FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas opens a stretch of eight games in nine days this weekend as it travels to Athens, Ga., for a three-game series with the Georgia Bulldogs. Game times are set for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, 12 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.Two games of this weekend’s series will be televised with Saturday’s game being shown nationally on ESPN2 and Sunday’s game being shown on CST. Audio of all three games will be available on the RazorVision portal at ArkansasRazorbacks.com and on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG College. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett will call the action. A live blog and live stats of the game will also be available on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
The series against Georgia begins the most demanding stretch of the 2011 season for the Razorbacks. Following this weekend’s series, Arkansas will have an off day on Monday before playing for five straight days. The Razorbacks host Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday and Wednesday night and fifth-ranked Florida comes to town for a three-game series that runs Thursday-Saturday.Arkansas, ranked as high as 14th in the country, is 28-11 on the season and 9-9 in SEC play. With 12 games left on the conference schedule, the Razorbacks are in a three-way tie for first in the Western Division with Auburn and Ole Miss. Arkansas’ scheduled midweek game against Saint Louis was canceled due to inclement weather. Last weekend, the Razorbacks dropped two of three games at Kentucky.Freshman Dominic Ficociello leads Arkansas with a .328 batting average on the season with two homers and 31 RBI. Senior Kyle Robinson is batting .313 with a team-high seven homers and 34 RBI. Junior James McCann, a nominee for the Johnny Bench Award, has added six homers and 24 RBI, while hitting .305.Sophomore right-handed pitcher DJ Baxendale is scheduled to start Friday’s series opener. Baxendale is 5-1 with a 1.54 ERA this season. On Saturday, sophomore southpaw Randall Fant will take the mound. Fant has a 1-2 record and a 2.81 ERA on the year. Arkansas has not announced a starter for the series wrap-up on Sunday.
NCBWA Stopper of the Year nominee Nolan Sanburn has appeared in a team-high 18 games and leads the team with eight saves. Sanburn, a freshman right hander, has a 2-2 record with a 2.22 ERA. Freshman Barrett Astin has pitched in 17 games, 15 in relief, and is 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA. Redshirt sophomore Trent Daniel is 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 16 appearances and earned his second win of the season last Sunday at Kentucy. Georgia enters the weekend series with a 22-20 overall record and an 11-7 mark in conference games. The Bulldogs, who have faced one of the toughest schedules in the country, are currently fourth in the difficult SEC East, three games behind division leaders Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Georgia picked up an impressive midweek victory on Tuesday night, defeating No. 12 Georgia Tech, 6-4, at Turner Field in Atlanta. Last weekend, the Bulldogs went on the road and took two of three games at Tennessee. As a team, Georgia is hitting .277, while the Bulldog pitching staff has a 4.68 team ERA.
Levi Hyams paces the Georgia offense, hitting .345 with a homer and 25 RBI. Kyle Farmer leads the SEC with 44 RBI and has hit six homers, while batting .302. Jonathan Hester is hitting just below .300 on the season, currently hitting .296 with four homers and 17 RBI.
Georgia will start sophomore left hander Alex Wood on Friday night. Wood has a 4-4 record with a 4.15 ERA on the season. On Saturday, the Bulldogs turn to junior right-handed pitcher Michael Palazzone. Palazzone has been excellent in 2011, compiling a 7-1 record with a 2.38 ERA. On Sunday, redshirt junior southpaw Craig Gullickson is the projected starter. Gullickson is 3-2 with a 7.11 ERA.
Blake Dieterich has appeared in a team-leading 20 games for Georgia, all in relief. Dieterich has a 1-3 record with two saves a 2.30 ERA. Tyler Maloof is the Bulldog closer, having saved 14 games this season with an 8.62 ERA in 19 appearances. Earl Daniels has pitched in 16 games and is 0-0 with a 4.15 ERA.
Arkansas holds a slim 23-17 lead in the all-time series against Georgia in 40 previous meetings. The Bulldogs lead 10-7 when the two teams meet in Athens. Georgia has won three of the last five regular season series. Last season, the Razorbacks swept Georgia in a three-game series at Baum Stadium.