HOOVER, Ala. – After wrapping up its fourth Southeastern Conference Western Division title, the Arkansas baseball team opens play at the SEC Tournament on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., facing seventh-seed Alabama at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.Wednesday’s game will be televised by CSS and available in Northwest Arkansas on CST. Fans can also listen to the game 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 will also be available on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.The Razorbacks, ranked as high as 18th in the country, are the second seed in the SEC Tournament and enter the postseason with a 36-18 overall record. Arkansas is in the SEC Tournament for the eighth time under head coach Dave Van Horn and for the third straight year. Arkansas took two of three games from Ole Miss over the weekend, sweeping a doubleheader on Saturday after losing the series opener last Thursday. Collin Kuhn homered in each game of the series and drove in five of Arkansas’ eight runs, while Tim Carver went 3-for-7 in the series with a RBI and two stolen bases.All-SEC Freshman Team honoree Dominic Ficociello leads Arkansas with a .349 batting average on the season with four homers and a team-high 47 RBI. SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year James McCann is hitting .309 on the year and has six homers and 29 RBI. Bo Bigham is batting .291 with two homers and 16 RBI.Arkansas is expected to start sophomore lefty Randall Fant on Wednesday against Alabama. Fant is 3-3 on the season with a 3.24 ERA in 18 appearances, including nine starts. Fant started the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Ole Miss and finished just two outs shy of his first complete game, throwing 6.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
All-SEC Second Team selection DJ Baxendale will start on Thursday against either Florida or Mississippi State. The sophomore right hander has an 8-2 record with a 1.62 ERA, which ranks second in the SEC. Baxendale pitched twice in the series against Ole Miss, starting the series opener on Thursday, allowing just two runs with a career-high eight strikeouts in 8.1 innings. In the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Baxendale came out of the bullpen and pitched a shutout ninth inning, getting the final three outs to clinch the Western Division title.
Out of the bullpen, Barrett Astin, Trent Daniel and Nolan Sanburn each tie for the team lead with 23 appearances. Astin is 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA, Daniel is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA and Sanburn has a 2-4 record with a team-high eight saves and a 3.73 ERA.
Alabama enters the SEC Tournament with a 32-24 overall record and a 14-16 mark in the SEC. The Crimson Tide finished tied for second in the Western Division, but earned the seventh seed in the conference tournament due to tiebreakers. Alabama dropped two of three games to South Carolina in the final series of the regular season last weekend in Tuscaloosa. As a team, the Crimson Tide is hitting .277, while the pitching staff has a 3.75 ERA.
Brock Bennett leads Alabama offensively with a .354 batting average. Bennett has also driven in 22 runs. Taylor Dugas, an All-SEC Second Team selection, is hitting .343 on the season with a team-high five homers and also has 27 RBI. Jared Reaves has driven in a team-best 44 runs and has hit four home runs while batting .341.
Alabama is scheduled to start senior right-handed pitcher Nathan Kilcrease in the tournament opener on Wednesday. Kilcrease is 6-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 14 appearances, all starts. Kilcrease, who has two complete games on the season, went the distance in his last start on Thursday against South Carolina, allowing an unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts.
Alabama closer Jonathan Smart has appeared in a team-leading 27 games, 22 in relief, and has nine saves with a 4-2 record and a 2.34 ERA. Brett Whitaker has pitched out of the bullpen 16 times and is 1-0 with two saves and a 2.70 ERA. Trey Pilkington has made 18 appearances in 2011 and has compiled a 2-3 record with a 4.28 ERA.
Arkansas trails the series against Alabama, 25-40. The two teams have met six times previously at a neutral site with the Crimson Tide holding a 4-2 edge. Arkansas dropped two of three games to Alabama in the regular season series.