FAYETTEVILLE – After taking two of three games from No. 5 Florida last weekend, the Arkansas baseball team sets its sights on another top five Eastern Division opponent this weekend as it faces No. 4 South Carolina in the final road series of the 2011 regular season. First pitch against the Gamecocks is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.All three games of the series will be televised. Friday’s game will be shown nationally on ESPNU, while Saturday’s game will be on SportSouth and Sunday’s contest on CST. Fans can listen to all three games on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG College. Saturday’s game will be available on Sirius XM College SportsNation, which is channel 91 on Sirius and XM satellite radio. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett will call the action.The Razorbacks, ranked as high as 16th in the country, are currently 32-15 overall and 12-12 in Southeastern Conference. Arkansas is currently tied for first place in the SEC Western Division with Alabama with six conference games remaining. Last weekend, the Razorbacks took two of three games from No. 5 Florida at Baum Stadium. Dominic Ficociello drove in five runs and hit .333 in the series en route to being named SEC Freshman of the Week for the second time this season. Bo Bigham hit .308 in the series, while Tim Carver batted .300 over the three games. Arkansas did not play any midweek games earlier this week due to final exams.Ficociello leads Arkansas with a .346 batting average on the season with four homers and a team-high 43 RBI. James McCann is hitting .318 on the year and has six homers and 27 RBI. Kyle Robinson is batting .304 with a team-high seven homers and 37 RBI. Sophomore right-handed pitcher DJ Baxendale will start Friday’s series opener. Baxendale, who threw a complete game against Florida in his last start, is 7-1 on the season with a 1.58 ERA. Sophomore lefty Randall Fant will start Saturday’s game. Fant has compiled a 2-3 record with a 3.09 ERA. The Razorbacks have not announced a starter for Sunday’s series finale.
In relief, freshman Nolan Sanburn has appeared in a team-high 21 games and currently carries a 2-4 record with eight saves and a 3.72 ERA. Redshirt sophomore Trent Daniel has pitched in 19 games, all out of the bullpen, and is 2-0 with one save and a 2.08 ERA. Freshman Barrett Astin has compiled a 4-1 record with a save and a 2.79 ERA in 20 outings, 18 in relief.
A consensus top five team, South Carolina enters the weekend with a 39-10 record and a 18-6 mark in league play. South Carolina is currently tied for second in the SEC Eastern Division, a game behind Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks have posted an impressive 28-3 home record in 2011. South Carolina is coming off a pair of midweek victories, defeating Presbyterian and Charleston Southern. The Gamecocks suffered their first series loss of 2011 last weekend at Ole Miss, dropping two of three games to the Rebels. South Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC in hitting (.296), third in team ERA (2.69) and leads the league in fielding percentage (.977).
Christian Walker leads South Carolina in all three of the triple crown categories, hitting .372 with nine homers and 50 RBI. Brady Thomas is batting .333 with four round-trippers and 36 RBI, while Scott Wingo is swinging the bat at a .315 clip with three homers and 23 RBI.
South Carolina Friday night starter Michael Roth has been one of the top pitchers in the SEC this season, currently leading the league with 10 wins and ranking second with a 1.23 ERA. Freshman right hander Forrest Koumas will start Saturday’s game for South Carolina. Koumas is 5-0 on the year with a 3.14 ERA. The Gamecocks have not announced a starter for Sunday’s contest.
Out of the bullpen, John Taylor leads the SEC with a 0.94 ERA and has a 4-1 record in a conference-leading 32 appearances. Gamecock closer Matt Price has saved 13 games on the season and has a 4-3 record with a 2.06 ERA in 24 relief outings. Bryan Harper has pitched in 19 games and is 1-0 with one save and a 4.24 ERA.
Arkansas and South Carolina have met 51 times previously with the Razorbacks holding a 29-22 edge. In games played in Columbia, the Gamecocks hold a slight 11-10 edge. Arkansas has won six of the last seven regular season series, including winning the last three series played in Columbia. South Carolina won all three games from Arkansas during the 2010 season.