FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas resumes Southeastern Conference play this weekend when it travels to Western Division leader and No. 25 Alabama. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. on Friday, 2:05 p.m. on Saturday and 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.All three games this weekend will be available on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG College. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett (play-by-play) will call the action. A webcast of the games on Friday and Saturday will be available on Alabama’s official website, RollTide.com. Sunday’s game will be televised on CSS and CST (channel 119 in Northwest Arkansas) and will also be available online on ESPN3. Live stats and a live blog of all three games will also be available on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.The Razorbacks, ranked as high as 13th in the country, are 18-6 on the season and 2-4 in the SEC. Arkansas was scheduled to play No. 10 Oklahoma on Tuesday night, but the game was cancelled due to inclement weather. Arkansas has dropped its first two SEC series of the season, losing two of three at Auburn and against then-No. 2 Vanderbilt last weekend.Arkansas has five players that are hitting over .300 on the season. Freshman Dominic Ficociello leads the Razorbacks with a .348 batting average and is tied for the team high with 25 RBI. Senior Kyle Robinson is batting .344 with a team-high four homers and has also driven in 25 runs. Sophomore Matt Reynolds is swinging the bat at a .333 clip with two homers and 15 RBI. Junior James McCann is hitting .309 with three homers and 16 RBI, while junior Bo Bigham is hitting .303 with a round-tripper and nine RBI.Sophomore lefty Cade Lynch will start the series opener on Friday. Lynch is 2-0 on the season with a 2.40 ERA in seven appearances, including five starts. Arkansas has not announced a starter for Saturday’s contest. In Sunday’s series finale, sophomore southpaw Randall Fant will get the starting nod. Fant has a 1-2 record and a 2.49 ERA in 10 appearances, with one start.Out of the bullpen, sophomore DJ Baxendale has pitched in nine games, with six of those outings in relief, and is 5-0 on the season with two saves and a 1.65 ERA. Freshman Nolan Sanburn has also pitched in nine games and is 1-1 with two saves and a 1.98 ERA.
One of the hottest teams in college baseball, Alabama has won eight of its last nine contests entering the weekend. The Crimson Tide, ranked 25th by Baseball America, are the early leaders in the SEC West with a 5-1 record and have a 19-8 overall record, including a 17-1 record at home. Alabama split a pair of games during the week, falling to UAB and defeating South Alabama. Last weekend, the Crimson Tide swept a three-game series from Kentucky in Tuscaloosa. As a team, Alabama is hitting .286, while the Crimson Tide pitching staff has compiled a 3.22 ERA.
Brock Bennett leads the Crimson Tide offensively, hitting a team-best .386 with 12 RBI. Jared Reaves has driven in a team-leading 23 runs and is batting .364 with a home run. Taylor Dugas is swinging the bat at a .365 clip with two homers, 11 RBI and a team-leading four stolen bases.
Alabama will go with the same weekend rotation it has used throughout the 2011 season. Senior right hander Nathan Kilcrease will take the mound in the series opener. Kilcrease is 3-1 with a 1.79 ERA. On Saturday, junior lefty Adam Morgan will get the start. Morgan is 3-1 with a 4.54 ERA. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Tucker Hawley will start Sunday’s series finale. Hawley has posted a 5-1 record with a 2.89 ERA.
Jonathan Smart has made a team-leading 12 appearances out of the bullpen. Smart has five saves on the year and is 1-0 with a 1.57 ERA. Brett Whitaker has saved two games and has a 1-0 record with a 2.45 ERA in 10 relief outings. Nathan Kennedy also has double-digit appearances this season, pitching in 11 games out of the bullpen with a 1-0 record and a 3.38 ERA.
Alabama holds a 38-24 lead in the series against Arkansas, including a 20-6 edge when the two teams meet in Tuscaloosa. Arkansas has dropped three of the last four series vs. Alabama and last claimed a series win in Tuscaloosa during the 2005 season. The Razorbacks swept a three-game series from the Crimson Tide last season at Baum Stadium.