HawgBeat - PREVIEW: Hogs return home to face Georgia
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PREVIEW: Hogs return home to face Georgia

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Connor Tate is arguably the best hitter in Georgia's lineup.
Connor Tate is arguably the best hitter in Georgia's lineup. (Georgia Athletics)

HawgBeat's coverage of the Diamond Hogs' Road to Omaha is brought to you by CJ's Butcher Boy Burgers, which has locations in Fayetteville and Russellville.

After two weeks on the road, Arkansas returns home for three games against Georgia this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know about the series…

Schedule (TV)

Friday, May 7 - 6:30 p.m. CT (SECN+)

Saturday, May 8 - 6 p.m. CT (SEC Network)

Sunday, May 9 - 2 p.m. CT (SECN+)

The second game between Arkansas and Georgia will be nationally televised on the SEC Network. It is sandwiched between a pair of games that will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus, meaning they can be watched online on ESPN3.com or the ESPN app with a cable provider’s log-in credentials.

Weather Report

After four straight series with a doubleheader, Arkansas will once again be keeping an eye on the weather this weekend.

The first two days look pretty good, though. There’s about a 20 percent chance of rain around first pitch of Game 1, with temperatures in the mid- to low-60s and possibly dipping into the upper-50s.

It could rain overnight, but it should all move out well before Game 2. However, it’s worth noting that there will be strong winds - 17-19 mph - out of the south, which means it’ll be blowing in from right field.

Sunday is probably the biggest concern, as far as the weather. There is a 50 percent chance of rain, but the Weather Channel is calling for thunderstorms in the morning before giving way to partly cloudy conditions.

“It’s just that time of year,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “You’ve got a lot of rain floating around. I’m sure that if we have to adjust a game, if we had to move something up, move something back, we’ll do whatever we need to do.”

Arkansas’ Starting Rotation (2021 stats)

Friday - Jr. LHP Patrick Wicklander (11 games/7 starts, 3-1, 1.89 ERA, 49 K/14 BB, 47 2/3 IP)

Saturday - So. RHP Peyton Pallette (12 games/9 starts, 1-2, 4.02 ERA, 57 K/18 BB, 47 IP)

Sunday - TBA

For the third straight series, Van Horn is leaving the third game open as a “TBA” and won’t name a starting pitcher until after the first two games.

It sounds like left-hander Lael Lockhart has lost his spot in the rotation and will be replaced by one of the usual suspects - veteran right-handers Zebulon Vermillion and Caleb Bolden - or possibly freshman right-hander Jaxon Wiggins.

Click here to read more on Van Horn’s thought process.

In the Polls

For the fourth straight week, Arkansas is the unanimous No. 1 team in college baseball. As the top-ranked team in all six major polls, it is also No. 1 in the Rivals Composite Poll.

Georgia cracked the top 25 after taking two of three games against Vanderbilt, checking in at No. 24 in the April 27 poll, but fell right back out after losing two of three against Auburn last weekend.

Scouting the Opponent

Record: 27-16 (10-11 SEC)

RPI: No. 43

Head coach: Scott Stricklin (8th season)

Series history: Razorbacks lead 34-24

Georgia’s starting rotation (2021 stats)

Friday - Fr. LHP Liam Sullivan (12 games/0 starts, 1-0, 4.74 ERA, 22 K/15 BB, 19 IP)

Saturday - So. RHP Jonathan Cannon (9 games/9 starts, 2-2, 4.19 ERA, 39 K/5 BB, 43 IP)

Sunday - Sr. LHP Ryan Webb (10 games/10 starts, 3-3, 3.04 ERA, 76 K/17 BB, 53 1/3 IP)

Georgia’s top hitters (2021 stats)

~2B Josh McAllister: .354/.391/.646, 8 HR, 21 RBI

~RF Connor Tate: .351/.415/.565, 10 HR, 30 RBI

~SS Cole Tate: .304/.355/.399, 2 HR, 19 RBI

~LF Riley King: .289/.368/.463, 6 HR, 30 RBI

Notes and Tidbits

~Left-hander Ryan Webb is the ace of Georgia’s staff, with an impressive 0.98 WHIP, 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings and .184 opponents batting average. He usually pitches on Friday, but he tweaked his back in his last outing and the Bulldogs are giving him an extra couple of days off before starting him in Game 3.

