FAYETTEVILLE - The No. 10 University of Arkansas baseball team begins a busy end to the 2010 regular season Friday with game one of its weekend series against South Carolina at Baum Stadium. First pitch of the opener is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. The three-game set is the final home series of the regular season for the Razorbacks. Over the next nine days, Arkansas will play seven games.
Games one and three of the conference matchup will be televised live by Cox Sports Television (CST)-Ch. 119 in Northwest Arkansas-with Mike Nail and Ron Swoboda handling the play-by-play and color commentary duties. Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ballgame will also be aired by Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) on a two-hour delay.
In the Southeastern Conference standings, the Razorbacks lead the Western Division with a one-game advantage over Auburn and Ole Miss. Arkansas trails Florida and the seventh-ranked Gamecocks by one game in the race for the overall league title. The Gators host Georgia this weekend. With two weekends of conference play remaining, the Razorbacks clinched their spot in the 2010 SEC Tournament with last Sunday's win at Ole Miss.
Arkansas is 38-11 overall and carries a 16-8 conference record entering this weekend. The Hogs are 5-5 in their last 10 games, including a 10-inning victory over Louisiana Tech in their last outing. Andy Wilkins' game-winning single sent the Razorbacks to a 5-4 win at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. Head coach Dave Van Horn is one win shy of his 900th career victory as a collegiate head coach.
Zack Cox is hitting an SEC-best .435 and also leads the league in runs scored (59) and hits (87). The Razorback sophomore is three hits away from breaking into the top 10 of the program's single-season hits list. The record of 97 hits was set by Matt Erickson during the 1996 season. Brett Eibner is tied for the SEC lead with 17 home runs. As a team, Arkansas is hitting .322, the second-best figure in the conference.
The Hogs' rotation against South Carolina will feature Drew Smyly and Mike Bolsinger. No starter has been named for Sunday by either team. Smyly improved to 8-0 with his win at Ole Miss last week, while Bolsinger, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, turned in a career outing with eight innings of two-hit ball and 11 strikeouts in his first start since April 2. Arkansas is third in the SEC with a 3.85 team ERA.
South Carolina matches the Razorbacks with a 38-11 record. With a 17-7 tally in league play, the Gamecocks are tied with Florida for the Eastern Division and overall lead. South Carolina, 7-3 in their last 10 games, won a pair of midweek contests after dropping two of three to Kentucky last weekend in Lexington.
The Gamecocks are paced at the plate by Jackie Bradley, Jr., and his .352 batting average. Whit Merrifield is second in the SEC with 58 runs scored and leads his team with 10 home runs. South Carolina will start Blake Cooper (9-0, 3.05 ERA) Friday and hand the ball to Sam Dyson (4-4, 4.30 ERA) for Saturday's game. The pitching staff is second in the SEC with a 3.74 team ERA.
Arkansas leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 29-19. Last season, the Hogs won two of three on the road in Columbia, S.C. All but one of the 48 meetings between the two teams have come since the team joined the SEC in 1992. Arkansas and South Carolina first met at the 1985 College World Series, a 1-0 victory for the Razorbacks.
Following Friday's ballgame, fans can stick around to enjoy the 14th annual Razorback Baseball Fireworks Night presented by the Razorback Sports Network from ISP. Game times for the South Carolina series will follow the familiar weekend schedule of 6:35 p.m. on Friday, 2:05 p.m. on Saturday and 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. An audio and video stream will be available at the online home of Razorback athletics, ArkansasRazorbacks.com.