HawgBeat Preview: Weather strikes again, Hogs-49ers to play once
Arkansas has altered its midweek schedule, but will still play once against Charlotte. Here are the details and a preview of that game…
Wednesday, March 6 - 3 p.m. CT (SECN+)
The game will be streamed on SEC Network-plus, meaning it can be watched online on ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app.
We bumped this section up in the preview because it is a factor once again against Charlotte.
Although the forecast calls for sunshine, Tuesday’s high is only 36 degrees and the windchill will dip into the mid-20s, according to the Weather Channel. That has led Arkansas to cancel its scheduled game on Tuesday.
The Razorbacks will now play only one game at the previously scheduled time Wednesday afternoon, as the windchill will be 10-15 degrees warmer.
A couple of inches of snow fell in Fayetteville over the weekend, but it had all melted off the Baum-Walker Stadium field by Monday afternoon because the sun was shining, so that did not play into the decision.
“It’s going to be wet, then it’ll freeze,” head coach Dave Van Horn told the media a few hours before the announcement. “It’ll probably be a little wet if we played tomorrow, but really it’s probably going to be more about the air temperature.”
Arkansas’ Projected Starting Pitcher (season stats)
Wednesday - Fr. LHP Patrick Wicklander (5 games/1 start, 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 13 K/5 BB, 8 1/3 IP)
With an extra day of rest after throwing 26 pitches in one inning Saturday, Van Horn said he’ll let Wicklander go as long as he can Wednesday in an effort to build him up into a true starter.
“We need to develop a starter and I think he could be the guy,” Van Horn said. “He’s just had the one meltdown out in California. Other than that he’s pitched pretty good.”
Beyond that, Van Horn said it would be a bullpen day for several pitchers, giving them plenty of options. The Razorbacks could stick with younger players if they get a healthy lead, or they could throw in a veteran - such as sophomore Kole Ramage - if it’s a tight game.
“I would say we’d have about everybody available,” Van Horn said. “In a perfect world I might stick somebody better from our bullpen to finish that game.”
In the Polls
The HawgBeat Composite Poll for this week has not been released because we are still waiting on the NCBWA poll, but Arkansas has moved up in all of the other polls. The Razorbacks cracked the top-10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 10, while they are anywhere from No. 12 to No. 16 in the others. Charlotte is not ranked.
Scouting the Opponent
Charlotte’s projected starting pitcher (season stats)
Wednesday - Sr. LHP Joey Cooner (3 games/2 starts, 0-1, 5.73 ERA, 8 K/3 BB, 11 IP)
Arkansas will get a double-dip of Conference-USA action this week, starting with a midweek series against Charlotte and ending with a three-game set with Louisiana Tech. The 49ers were picked to finish sixth in the 12-team league and are off to a 6-5 start.
They won two of three games against Kent State last weekend to get back on track following a series loss to Canisius the week before. Charlotte also swept its opening series with Delaware, but has lost both of its midweek games - falling to Clemson and Morehead State in close games.
As of Monday afternoon, Charlotte has not announced its starting pitchers. We are projecting Cooner as the starter because he was actually part of the weekend rotation the first two weeks of the season before coming out of the bullpen this weekend.
He needed only 33 pitches to get through three innings Saturday, so he should be good to go Wednesday. Another option could be freshman right-hander Will Palinkas, who also began the season in the rotation before moving to the bullpen. However, he just threw 35 pitches on Sunday.
Van Horn also predicted the 49ers might use some of their better relievers because they don’t play again until Saturday and they’re hosting Coppin State - a traditional cellar dweller in Division I baseball.
Offensively, Charlotte has several productive players through 11 games. Freshman third baseman Josh Haney leads the team with a .364 batting average and also has five RBIs.
Right behind him are a pair of fifth-year seniors in right fielder Dominick Cammarata and catcher Harris Yett. Cammarata is hitting .350, while Yett (.333) is the power hitter on the team with six doubles and three home runs for a .690 slugging percentage.
