Diamond Hogs open season against James Madison

Mason Molina (Arkansas Athletics)

The No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks open their baseball season today with a four-game series against the James Madison Dukes at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Friday’s first pitch has been moved to 2 p.m. because of expected dropping temperatures. Saturday’s game is set for 2 p.m. as well, while Sunday’s contest is set for 1 p.m. and Monday’s game is at noon.

All of the games can be streamed on ESPN+ or the SEC Network+.

Dave Van Horn will send preseason All-American Hagen Smith, a junior left-hander to the mound on Saturday. Junior right-hander Brady Tygart will start Saturday. Lefty junior Mason Molina will get the start on Sunday, and freshman lefty Colin Fisher will start the final game on Monday.

Van Horn said Peyton Holt will get the start at second base in place of Peyton Stovall, who broke a bone in his foot last week in a scrimmage. Stovall is expected to be back on the diamond in four to five weeks.

Jared Sprague-Lott will move into the starting role at third base, with promising transfer Wehiwa Alloy taking over the shortstop role. Ben MacLaughlin will be the starter at first base.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: James Madison
When: 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16
Where: Baum-Waller Stadium, Fayetteville
TV: SEC+

Next 3 games

Feb. 17 – James Madison, 2 p.m. (SEC+)
Feb, 18 – James Madison, 1 p.m. (SEC+)
Feb. 19 – James Madison, 12 p.m. (SEC+)

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. Jayson Jones, Ross Lovich, and Will Edmundson will get work in left field during the series.

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 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.

Van Horn indicated White will get the start Friday at catcher and will likely move into the leadoff hitter role while Stovall is recovering from his foot injury.

While the Razorbacks are loaded with talent, 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.