FAYETTEVILLE – Riding a seven-game win streak, the No. 10 University of Arkansas returns to Southeastern Conference play this weekend to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. The three-game series is scheduled to begin Friday with a 6:35 p.m. first pitch at Baum Stadium. Saturday’s game two is slated for a 2:05 p.m. start while the series finale is set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Arkansas (20-5, 4-2 SEC) enters the weekend off a midweek sweep of Centenary at Baum Stadium. The Razorbacks outscored their opponent, 27-6, during the two games and posted a .368 team batting average; the Gents hit just .103 against the Arkansas pitching staff. The Hogs’ current seven-game win streak matches the team’s season-long streak from earlier this season.
In the all-time series, the Razorbacks hold a 26-17 advantage over Kentucky. The two teams haven’t squared off since the 2007 season when Arkansas took two of three in Lexington. In the last series played in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks also won two of three in 2006.
"We’ve got a big series this weekend against Kentucky, which started the season really well," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Since conference started, they’ve had to play two of the best teams, at home against Ole and then on the road at Vandy, and lost a couple of close games.
"They’re in the same boat we’re in. They played two games this week and they’re probably feeling the same way we are with the grind of the season catching up to everybody. Kentucky was touting a great pitching staff with some good left-handed pitching and a big right hander. We feel like we’ve got our hands full and it’s like that every weekend in league play."
Zack Cox, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, paces the Hogs and is second in the conference with his .414 batting average. Cox is also third in the SEC in hits (41) and runs scored (31), tied for fifth in walks (20) and fifth in on-base percentage (.516). In addition to Cox, Arkansas’ lineup features five players-Cox, Collin Kuhn, Bo Bigham, Andy Wilkins and Brett Eibner-hitting better than .300. Wilkins is tied for the SEC lead with 10 home runs and sits in second place with 34 RBI.
On the mound, the Razorbacks carry a 3.19 team ERA, the second-lowest mark in the SEC. Arkansas is scheduled to start Mike Bolsinger, Drew Smyly and Eibner against the Wildcats. Bolsinger is 3-0 this season with a 3.18 ERA. Smyly (2-0, 1.69 ERA) is second in the conference with his ERA and tied for eighth with 36 strikeouts. In six appearances, Eibner has a 2.28 ERA, the ninth-best figure in the league. As the Hogs’ closer, DJ Baxendale is second in the SEC with six saves.
Kentucky (17-9, 1-5) lost to No. 18 Western Kentucky, 6-3, in its last outing. The Wildcats are led at the plate by Chris Bison. The junior infielder has a .383 batting average and a team-best .468 on-base percentage. Cory Farris leads Kentucky with six home runs, and Gunner Glad has a team-high 21 RBI.
The Wildcats’ starting rotation is set to feature Logan Darnell (3-2, 3.79 ERA), Taylor Rogers (3-2, 3.99 ERA) and Alex Meyers (4-2, 6.15 ERA) this weekend. At the end of the staff, Matt Little is tied for third in the conference with four saves. Kentucky is ranked No. 30 this week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Fans can listen to this weekens’s action on the Razorback Sports Network from ISP. Chuck Barrett will be in the booth as the network’s play-by-play announcer. There will also be audio and video streams available at the online home of Razorback athletics, ArkansasRazorbacks.com.