Diamond Hogs gearing up for another great season

The Razorbacks open the season on Feb. 16 with a four-game series against James Madison at Baum-Walker Stadium.

There is no way around it, 2023-24 has been a struggle for the Arkansas Razorbacks and their fans in the major sports.

In the midst of all the uncertainty of the football and basketball programs, there is a beacon of light, a lifeline of hope for Hog fans — Razorback baseball.

The Diamond Hogs will soon open another promising season in Dave Van Horn’s 22nd year as head coach.

The Razorbacks, defending co-champions of the SEC with Florida, are ranked in the top four in all the preseason polls, and the Hogs are expected to be in the hunt for the SEC and the College World Series titles with the season standing on our doorstep.

The Razorbacks open the season at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 with a planned four-game series against James Madison at Baum-Walker Stadium. I write “planned” because while we are experiencing spring-like weather currently, who knows how many games Mother Nature will allow next weekend?

Hopefully, it’s all four.

While the Razorbacks have had to retool much of its starting lineup, there are some familiar faces.

One is junior second baseman Peyton Stovall, who struggled last season with a shoulder injury. He’s healthy now and is poised to have an all-conference type season. Senior Peyton Holt looks to be Arkansas’ third baseman. He started 19 games last year at second in Stovall’s stead and two at third base.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: James Madison
When: 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16
Where: Baum-Walker Studium
TV: SEC Network +

Next 3 games

Feb. 17 – James Madison, 2 p.m. (SEC Network+)
Feb. 18 – James Madison, 1 p.m. (SEC Network+)
Feb. 19 – James Madison, Noon (SEC Network+)

Wehiwa Alloy, a sophomore transfer from Sacramento State who was a freshman All-American and the WAC Freshman of the Year, steps into the shortstop spot. He’s rangy at 6-2, 200 with the ability to cover a lot of ground. He scored 69 runs, batted .376, hit 14 homers and plated 46 RBI as a freshman.

Ben MacLaughlin should be the starter at first base after a strong year as a designated hitter and a utility man at first and third base a year ago. He hit .346 in 28 appearances and is being counted on to be a key hitter in the Hogs’ lineup.

Kendall Diggs returns to his familiar right field spot. Ty Wilmsmeyer, a graduate transfer from Missouri, should be the man in the middle in center field.

Van Horn said Monday at his Swatter’s Club appearance that there is a three-way battle for the left field starting role being waged by sophomore Jayson Jones, graduate transfer Ross Lovich, a Missouri transfer; and Will Edmunson, a transfer from Hutchinson Community College.

The Razorbacks are as deep at catcher as the program has ever been with returning seniors Parker Rowland and Hudson Polk along with junior Texas Tech transfer Hudson White and touted freshman Ryder Helflick.

The Razorbacks may have the luxury of using two catchers in an SEC series each weekend this season and another one or two in midweek games, should everyone stay healthy.

The Razorbacks’ bullpen is also well-stocked with preseason All-American southpaw Hagen Smith leading the way as Arkansas’ Friday-night starter.

Fellow lefties Mason Molina and Brady Tygart will get the ball on Saturday and Sunday against James Madison on Saturday and Sunday if there are no hiccups between now and then, according to Van Horn.

If the fourth game goes off as planned, Colin Fisher or Ben Bybee, who is dealing with a hamstring issue, could get the call.

The Razorbacks are loaded with talent, but the college baseball season is a long one, and SEC foes LSU and Florida are projected to be just as potent and deep as the Razorbacks are. No doubt, other SEC squads have the potential to challenge the top three, too.

I am tempted to say Van Horn’s Hogs are immune from the blues that the Razorback’ football squad faced last fall and the ones the basketball team are enduring right now.

But then again, I wouldn’t want to be blamed for jinxing anything.

I thought the Razorback football team had a legit shot at winning seven or eight games last summer when so many were calling for nine and 10, and last fall, I didn’t think the Hoop Hogs were overvalued when they started the season in the Top 20.

We know what happened in both instances.

However, as solid as Pittman and Musselman’s credentials were with the Hogs coming into this season, Van Horn’s accomplishments outshine them all. He’s had one bad season in his two-plus decades as Arkansas’ baseball coach.

That gives me confidence that the Diamond Hogs are poised for another fine season.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2024 Baseball Schedule

DateOpponentFirst PitchStreaming/TV
Feb. 16James Madison3 p.m.SEC Network+
Feb. 17James Madison2 p.m.SEC Network+
Feb. 18James Madison1 p.m.SEC Network+
Feb. 19James MadisonNoonSEC Network+
Feb. 23Oregon State at Arlington, Texas7 p.m.FloBaseball
Feb. 24Oklahoma State at Arlington, Texas7 p.m.FloBaseball
Feb. 25Michigan at Arlington, Texas1 p.m.FloBaseball
Feb. 27Grambling3 p.m.SEC Network+
March 1Murray State3 p.m.SEC Network+
March 2Murray State2 p.m.SEC Network+
March 3Murray State1 p.m.SEC Network+
March 5UCA3 p.m.SEC Network+
March 8McNeese State3 p.m.SEC Network+
March 9McNeese State2 p.m.SEC Network+
March 10McNeese State1 p.m.SEC Network+
March 15Missouri6:30 p.m.SEC Network+
March 16Missouri2 p.m.SEC Network+
March 17Missouri2 p.m.SEC Network+
March 21at Auburn6 p.m.SEC Network
March 22at Auburn6 p.m.SEC Network+
March 23at Auburn2 p.m.SEC Network+
March 25UALR6:30 p.m.SEC Network+
March 28LSU6 p.m.ESPN2
March 29LSU7 p.m.SEC Network
March 30LSU2 p.m.SEC Network+
April 2Arkansas State6 p.m.SEC Network+
April 4Ole Miss6 p.m.SEC Network
April 5Ole Miss6:30 p.m.SEC Network+
April 6Ole Miss2 p.m.SEC Network+
April 9San Jose State6 p.m.SEC Network+
April 10San Jose State3 p.m.SEC Network+
April 12at Alabama6 p.m.SEC Network+
April 13at Alabama4 p.m.SEC Network+
April 14at Alabama1 p.m.SEC Network+
April 16Texas Tech7 p.m.ESPN2
April 17Texas Tech4 p.m.SEC Network
April 19at South Carolina6 p.m.SEC Network+
April 20at South Carolina3 p.m.SEC Network+
April 21at South Carolina12:30 p.m.SEC Network+
April 23UAPB at North Little Rock6 p.m.
April 26Florida7 p.m.SEC Network
April 27FloridaNoonESPN2
April 28Florida2 p.m.SEC Network+
April 30Missouri State6:30 p.m.SEC Network+
May 1Missouri State4 p.m.SEC Network+
May 3at Kentucky5:30 p.m.SEC Network+
May 4at Kentucky1 p.m.SEC Network+
May 5at KentuckyNoonSEC Network+
May 10Mississippi State6:30 p.m.SEC Network+
May 11Mississippi State6 p.m.SEC Network+
May 12Mississippi State2 p.m.SEC Network
May 16at Texas A&M6 p.m.SEC Network+
May 17at Texas A&M6 p.m.SEC Network+
May 18at Texas A&M1 p.m.SEC Network+
May 21SEC Tournament at Hoover, Ala.TBA