~Starting in Webb’s place is freshman left-hander Liam Sullivan. It will be the first start of his career. He’s holding opponents to a .197 batting average in 12 relief appearances, but he’s struggled with his command. In just 19 innings of work, he has 15 walks, three wild pitches and one hit batter.

~Before taking the job at Georgia, Scott Stricklin was the head coach at Kent State from 2005-13. He led his alma mater to the 2012 College World Series, where the Golden Flashes actually lost to Arkansas in their first game in Omaha.

~Arkansas center fielder Christian Franklin was named the SEC Player of the Week after going 6 for 11 with two doubles, a home run, 10 RBIs, five runs and two walks at LSU. He also threw a runner out at third base. It was the third such honor for the Razorbacks this season, following Casey Opitz and Matt Goodheart back in March. Caleb Bolden and Kevin Kopps have been named SEC Pitcher of the Week, while Cayden Wallace is a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week. Only Franklin’s and Goodheart’s awards were not shared.

Quotable

Van Horn, on his assessment of Georgia:

“Georgia’s roster is loaded with talent. I was looking it over. I think they only have, like, three players on that whole roster that aren’t from the state of Georgia. That’s how good that state is. … They’ve had some injuries too. They had some injuries in the fall or they’d have an even better pitching staff. They’ve had a couple of their top pitchers go down with season-ending injuries.”

Van Horn, on Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin:

“The coaching staff is good. I’ve known Scott Stricklin. Coached with him with Team USA in the summer of 2011. He was the head coach at Kent State at the time. I know what he’s all about, and I know how good of a coach he is.”

Van Horn, on returning to Fayetteville after back-to-back road series:

“We weathered the storm at two tough places, went 4-2 on the road back-to-back weekends. That’s always, when you look at your schedule and you think, ‘Wow, I’ve got to go on the road two weekends in a row in this league, it’s tough. How are we going to handle that?’ I think we did okay, especially playing the teams that we did and how good they usually are at home. But it’s going to be good to be at Baum. It’s going to be good to see a lot of fans in the stands and hopefully they’re loud. I sure hope we play well.”

Stat of the Week

Between a leadoff walk in the ninth inning of Arkansas’ win over Texas A&M on April 17 and a leadoff single in the sixth inning of Saturday’s loss at LSU, Kevin Kopps was perfect - literally.

He retired 28 batters in a row, which is one more than the equivalent of a perfect game, over a span of four relief appearances - the Texas A&M outing, two at South Carolina and his first outing at LSU.

Over that span, Kopps had 19 strikeouts, including one stretch in which he struck out 11 batters in a row. The other nine outs included seven ground outs and two fly outs.

It’s also worth noting that he pitched enough at LSU to finally qualify for the NCAA’s national stat leaderboards. Among Division I pitchers, Kopps is first in ERA (0.85), third in strikeouts per nine innings (15.9), 13th in WHIP (0.85), tied for 14th in hits allowed per nine innings (5.10) and 44th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.25).

All of those numbers helped him earn National Pitcher of the Month for April from the NCBWA.

HR Tracker

For just the seventh time in 42 games this season, Arkansas did not hit a home run in its series finale at LSU last weekend, snapping a season-long 12-game streak. That said, it still has 76 home runs on the year.

That is 13 more than the record-breaking 2018 team had at this point of the season. That team didn’t hit No. 76 until its 51st game.

Arkansas-Georgia Stat Comparison
Stat Georgia Arkansas

Batting average

.277

.282

Slugging percentage

.441

.500

On-base percentage

.355

.401

Home runs

51

76

Runs/game

5.9

8.3

ERA

3.82

4.16

WHIP

1.30

1.27

Strikeouts/9 innings

9.92

10.23

Strikeout-to-walk ratio

2.28

2.68

Fielding percentage

.976

.980

Stolen bases/game

0.35

0.86