FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The top-ranked Arkansas baseball team opens the 2013 season this weekend as it hosts Western Illinois at Baum Stadium. Game times are scheduled for 3:05 p.m. on Friday, 12:05 p.m. on Saturday and 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.
All three games of the weekend series will be available on RazorVision through ArkansasRazorbacks.com and on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett and former Arkansas Sports Information Director Rick Schaeffer will call the action on Friday and Sunday. Kyle Kellams will have the call for Saturday’s game. A live blog and live stats for each game will be available on ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also follow updates of each game on @RazorbackBSB, the official Twitter account of the Razorback baseball team.
Season tickets for Arkansas’ 34-game home schedule are still on sale. Season tickets are $190 for adults and $140 for University of Arkansas staff, youth and senior citizens. Season tickets may be purchased by calling 1-800-982-HOGS (4647) or by visiting the online ticket center at ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Single-game tickets for this weekend’s series are available on gameday at Baum Stadium. Single-game tickets are $10 for reserved seats and $8 for general admission.
Along with several exciting in-game promotions, a couple of giveaways are planned for the weekend series. On Friday, fans can pick up a copy of the 2013 baseball schedule poster sponsored by Pepsi and AT&T. On Saturday, the 2013 baseball schedule magnet sponsored by Pepsi and AT&T will be given away.
The Razorbacks enter the season as the nation’s No. 1 team for the first time in program history. Arkansas is the top-ranked team in three of the five college baseball polls. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll and the Collegiate Baseball poll. Arkansas is second in the Perfect Game preseason poll and third in the Baseball America poll.
Arkansas returns 17 letterwinners from last year’s team that finished with a 46-22 record and advanced to the College World Series for the seventh time in program history, finishing in a tie for third. The 46 victories were the most for the Razorbacks under head coach Dave Van Horn and the most in a season since the 1990 team won 47 games.
On the mound, the Razorbacks return 10 pitchers from last year’s pitching staff that finished the season with a 2.83 team ERA, the second-lowest single-season ERA in program history. Arkansas’ pitching staff had 10 shutouts, which also ranked as the second-highest total in a season. The Arkansas pitching staff is led by preseason All-Americans Ryne Stanek and Colby Suggs. Stanek, who will start Friday’s season opener, finished his sophomore year with an 8-4 record and a 2.82 ERA in 17 games, while Suggs made 30 appearances out of the bullpen and compiled a 7-1 record with a 1.38 ERA. Junior Barrett Astin is scheduled to get the ball in Saturday’s game. Astin appeared in a team-high 32 games in 2012 and had a 3-5 record with a team-leading 11 saves. Redshirt senior Trent Daniel will start the series finale on Sunday. Daniel had a 2-0 record with one save and a 5.06 ERA last season.
Other returning pitchers include senior Randall Fant (2-3, 3.27 ERA), sophomore Michael Gunn (1-0, 2.57 ERA), senior Cade Lynch (3-1, 2 saves, 2.11 ERA), junior Brandon Moore (5-2, 3 saves, 2.43 ERA), sophomore Chris Oliver (1-0, 3.86 ERA) and senior Tyler Wright (1-0, 2.60 ERA).
Offensively, Arkansas finished the 2012 season with a team batting average of .271. The Razorbacks bring back six position players who made 30 or more starts during the 2012 season. The Razorbacks are led at the plate by preseason All-American Dominic Ficociello who hit .290 with six home runs and 41 RBI last season. Brian Anderson, who earned freshman All-SEC honors from SEBaseball.com, hit .283 with two homers and 11 RBI in his rookie season. Jacob Mahan played in 45 games, including 37 starts, and had a .257 batting average with 18 RBI. Jake Wise started 49 games at catcher and played in 60 games total, hitting .244 with two round-trippers and 25 RBI. Jacob Morris played in 52 games, with 49 starts, and had a .236 batting average with three homers and 23 RBI, while Matt Vinson batted .217 with 13 RBI in 49 games, including 36 starts. Joe Serrano put together a .333 batting average with seven RBI last season, including a .444 batting average in Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament run.