Ole Miss Rebels vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Baseball Preview and Weekend Open Thread

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

The No. 6 Rebels travel to Fayetteville to take on the No. 15 Razorbacks to open Southeastern Conference play.

[Big tips of the hat are in order to BeardedGinger and Fit4LifeLLC for the stats and detailed breakdowns used in this weekend's preview.]

SEC play begins this weekend for the No. 6 Ole Miss Rebels, who will take on the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday. Friday and Saturday's games are not televised, but Sunday's game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

The Razorbacks started the season ranked number one in many polls, but lost early to Western Illinois in the Sunday game of their opening series. They then were swept in the Coca-Cola Classic tournament, losing to Arizona State, Gonzaga, and Pacific. At 13-5, the Hogs are no longer the top team in the land, but they're still a legitimate contendor for the SEC title and an Omaha berth. They, like Ole Miss, are headlined by top-notch pitching, capable batting, and good defense. Don't let their five losses fool you; they're a good baseball team, and will be a hell of a test for our Rebs on the road.

Here's Arkansas' pitching rotation for the weekend:

Trey Killian (Fr. RHP) - Earlier this season, Trey took over the starting Sunday job after a rough first weekend by Trent Daniel, and now with SEC play starting he has been awarded the Friday night job. As a true freshman, Killian is 2-1 with a 0.86 ERA through three starts. In 21 innings pitched, Killian has only allowed six hits and two earned runs. He has also struck out 22 batters while only walking one. Opponents are only hitting .088 against him so far this season. So yeah, the kid is kinda good. Hopefully the pressure of getting his first Friday start in SEC play against a top-10 team is enough to get his nerves rattled.

Randall Fant (Sr. LHP) - Randall Fant will be making only his second weekend start of the season this Saturday against the Rebels. Fant is currently 0-0 with a 0.90 ERA. Through 10 innings pitched, he has struck out 8 while walking none. He has only allowed one run thus far. He is the most experienced Razorback pitcher in the rotation, with 45 appearances (35 starts) over which he has an 8-10 record with a 3.79 ERA.

Ryne Stanek (Jr. RHP) - A preseason all-American, Ryne Stanek is the unquestioned ace of the Arkansas staff. He has struggled with his fastball control as of late though, prompting his move to Sundays. Methinks this move could be just a strategic one for this big weekend, as Arkansas has been known to pitch their aces on Saturdays and sometimes (as in this case) on Sundays. Stanek is currently 1-1 in four starts this season. Through 17 innings pitched, Stanek has allowed 16 hits, walked 10 and struck out 16. Ryne has allowed eight runs, which gives him a 3.71 ERA on the season. His numbers right now may seem high for such a well-regarded pitcher, but there is no doubt that Stanek can pitch. Stanek has a career record of 12-6 with a 3.27 ERA over 29 starts.

Team Pitching Ranks in Conference:

  • 1st in ERA (1.70)
  • 3rd in opposing batting average (.200)
  • 9th in strikeouts (120)
  • 3rd in hits allowed (98)
  • 1st in runs allowed (37)
  • 5th in walks allowed (44)
  • T-1st in HR allowed (2)

A lot of Arkansas' early season difficulties though had nothing to do with pitching. The Hogs were finding difficulty getting clutch runs going into last weekends series with San Diego State. But, over that four game series and the following two game midweek series with Alabama A&M, they seemed to have found themselves at the plate. Which is unfortunately bad timing for our Rebels.

Top Hitters (Sorted by Avg) Avg HR RBI SLG% OBP% Class
OF/IF Tyler Spoon .388 3 22 .537 . 450 FR(RS)
IF Brian Anderson . 364 0 16 .485 .463 Soph
IF Jacob Mahan .333 1 8 .438 .475 Sr
OF Matt Vinson .315 0 5 .407 .397 Sr

Others to watch:

  • Jordan Ferris - .389/.667/.476 (Used in a reserve role)
  • Joe Serrano - .278/.352/.350
  • Jake Wise - .255/.364/.323
  • Dominic Ficociello - .267/.267/.294

Arkansas raised its team average by roughly 20 points and nearly doubled its team run total over the last 6 games. Either they've figured something out, or they were playing terrible opponents, if not a little bit of both. Their team hitting totals are a .297 average, 10 home runs, 108 runs scored, a .399 slugging percentage, and a .391 on base percentage. They are averaging 6.7 runs a game.

Additional, somewhat random facts:

  • The Hogs are 13 and 1 at home so far this year.
  • As a team they are 25 out of 28 attempts in stealing bases, with no one higher than 6 on the year.
  • Their walk to strikeout ratio is close to 1 (.92 to be exact).
  • Plastic hog hats are currently out of stock in the Spirit Zone Arkansas Razorbacks store.
This will be a really tough test for both teams. If Ole Miss wins the series, look for them to creep into Baseball America's top five. If Arkansas wins the series, Ole Miss will have a tough time staying in the top ten. We're hesitant to predict a series win for the Rebs on the road, but I am certain that Hog fans are equally as hesitant to predict an Arkansas series win. In all, this is an excellent SEC matchup to begin conference play. Your open thread begins... Now.
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