FAYETTEVILLE - The top spot in the Southeastern Conference Western Division will be up for grabs this weekend as the No. 10 University of Arkansas baseball team head to Oxford, Miss., for a three-game series with No. 11 Ole Miss. The Razorbacks and Rebels are tied for first in the SEC West with nine conference games remaining for each team.
"We get to play the team we're tied with," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Then we get to play the team we're two games behind (for the overall conference title). A lot of things can happen in the next two weekends. We take it as a challenge. What more can you ask for?"
Games one and two of the Arkansas-Ole Miss series will be televised by ESPNU. Both contests are scheduled for a 7 p.m. start from the Rebels' home field, Oxford-University Stadium. Clay Matvick and Kyle Peterson will handle the play-by-play and color commentary duties for the broadcasts. The series finale is set for a 1:30 p.m. first pitch. Sunday's game will not be televised.
Arkansas leads the all-time series with Ole Miss, 33-27. Last season, the Rebels swept a three-game series in Fayetteville at Baum Stadium. In the last 10 meetings between the two teams, Ole Miss holds a 7-3 advantage. In games played on Ole Miss' home field, Arkansas is 16-11. The Hogs won two of three in their last trip to Oxford in 2008. All but one of the all-time meetings have come since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992.
Entering the fourth month of the season, the Razorbacks are 35-10 overall with a 14-7 record during league play. Arkansas is 9-5 on the road this season with series wins at California, McNeese State-in a midweek doubleheader-and Mississippi State. In the latest release of the RPI by the NCAA, the Hogs are ranked No. 7.
Zack Cox leads the team and is second in the SEC with a .443 batting average. He leads the conference with 82 hits and is tied for first in runs with teammate Collin Kuhn with 54 scores. Brett Eibner has an SEC-best 16 home runs and is tied with Andy Wilkins for the team lead with 55 RBI, the fourth-highest total in the conference. Eibner has seven home runs in his last 11 games. The Hogs are tied for second in the SEC with a .323 team batting average.
The Razorbacks are set to start Drew Smyly in the series opener. The left-handed sophomore is 7-0 this season with a 2.19 ERA and 71 strikeouts. Smyly has won his last five outings, including a pair of complete-game performances. DJ Baxendale is slated to make his third start of the season Saturday in game two. In a team-high 20 appearances this season, Baxendale has a 3.79 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched. No starter has been announced for Sunday's finale. Arkansas is third in the SEC with a 3.97 team ERA.
Ole Miss enters the weekend series with a 33-13 overall record and a 14-7 mark in the SEC. The Rebels have won 10 consecutive games, including seven straight in league play. In its last two weekends, Ole Miss has come away with sweeps of LSU and Mississippi State.
As a team, the Rebels are hitting .306 through 46 games. Matt Smith leads Ole Miss with his .361 batting average, 10 home runs and 45 RBI. During their 10-game winning streak, the Rebels are averaging 10 runs per ballgame, outscoring their opponents, 100-68. On the mound, the Rebels' rotation will feature LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-0, 1.85 ERA) and RHP Aaron Barrett (6-2, 3.72 ERA); starter for Sunday has yet to be announced. Pomeranz and Barrett are 1-2 in the SEC in strikeouts with 104 and 75, respectively.
In addition to ESPNU broadcasts for Friday and Saturday, fans can also tune in to action all weekend on the Razorback Sports Network from ISP. Chuck Barrett will have the call as the network's play-by-play announcer. There will be an audio stream available at the online home of Razorback athletics, ArkansasRazorbacks.com.