This is the final part of a three-part series previewing the 2012 Arkansas baseball team. Today’s story previews the Razorback pitching staff.
Entering the 2012 season, the Arkansas pitching staff looks to be the strength of the team. The Razorbacks return 10 pitchers from last year’s team, including nine that pitched at least 20 innings during the season. The 2011 pitching staff compiled a 3.20 team ERA, which was the eighth-best in school history and the best overall ERA since the 1982 season. Arkansas ranked 27th in the country in ERA and was 14th nationally in hits allowed per nine inning, only surrendering 7.86 hits per game.
Headlining the Arkansas pitching staff is staff ace and preseason All-American DJ Baxendale. Baxendale finished the 2011 season with a 10-2 record, three saves and a 1.58 ERA in 19 appearances. The junior from Jacksonville, Ark., ranked 10th nationally in ERA and was the first Razorback to record double-digit wins in a season since Nick Schmidt in 2007. Baxendale earned All-SEC honors following the 2011 season and has been named a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Perfect Game.
Joining Baxendale in the weekend rotation is sophomore right hander Ryne Stanek. Stanek closed his rookie season with a 4-2 record, one save and a 3.94 ERA. He ranked fourth in the SEC in opponent batting average, holding opposing hitters to a .213 batting average. Stanek turned in his best two outings in last year’s postseason. In the SEC Tournament against Alabama, Stanek gave up just one run in 7.2 innings. He threw his first complete game in the NCAA Tournament against Charlotte, allowing three runs and striking out six. Stanek has been named a preseason All-American by Baseball America.
The third spot in Arkansas’ weekend rotation is still up for grabs. Junior southpaw Randall Fant is one candidate to fill that spot. Fant appeared in 20 games last season, including 11 starts, and had a 3-5 record with a 3.89 ERA. Along with Fant, sophomore right-handed pitcher Barrett Astin is also a candidate for the third weekend starter position. Astin led Arkansas with 27 appearances last season and posted a 5-2 record with three saves and a 2.72 ERA. He earned freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA following his freshman season.
In the bullpen, Arkansas has six returning pitchers that are expected to play a role this season. Redshirt junior Trent Daniel was one of the Razorbacks’ top left-handed arms last season. Daniel pitched in 26 games last season, all out of the bullpen, and had a 2-0 record with four saves and a 2.91 ERA. Daniel struck out 48 batters in 43.1 innings and held opposing hitters to a .184 batting average.
Another returning left-handed reliever is sophomore Jeff Harvill. Harvill made six relief appearances last season and had a 1-0 record with a 6.35 ERA.
Junior left hander Cade Lynch saw both time in the bullpen and starting rotation last season. Lynch pitched in 20 games in 2011, with 10 of those appearances being starts. Lynch closed the year with a 4-4 record, one save and a 3.11 ERA. He finished second on the team with 63 strikeouts and held opposing hitters to a .237 batting average. In league games, Lynch held the opposition to a .231 batting average, ranking eighth in the conference.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Brandon Moore also pitched in the weekend rotation and the bullpen last year. Moore appeared in 17 games as a freshman, including 11 starts, and had a 4-1 record with a 3.45 ERA. He threw 70.1 innings on the season, which ranked second on the team. Moore finished the season with a pair of excellent long relief outings, including throwing a career-long 8.1 innings in relief and allowing just two runs in the SEC Tournament against Alabama.
Freshman All-American Nolan Sanburn also returns in the Arkansas bullpen. Sanburn led the Razorbacks with eight saves last season and had a 2-4 record with a 3.62 ERA in 24 relief appearances. Sanburn has been named to the preseason watch list for the 2012 NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award and was also named a first-team All-America by Baseball America.
Another bullpen option for the Razorbacks from the right side is sophomore Colby Suggs. Suggs appeared in 12 games out of the bullpen last season and had a 2-1 record with a 0.90 ERA. The Sulphur Springs, Texas, native allowed just eight hits in 20 innings of work, holding opposing hitters to a .113 batting average.
Arkansas also has several newcomers that are expected to make an impact on the pitching staff this season. Conor Costello,Michael Gunn, Greg Milhorn, Chris Oliver, Mark Reyes, Landon Simpsonand Ty Wright are all projected to get some innings for the Razorbacks this season.
Arkansas opens the 2012 season on Friday, February 17, at 3:05 p.m. against Villanova at Baum Stadium. Season tickets for Arkansas’ 36-game home schedule are now on sale. Season tickets are $190 for adults and $140 for University of Arkansas staff, youth and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased by calling 1-800-982-HOGS (4647) or by visiting the online ticket center at ArkansasRazorbacks.com.