Western Division Race Comes Down To Final Weekend
ATHENS, Ga. – With a one-game lead in the SEC Western Division and only three games remaining in the regular season, the fifth-ranked Arkansas baseball team has a chance to win its first division crown since 2011 when it faces the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs for a three-game series starting on Thursday.
First pitch for game one is set for 6 p.m. CT and will be televised online on SEC Network+. Game two will also start at 6 p.m., while the season finale will have a national television audience on the SEC Network and have a first pitch time of 11 a.m.
In its history since joining the SEC, Arkansas has won four Western Division crowns, three under current head coach Dave Van Horn (2004, 2007, 2011). In each of those years, the Hogs won 40 or more games and 15 or more in SEC play.
The Razorbacks come in to Athens fresh off another series sweep, their fourth of the year, as it won all three against No. 20 Texas A&M last weekend by a combined score of 18-7. It was the first time since the Aggies joined the league (2013) that the Hogs were able to secure the sweep and they were able to do it by getting strong outings from all three of their starters.
Blaine Knight, Kacey Murphy, and Isaiah Campbell all went five or more innings last week and struck out five or more. For Knight, the junior tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts, his second outing of 10 or more this year, while Murphy worked a career-long 7.1 innings in game two, lowering his ERA to 2.30, the second lowest in the conference.
Offensively, the Hog lineup continues to be led by redshirt senior Carson Shaddy, who has been on a tear since returning from a hand injury that kept him out for seven games. Shaddy returned on May 6 at LSU and hasn’t slowed down since. Over his last four games, the Fayetteville native has gone 6-for-14 (.429) with six RBIs and three extra-base hits. Last week against Texas A&M, he hit a three-run home run that helped toward a 9-3 series-opening victory. The home run was his 10th of the year.
Games one and two will be available on SEC Network+ via the Watch ESPN app and WatchESPN.com, while the season finale on Saturday will be on the SEC Network in front of a national audience. Dave Neal (PxP) and Mike Rooney (Analyst) will be on the call for the final game.
As always, Arkansas’ Sportscaster of the Year Phil Elson will call all three games on the radio for the Razorback Sports Network from IMG. The radio broadcasts are also available on the Razorback Gameday app.
IMPORTANT LINKS (ALL TIMES CENTRAL)
Thu, May 17 – Arkansas vs. Georgia – 6 p.m. – LIVE STATS | WATCH (SECN+)
Fri, May 18 – Arkansas vs. Georgia – 6 p.m. – LIVE STATS | WATCH (SECN+)
Sat, May 19 – Arkansas vs. Georgia – 11 a.m. – LIVE STATS | WATCH (SEC Network)
THU: ARK RHP Blaine Knight (8-0, 2.87 ERA, 77 SO, 17 BB) vs. UGA RHP Chase Adkins (5-0, 4.46 ERA, 57 SO, 23 BB)
FRI: ARK LHP Kacey Murphy (6-4, 2.30 ERA, 63 SO, 12 BB) vs. UGA RHP Emerson Hancock (6-4, 4.82 ERA, 71 SO, 31 BB)
SAT: ARK TBA vs. UGA LHP Kevin Smith (7-1, 3.25 ERA, 65 SO, 22 BB)
RAZORBACK PRIME 9
>> Arkansas heads into the final weekend of the regular season with a chance to lock up its fifth SEC Western Division title in school history, fourth under Dave Van Horn when it takes on Georgia in Athens.
>> The Razorbacks are still atop the SEC West at 17-10 in conference play and a series win over the Bulldogs will give the Hogs their best conference record since 2004 (19-11).
>> Blaine Knight is currently the only SEC pitcher with an undefeated record and an ERA under 3.00 (7-0, 2.87). In 10 of his 13 starts, Knight has thrown six or more innings and struck out four or more.
>> Knight tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts against then-No. 20 Texas A&M last week in what ended up being his longest outing of the season (7.0 innings).
>> Jake Reindl has still yet to give up an extra-base hit in SEC play, making 10 appearances and 21.1 innings pitched. In his last 10.2 innings pitched, he has only allowed two unearned runs.
>> Redshirt senior Carson Shaddy currently has top-three totals in the SEC in batting average (3rd – .364), slugging (3rd – .674), and on-base percentage (2nd – .459). All are career-bests for the Fayetteville native.
>> Last week, Arkansas swept Texas A&M for its fourth series sweep of the SEC season and its most since 1999. The Hogs also did not lose a series inside Baum Stadium and need two more wins to tie the school record for most wins at Baum Stadium in a single season (31 in 2004).
>> After throwing a career-high 7.1 scoreless innings last week against Texas A&M, junior lefty pitcher Kacey Murphy lowered his ERA to 2.30, the second-lowest ERA in the SEC to only Florida’s Brady Singer (2.25).
>> As a team, Arkansas has hit at least one home run in eight of its last nine games and is 29-10 on the year when hitting a home run.