FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – On the proverbial bubble for the 64-team NCAA Baseball Tournament, the Arkansas Razorbacks were happy to see their name flash on the screen during ESPN’s tournament selection show at 11:30 a.m. on Monday. The Razorbacks travel to Palo Alto, Calif., this weekend to play in the Stanford Regional.
Arkansas (34-22, 14-15 SEC) was uneasy on its stance for the NCAA field after failing to qualify for the Southeastern Conference Tournament by ½ game, but a strong RPI and a solid record against the top teams in the nation pushed the Diamond Hogs into the field.
“I really didn’t know what would happen,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We are just excited to be going and didn’t care where they sent us. It was no fun practicing without knowing if we would be playing. This is the first time that I’ve been in this situation in a long time. I just appreciate that the NCAA Committee stuck with us despite not making the SEC Tournament.”
The Razorbacks now prepare to take on the #2 seed in the regional, Pepperdine (36-19, 15-6 West Coast). The regional host and #1 seed Stanford, plays #4 seed Cal-Davis in the other game.
Arkansas’ game with Pepperdine on Friday afternoon (3 p.m. CT) is the first time the two teams have met since June 1, 1979 when the Razorbacks took down the Waves 5-4 in Arkansas’ first appearance at the College World Series. The Razorbacks have played Stanford three times over the years, twice at a regional and once in the College World Series. Arkansas and Cal-Davis have never met.
Pepperdine is led at the plate by Eric Thames who over 49 games this season is hitting .407 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI. Thames is by far the most dangerous bat in the Waves lineup, but not the only hitter Arkansas’ pitchers will have to worry about. Bryce Mendonca and Matt Aidem are both hitting over .320 for the season and do an excellent job of getting on base for Thames. On the mound, Pepperdine has a trio of seven-win pitchers in Nathan Newman, Scott Alexander and Matt Bywater. All three hurlers have earned run averages below 5.00.
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