Hogs relish fresh opportunity in Stillwater Regional

Sometimes a change of scenery can recharge your battery.

Now, the Arkansas Razorbacks aren’t headed to Stillwater, Okla. this weekend for a vacation, but perhaps playing away from home and outside the SEC footprint will be a refreshing change for Dave Van Horn’s Hogs, who have looked a bit tired in recent weeks at the tail end of a pressure-packed regular season as well as in SEC Tournament play.

The Hogs went 0-2 in last week’s SEC Tourney, and after starting the season with a bang and being ranked in the top 10 of most college baseball polls, the Razorbacks swooned of late, losing six of their last eight games.

Next up for the Diamond Hogs

Opponent: Grand Canyon University
When:  12 p.m. Friday, June 3
Where: O’Brate Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Streaming: SEC Network

Regional Schedule

Friday, June 3
Game 2 – Oklahoma State vs. Missouri State – 6 p.m. CT (ESPN+)

Saturday, June 4
Game 3 – Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 – Noon CT (TV TBD)
Game 4 – Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 – 6 p.m. CT (TV TBD)

Sunday, June 5
Game 5 – Winner G4 vs. Loser G3 – Noon CT (TV TBD)
Game 6 – Winner G3 vs. Winner G5 – 6 p.m. CT (TV TBD)

Monday, June 6
Game 7 – Winner G6 vs. Loser G6 (if necessary) – 6 p.m. CT (TV TBD)

Arkansas hopes to put all that behind them as they head slightly northwest to play in the Stillwater Regional on Oklahoma State’s campus. Arkansas’ first game in the double-elimination tournament is set for noon Friday against Grand Canyon University and will be televised by the SEC Network.

O’Brate Stadium certainly isn’t the friendly environs of Baum-Walker Stadium, but it is the closest regional site to Fayetteville, and no doubt more than a few Razorback fans will make the trip over to “Call Those Hogs” if they can secure tickets.

While Van Horn made his case for the Hogs’ hosting a regional on the heels of their exit from the SEC Tournament, he knew that wasn’t in the cards for this year’s squad because of his team’s RPI rating compared to other squads in and out of the SEC.

“I didn’t feel like we were going to host a regional,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said Monday after the 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket was announced. “Our RPI wasn’t really where it needed to be and losing down the stretch didn’t help obviously. I’m just glad we’re in a regional, and you’ll take whatever they give you. But I think it is kind of nice to be a little bit closer.”

Van Horn said the time off after their exit from the SEC Tournament has been good for the squad to recharge their battery for what should be a tough regional in Stillwater.

“Maybe just change your mindset a little bit and take a step back and re-evaluate the long season,” Van Horn said. “Maybe think about more the good things that we have done and just be real positive.”

Van Horn is looking forward to getting a good look at the stadium, which has been compared to Baum-Walker Stadium.

“I haven’t seen the facility since it’s been completed, but it looks beautiful,” Van Horn said based on TV footage and photos. “So I’m excited to see that and play there.”

While the Hogs have never played in the year-old facility, the Razorbacks have played in four other regionals held in Stillwater in 1983, 1986, 1988, and 2015, which was the last time Arkansas made a regional without being a host.

Arkansas is 10-14 in all-time appearances in Stillwater, but in 2015, the Hogs went 3-0 to win the regional by beating Oral Roberts, Oklahoma State and St. John’s in succession. The Razorbacks then whipped Missouri State in a Super Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium the next week to advance to the College World Series.

No doubt, the current Hogs would like to follow a similar path this year. With the Cowboys holding the No. 7 seed, should the Hogs win the Regional, they could be in line to host a Super Regional, depending on the outcome of the Chapel Hill, N.C. Regional.

Joining the Razorbacks (38-18) and the Antelopes (41-18) are the host Oklahoma State (39-20) and Missouri State (30-27). The Cowboys and Bears play at 6 p.m. Friday, with streaming on ESPN Plus.

The Antelopes are coached by Andy Stankiewicz, a buddy of Van Horn’s who has brought his team to Fayetteville in 2017 and 2020 for two-game series against the Hogs, in which the Razorbacks went 4-0.

Based in Phoenix, Ariz, Grand Canyon is a solid squad, batting .309 with an earned run average of 4.48, and a fielding percentage of .974. In contrast, the Hogs are batting .269 with an ERA of .392, and a fielding percentage of .981.

The Hogs have been a slow starting team at the plate in SEC play, which has led to several comeback victories this season, but of late several games where the Hogs have come up just short.

Van Horn would like for the Razorbacks to make more of their early game appearances at the plate, but it’s not like the squad hasn’t already been trying.

Van Horn said the Razorbacks need to adjust their mind set and view the opportunity this weekend at Stillwater as a new season, and not let past situations dictate their performance in the regional.

Maybe a fresh opportunity away from the pressure of home is just what the Razorbacks need to make another deep postseason run?