Arkansas announced its 2006 baseball schedule on Thursday and it features the Razorbacks first trip to Hawaii since 1991 and 24 games against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Hogs are coming off of a trip to the finals of the NCAA Austin Regional in 2005 where they just missed upsetting eventual national champion Texas on their home field.
“I think we were able to put together an outstanding schedule for the upcoming season,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “When you play in a league the caliber of the SEC, you have to put a non-conference schedule together that prepares you for that level of competition.”
The Razorbacks open the season on Feb. 10-12 with a round-robin tournament at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. The Hogs will face Oklahoma State, George Mason and South Alabama. The following week the Hogs continue the season-opening road swing with a trip to Edinburgh, Texas, for a round-robin tournament at Texas Pan-America.
The home portion of the schedule opens on Thursday, Feb. 23, when Louisiana Tech visits Baum Stadium for a three-game series that continues on Friday and Saturday. The Thursday through Saturday series allows the Razorbacks a chance to make their flight bound for Hawaii and the four-team Rainbow Baseball Tournament on Feb. 28 through March 4.
The Rainbow Baseball Tournament consists of round-robin action followed by semifinals, consolation finals and finals. The field consists of Arkansas, Washington, Texas-Arlington and host Hawaii. It is only Arkansas’ third trip to the Hawaii Islands in school history with the previous visits coming in 1987 and 1991.
The Razorbacks return home for a three-game set and SEC tune-up with Cal State Northridge on March 10-12 at Baum Stadium.
The following weekend the Hogs begin spring break and conference play at defending SEC Champion and NCAA runner-up Florida. The Razorbacks and Gators split four games last year. With spring break in full swing back in Fayetteville, the Hogs return to the friendly confines of Baum Stadium for a five-game home stand that begins with a two-game, mid-week series against Centenary on March 21-22.
A three-game set with the Georgia Bulldogs follows on March 24-26 to open the Hogs home SEC schedule. It will be the meeting between the two schools since the 2003 season after the Bulldogs rotated off the SEC schedule in 2004 and 2005.
Wichita State returns to the schedule in 2006 with a mid-week game in Wichita on March 28. The Razorbacks return to Baum Stadium for a three-game series with CWS participant Tennessee on March 31-April 2. The first of a home-and-home series with Missouri State follows on April 4 in Fayetteville. Arkansas returns the trip to Springfield, Mo. the following week on April 11.
In between the two mid-week games with Missouri State, the Razorbacks travel to Nashville, Tenn., for a three-game conference series with Vanderbilt on April 7-9. UA is 7-2 against the Commodores in Van Horn’s three seasons.
The Hogs will be looking for a little payback the following weekend (April 14-16) when up-and-coming Kentucky visits Baum Stadium. The Wildcats stole two-of-three games from Arkansas last season in Lexington.
A two-game set with Northern Colorado on April 18-19 in Fayetteville precedes a trip to Starkville, Miss., (April 21-23) and maybe the team that gives the Hogs the most fits. Mississippi State is 7-2 against Arkansas over the last three seasons.
Arkansas hosts Oral Roberts on April 25 in the first of a home-and-home series before venturing to Baton Rouge, La., and a series with LSU on April 28-30. The Razorbacks swept the Tigers at Alex Box Stadium in 2004 and LSU returned the favor last season at Baum Stadium.
The Hogs open the month of May by finishing their home-and-home series with Oral Roberts on Tuesday, May 2, in Tulsa. Arkansas set the school record of home runs in a game with eight last year at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
Alabama visits Baum Stadium on May 5-7 as new Arkansas assistant Coach Todd Butler faces his former team. The Razorbacks won their first series in Tuscaloosa in 10 years in 2005 and the Crimson Tide will be looking for revenge.
A trip to Ole Miss follows the next weekend (May 12-14) as Arkansas looks to avenge last year’s sweep at the hands of the Rebels.
The Razorbacks close out the 2006 regular season at home against the Auburn Tigers. The series will begin on Thursday, May 18 and conclude on Saturday, May 20, as the SEC allows the teams an extra day with the conference tournament scheduled for May 24-28 in Hoover, Ala.
NCAA Regionals will begin on June 2-5 at sites to be determined at a later date. The NCAA Super Regionals follow on June 9-12 with the survivors headed to the College World Series. The CWS will run from June 16-25/26 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.