Tennessee series looms large for Razorbacks

Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

As the weeks go past, the SEC series keep getting bigger and bigger for the No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks. This weekend is no exception as the No. 21 Tennessee Vols visit the Hogs for a three-game series at Baum-Walker Stadium.

As the fifth team Top 25 team he Hogs have faced in row for an SEC series, the Vols (30-11, 9-9 SEC) are one of the hottest teams in the league if not the entire country, sporting a five-game winning streak and taking two out of three against SEC-leading and No. 3-ranked Georgia two weekends ago and sweeping Kentucky last weekend. Tennessee has only allowed 13 runs in their last eight games,

The Razorbacks (31-11, 12-6 SEC) were on a hot streak of their own, sweeping than No. 3 Mississippi State last weekend and trouncing Northwester State, 19-2, on Tuesday. However a bit of complacency set in on Wednesday as NSU, which also upset LSU this season, defeated the Razorback, 10-7.

Razorback Baseball

Who: vs Tennessee
When: April 26, 27, 28
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium
Watch: SECN+, SECN+, SEC Network

» See full schedule

That loss should have the Hogs humble and on edge for the Vols, coached by former Razorback assistant coach Tony Vitello.

Vitello, who recruited more than a few Razorbacks who will suit up for the weekend series, has called this just another SEC series.

In one sense, he’s right. Every SEC series is big for each opponent because of the implications it has the league standing, the national polls, the RPI, and the team’s reputation with the NCAA Selection Committee.

That old “It Just Means More” SEC TV slogan is the absolute truth when talking college baseball. But neither Vitello nor Dave Van Horn will ever be stoic enough for anyone to believe that a series between the mentee and mentor doesn’t tick their blood pressure up a couple of notches. The series certainly have the spirits running high with the players on both sides, even though both coaches would rather them to treat it like a business transaction.

That should make this weekend exciting for every Razorback who can squeeze themselves into what ought to be a packed house for each game at Baum-Walker Stadium.

As the late, great Larry Shank used to say each seventh-inning stretch, “This is baseball!”

First pitch of Friday and Saturday’s games are at 6:30 p.m., while Sunday’s finale is at 4 p.m. On Saturday, Arkansas will honor its 1979 and 2009 College World Series prior to the game. On Sunday, Arkansas’ new gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at 3:40 p.m.

Arkansas right-handed ace Isaiah Campbell (7-1, 2.44 ERA, 78 K, 10 BB) will face Tennessee lefty Garrett Crochet (3-2, 2.45 ERA, 55 K, 11 BB) on Friday.

Saturday’s matchup will pit Arkansas left-hander Patrick Wicklander (3-1, 4.28 ERA, 58 K, 26 BB) against Tennessee right-hander Garrett Stallings (7-2, 1.82 ERA, 72 K, 11 BB).

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has not announced a starter for Sunday, but Vitello is going right-hand Zach Lingingelter (6-4, 3.91 ERA, 50 K, 17 BB).

Friday and Saturday’s games can be streamed live through the SEC Network Plus application on line, but the SEC Network is televising Sunday’s contest.