Image Courtesy: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
2023 Fayetteville Regional Preview (Baum-Walker Stadium)
3.Arkansas Razorbacks 41-16 (20-10) SEC
The Arkansas Razorbacks is back to hosting for the fifth time in the last six seasons. This is a strong regional but the diamond hogs have been very successful at home like always, going 30-4 at Baum-Walker Stadium this season. Despite losing expected Friday ace Jaxon Wiggins to Tommy John surgery, middle reliever Koty Frank, star second baseman Peyton Stovall, and outfielders Tavian Josenberger and Jared Wagner, and others at different points in the season has vastly hurt the team this season. But coach Dave Van Horn was able to win SEC coach of the year by doing one of his best coaching jobs of his career in Fayetteville. The hogs went 2-1 in Arlington at the College Baseball Showdown with wins over Texas and Oklahoma State and a loss to TCU, who happens to be heading to the Fayetteville Regional. The hogs won a share of the SEC regular season championship with Florida. The hogs have series wins over Tennessee (sweep), Auburn (sweep), Texas A&M (4-1 overall against the Aggies the season), South Carolina, and Alabama in addition to a single with against Army. All of those teams will be playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The hogs did lose two out of three against LSU in Baton Rouge but took a game from the Tigers in the SEC Tournament. The only glaring spots of the Razorbacks’ schedule did get swept against Georgia in Athens and fell to Missouri State in Springfield and Lipscomb in Little Rock. Replacing Peyton Stovall at second base, Peyton Holt has been even better than anyone could have imagined in Fayetteville: 17 RBIs on 28 hits, a 5.92 slugging percentage, and a .469 on base percentage and he has been terrific on defense. Outfielder Jace Bohofren (14 and 51) leads the hogs in blasts and runs and Kendall Diggs (63) paced them in hits. Like I mentioned earlier, outfielders Jared Wegner and Tavian Josenberger will be important to the offensive success of the hogs’ as well.
(2) TCU Horned Frogs 37-22 (13-11) Big 12
A pre-season favorite to host in the tournament and make it to Omaha, TCU was up and down this season. It is important to note that TCU crushed Arkansas 18-6 at Globe Life Field in the 2023 College Baseball Showdown on the second day of the season in Arlington. The Horned Frogs also beat Vanderbilt and fell to former conference foe Missouri during open weekend in February. In other out of conference games, TCU took only one of three games against Florida State, defeated Dallas Baptist, a two seed in the tournament, shut out Michigan, and dropped a game to Louisville by a single run. In Big 12 play, TCU lost two out of three to Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech in addition to getting swept against West Virginia who are all in the tournament as either two or three seeds. They have beaten the only host in the conference Oklahoma State, three times out of four with a win on Sunday night in the Big 12 Tournament title game. The leaders for the Horned Frogs are infielder Brayden Taylor (21 home runs and 59 RBIs) and pitchers Cam Brown and Kole Klecker (55 strike outs each).
(3) Arizona Wildcats 33-24 (12-18) Pac-12
One of the last four at-large teams in the field, Arizona will have a chore with TCU on Friday in the opening round. Many were surprised the Wildcats got in with a (12-18) conference record in a weaker Pac-12 this season and being swept in four conference series (UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, and Oregon State) while USC, who won seven of their conference series got in over them. But, with the fifth best RPI in the Pac-12, the Wildcats were able to get in. Important wins for the Wildcats included pre-season number two ranked Tennessee, a single win over West Virginia (lost the other two games), Grand Canyon on the road (1-1 versus the Antelopes this season), Washington (two out of three), USC (two out of three). Without great pitching depth, the Wildcats will have to out-slug their opponents in this regional. Outfielder Chase Davis (21 home runs and 74 RBIs), outfielder Mac Bingham (10 home runs and 51 RBIs), and first baseman Kiko Romero (19 home runs and 86 RBIs) led the Wildcats in hitting while pitcher Aiden May led them in strikeouts with 70.
(4) Santa Clara Broncos 35-18 (17-10) WCC
The Broncos finished second in the West Coast Conference before claiming the automatic bid for the conference over Portland, who eliminated regular season champion Loyola Marymount the day before. Santa Clara took two out of three from Washington and won at Stanford who is another top eight seed. However, they did lose all three games to West Coast regular season champion Loyola Marymount at the beginning of April. The Broncos’ (35-18) record suggests they will not be the easiest four seed to deal with for the other teams in Fayetteville this weekend. The Broncos hit 72 home runs, .491 slugging percentage, and .403 on base percentage.
Game 1: 1.Arkansas vs. 4.Santa Clara (2 PM CT, ESPN+)
Ace Hunter Hollan will take the hill for the hogs while it will be Cole Kitchen throwing for Santa Clara. The top of Arkansas’ lineup needs to bounce back from an okay week in Hoover while the Broncos have played great offense over the last month. The hogs’ pitching should help them move onto the 1-0 game.
Game 2: 2.TCU vs. 3.Arizona (8 PM CT, ESPNU)
TCU’s hot-hitting should help them get past Arizona. Arizona also has hot bats but their pitching is inferior to the Horned Frogs.
Game 3: 1.Arkansas vs. 2.TCU (2 PM CT, TBD)
Arkansas cannot make it to the regional final without their hitting, which should improve from next week and a pitching staff that has not looked as good since the Vanderbilt series to finish the regular season. Hogs move onto the regional final.
Game 4: 3.Arizona vs. 4.Santa Clara (8 PM CT, TBD)
The Broncos upset the Wildcats and eliminate them on their way to another elimination game against TCU.
Game 5: 2.TCU vs. 4.Santa Clara (2 PM CT, TBD)
TCU will eliminate Santa Clara led by infielder Brayden Taylor and will get one more shot against the Razorbacks.
Game 6: 1.Arkansas vs. 2.TCU (8 PM CT, TBD)
TCU will force a winner take all game against the Razorbacks on Monday.
June 5 (If Necessary)
Game 7: 1.Arkansas vs. 2.TCU (TBD, TBD)
Arkansas should advance out of their own regional for the fourth time in five seasons and head to host the Supers.
Winner: 1.Arkansas in 7