies 16 strikeouts and three saves in 12 innings of work. Barco made five appearances in 2020. He had a 1.40 era with 26 strikeouts over 19.1 innings. 

Florida is stacked and looks to dominate all of 2021. But they will find out that it is hard to dominate in Fayetteville. Especially at the end of the season where Dave Van Horn usually has his players playing their best baseball. 

In 2018, Arkansas collecting wins over Florida in both the SEC Tournament as well as in the College World Series. Arkansas has been able to beat Florida when it has mattered. The last regular season series is important for momentum going into the postseason. 

The bad news is that the last time the Gators visited Fayetteville, they left with a sweep in 2016. This is a different team, and Arkansas should be able to fight out a series victory over Florida despite their lofty preseason ranking.

It won’t be easy, but I think Arkansas can and will win the series. 

***

Also, get hype.

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