HOOVER, Ala. — The eighth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks are set to play their opening game of the 2018 SEC Tournament Wednesday night as it will face five-seed South Carolina. First pitch is set for approximately 8 p.m. at Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.
Arkansas (37-17, 18-12 SEC) is the No. 4 seed for the second consecutive year, earning the first-round bye into the double-elimination rounds. The Gamecocks (33-22, 17-13 SEC) defeated the 12-seed Missouri Tigers late last night, 4-2, to advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament. Arkansas will be the home team in tonight’s game.
Arkansas won two-of-three against South Carolina earlier this season at Baum Stadium and it was the only home conference series that the Hogs didn’t sweep.
The second, third and quarterfinal rounds are double elimination, while the semifinals and the championship game are single elimination.
Arkansas rolls into tournament play as co-champions of the SEC Western Division, claiming a share of the title for the first time since 2011 and fifth division title in school history. It’s the seventh time under head coach Dave Van Horn that the Razorbacks have won 18 or more games in conference play and fourth division title under Van Horn as well.
The Razorbacks are in search of its first SEC Tournament championship in program history. It will be making its ninth appearance in the tournament in the last 10 years and 23rd overall. The Razorbacks have made four SEC Tournament championship game appearances in their history, finishing runner-up in 1998 to Auburn, in 1999 to Alabama, in 2007 to Vanderbilt, and most recently, in 2017 to LSU.
Last year, the Hogs battled back from a first-game loss to reach the tournament final from the loser’s bracket with a victory over Mississippi State and mercy-rule wins over Auburn and top-seeded Florida. First baseman Chad Spanberger was awarded as the tournament MVP and finished as the week’s leader in RBIs (10), doubles (3), home runs (5), and total bases (26).
The most tournament wins for Arkansas came in 1999 when it won four games before falling to the Crimson Tide in the championship game. As head coach, Dave Van Horn is 19-24 in 13 SEC Tournament appearances.
Games one through 16 of the SEC Tournament are available on the SEC Network and SEC Network+ via the WatchESPN app. The championship game will be aired on ESPN2. As always, the Razorbacks can be heard on the Razorback Sports Network on the radio with Phil Elson and former Razorback Bubba Carpenter on the call.
No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 5 South Carolina | WATCH SEC NETWORK
RAZORBACK PRIME 9
>> Arkansas makes its 23rd appearance at the SEC Tournament this week in Hoover, Alabama and holds its second-straight top-four seed in the field.
>> The Razorbacks won a share of the SEC Western Division title this year by finishing with an 18-12 conference record. It’s Arkansas’ first division title since 2011 and fourth under Dave Van Horn.
>> Seven different Razorbacks were named to the various All-SEC teams this week, led by freshman Heston Kjerstad, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, the first such recipient in school history.
>> Infielder Carson Shaddy was named to the All-SEC First Team, while Eric Cole, Blaine Knight, Casey Martin, and Heston Kjerstad were named to the Second Team. Grant Koch and Dominic Fletcher made up the SEC All-Defensive Team.
>> Jake Reindl has still yet to give up an extra-base hit in SEC play, making 11 appearances and 21.2 innings pitched. In his last 11.0 innings pitched, he has only allowed one earned run.
>> Kjerstad is the third Razorback in school history to win a major conference award (Andrew Benintendi – 2015; Nick Schmidt – 2006).
>> Kjerstad is the only freshman in the SEC with a batting average of .345 or higher and a slugging percentage of .575 or higher.
>> Carson Shaddy has a hit in seven-straight games since returning from a hand injury on May 6. Since then, he is hitting .346 with eight RBIs, three doubles, nine hits, and five runs scored.
>> Right-hander Blaine Knight finished the regular season with a perfect 9-0 record and a 2.88 ERA over 81.1 innings pitched and 14 starts. He’s the only pitcher in the SEC with an undefeated record and an ERA under 3.00.
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