Rafi Vazquez, a junior, is your typical first baseman/designated hitter who strikes out a lot (14), but leads the team with nine RBIs and is second with two home runs.
“Just like any team to come into Baum Stadium, they want to get after the Razorbacks, an SEC school,” Van Horn said. “I know last year they gave us a great effort and they beat us.”
There will be a local flavor to the midweek matchup because Charlotte’s pitching coach, Shohn Doty, is from Arkansas and has previously coach at UA-Fort Smith and Springdale High School.
Those connections likely led to the East Coast school signing a pair of players from the Natural State.
Second baseman Carson Johnson actually played for Doty at Springdale and has reunited with his high school coach after a stint at Connors State C.C.
He got off to a rough start, going 0 for 8 in the first two games of the season, but he has hit .344 since then and leads the team with seven walks.
The other Arkansas native on the roster is junior right-hander Ryan Czanstkowski, who is from Mountain Home and also attended Connors State before joining Charlotte. He has a 4.50 ERA in four innings of work across two appearances.
Out for Revenge?
This will be the second straight year Arkansas has played Charlotte. Last season, they played at the 49ers’ home field and the Razorbacks lost 6-3 in a game that was tied 2-2 through six innings.
That result is not lost on the current team.
“There was some stuff towards the end there that we didn’t like, but we’re not too worried about that,” catcher Casey Opitz said. “We’re just going to go out there and compete and we’re going to play like we know how to play baseball and hopefully we’ll come away with a W.”
“Not really more like revenge but kind of getting back to playing the baseball that we need to,” Ramage said. “We didn’t out there last year, but I think we can show them that we are definitely the better team than they are.”
Van Horn wasn’t big on the revenge aspect for the game. He said he just wanted to maintain their momentum heading into the weekend series against Louisiana Tech.
“I think the team’s motivated anyway,” Van Horn said. “We still have a lot of guys fighting for positions. We just want to play well. We still feel like we can be a lot better than we’ve shown.”
Still Searching for a DH
Van Horn had hoped to platoon the right-handed hitting Jordan McFarland and left-handed hitting Matt Goodheart at the designated hitter spot, but neither player has performed up to their potential.
They are a combined 8 for 36 (.222) with one double, six RBIs, four walks and 13 strikeouts. Those struggles have led Van Horn to give freshman Trey Harris a chance. He is just 1 for 7, but has three free passes (two walks and one HBP) and has yet to strike out.
“We need to find somebody that can maybe grab that spot,” Van Horn said. “I may give Goodheart a shot if they start a righty. I may go with Harris against a lefty, but I may still go with Harris anyway.”
“We haven’t really jelled yet and the fact that we’re 9-1 and we haven’t played anywhere close to the way we can play so far is really cool. It’s cool that we’re winning games. We’re figuring out how to win games. We figured out how to win games on the road when we were at USC. We’re figuring out how to pull out ball games doing the little stuff - running bases, bunting. It’s good to see us still win games when we’re not playing the best we can so far.” - catcher Casey Opitz
Stat Comparison - Arkansas | Charlotte (national rank, out of 297 teams)
Batting average: .296 (39th) | .270 (111th)
Slugging percentage: .466 (27th) | .384 (138th)
On-base percentage: .393 (62nd) | .362 (142nd)
Home runs: 10 (t-49th) | 7 (t-100th)
Runs/game: 8.0 (t-25th) | 4.5 (t-205th)
ERA: 3.47 (70th) | 3.28 (57th)
WHIP: 1.19 (43rd) | 1.31 (t-80th)
Strikeouts/9 innings: 10.5 (38th) | 8.3 (176th)
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 3.66 (14th) | 2.32 (94th)
Fielding percentage: .971 (108th) | .979 (36th)
Stolen bases/game: 2.60 (10th) | 0.55 (t-249th)