Never mind that the LSU Tigers aren’t ranked and that they sit seven games behind the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC West standings.
The Hogs’ series with the Tigers at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., still looms ominously over Arkansas’ heads as a danger zone despite the fact Arkansas hasn’t lost an SEC series all season and that the Razorbacks are leading the nation in home runs and walks.
The Tigers (25-15, 6-12 SEC) remain a dangerous beast until properly tamed, which the Hogs (32-7, 13-5) will attempt to do in a series that begins at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Next up for the No. 1 Razorbacks
Opponent: at LSU
When: 6 p.m. Friday, April 30
Where: Baton Rouge, LA
Television: SEC Network
Saturday, May 1 – at LSU, SEC Network+
Sunday, May 1 – at LSU, SEC Network+
Saturday and Sunday’s games will be at 6:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively and streamed on the SEC Network Plus.
Why the concern with the Tigers, who took two of three games from Ole Miss last week and has won five of their last nine games?
Despite the success the Razorbacks have had overall under head coach Dave Van Horn, the Hogs have struggled against LSU. Arkansas has lost seven consecutive series to the Tigers, and has not won a series in Baton Rouge since 2004. The Razorbacks have never won a series in Alex Box Stadium, which debuted as the home of the Tigers in 2009.
It may be a coincidence, but it seems the powers that be in Louisiana hope to keep that streak of success alive. Louisiana lifted all Covid-19 restrictions on attendance and mask wearing starting today for outdoor sporting events. So the Hogs should expect the 10,326-seat stadium to be packed with rowdy fans hankering for a three-day pig roast.
So, when the series opens tonight, the Razorbacks will not only be battling the Tigers but also history in the minds of both sets of fans.
However, history usually doesn’t mean a whole lot to 18 to 22 year olds, and more importantly this Razorback squad has rounded into one of the most resilient teams Van Horn has fielded since taking over the program in 2003.
The Razorbacks have earned their spot as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. The Hogs have yet to surrender a series this season against one of the toughest if not the toughest schedules in the nation.
The Razorbacks’ batting average of .280 may not seem that intimidating, but the Hogs lead the nation in home runs with 74 and walks with 240 in their 39 games, giving opposing pitchers fits. Designated hitter Matt Goodheart leads the Razorbacks with 11 homers, followed by second baseman Robert Moore and first baseman Brady Slavens with 10.
Freshmen right fielder Dylan Crews and first baseman Tre’ Morgan lead LSU offensively. Crews has a .362 batting average with 10 homers. Morgan boasts .358 batting average and leads the Tigers with 12 doubles and three triples. They have combined for 39 extra-base hits and have a combined 21 stolen bases out of 26 tries in their first season for the Tigers.
Van Horn is calling upon lefty Patrick Wicklander (2-1, 2.20 ERA) to start for the Hogs on Friday for the fifth time this season, with Peyton Pallette (1-2, 3.98) schedule to go on Saturday. Van Horn wasn’t ready to announce Sunday’s starter, which is an indicator that he will hold nothing back in either of the first two games to get a win. LSU is expected to start Landon Marceaux (4-3, 2.10 ERA) on Friday.
Van Horn is about as even-keeled as a head baseball coach can be, but this is no doubt a series he would like for his Razorbacks to win based on the history as well as the Razorbacks’ positioning in SEC play.
The No. 2 Vanderbilt Commodores (31-7, 13-5) are neck and neck with the Hogs for the overall SEC lead and a half game ahead of No 4 Tennessee (33-10, 13-6) in the SEC East. The Commodores begin a series with No. 14 Florida (23-5, 11-7) tonight, while the Vols continue their series with Kentucky (25-14, 9-10).
By a quirk of scheduling, the Razorbacks finish their play in the Western Division this weekend. The Hogs’ final three SEC series will be played against Eastern Division opponents Georgia on May 7-9 at Baum-Walker Stadium, Tennessee on May 14-16 in Knoxville, and Florida on May 20-22 at Baum-Walker Stadium.