IBTIT: #16 Tennessee at #6 Arkansas Baseball Series Preview (April 14-16)
Recently: Tennessee run-ruled Florida 14-2 on Saturday, then did the same to Eastern Kentucky in the midweek game by the exact same score. And nothing else happened in the last week nope not a thing.
Ok, I suppose there should be some mention of UT's other two games against the Gators. Pick your poison: the lack of bats or the letdown on the mound. Florida’s domination was pretty thorough through the first two games of the weekend. For example, Florida had 48 total bases in the series to UT's 39, and that's after the Vols exploded offensively on Saturday to make the series totals look a little respectable. The damage had been done in games 1 and 2 though.
The SEC baseball season is brutal, every week it seems you're in a series against an elite team. But if Tennessee wants to be among those elite teams, they've got to start pushing runs across the plate. The Vols stranded 31 runners over the weekend against Florida. That's a baffling number, especially when compared to UF's 13 men left on base. Even in their 14-2 victory on Saturday, Tennessee stranded 13, as many as Florida did all series.
And that's just the offense, I haven't even mentioned the ballooning ERAs of the Vols' #1 and #2 starters. Chase Dollander has a 6.00 ERA in SEC play, and Chase Burns has an ERA of 11.62, with 10 doubles and 8 home runs racked up against him, too. I almost feel bad typing those numbers out, like I'm picking on the the kid, but yikes dog. Burns has struck out 30 batters, which is pretty great.
Anyway, on to Fayetteville.
Previously on Vols vs. Hogs: Tennessee is just 29-39 all-time against Arkansas, including losing the last two and eight of the last ten. However, the two clubs have played only sparingly over the last several years, not meeting at all in 2022 or the shortened 2020 season.
What To Watch: After facing two of the most prolific offenses in America in LSU and Florida, Tennessee gets to see what is just an average offense by SEC standards in Arkansas. Of course, average by SEC standards is still really good. Arkansas outfielders Jace Bohrofen, Tavian Josenberger, Jared Wegner provide most of the Razorbacks' offense, with Bohrofen batting an impressive .422 and .467 on balls in play. Here's the KAT STATSTM:
Couple of things stand out to me. First, does Dave Van Horn shop exclusively at Ned Flanders' Leftorium? They're all lefties. Five of Arkansas' six best hitters are left-handed or switch. Two of their projected starters are lefties. DVH must hate Matthew McConaughey.
I also noticed that Arkansas is one of the SEC's best at turning double plays. This actually does concern me. With the difficulty Tennessee is already having leaving men on base, it sounds like a recipe for disaster if baserunners are getting on and setting up DPs for the Hogs. Thankfully Tennessee as been among the SEC's best at not grounding into double plays, so hopefully that trend continues.
So what are Tennessee's chances in this series? Thankfully, Arkansas' pitching staff isn't untouchable. They have a milquetoast 5.09 ERA and the league's second-worst batting average against at .273. That should mean there will be opportunities Vols to start gathering momentum at the plate. On the other hand, life on the road in the SEC is hard, Arkansas is a darn good team, and the history between DVH and Tony Vitello will likely have emotions high in this series.
As of writing this on Thursday afternoon, neither team has announced starting pitchers for the weekend, making predicting the series tough. Arkansas has used four different starters their last two series, and Tennessee has not announced if Chase Burns is keeping his spot as #2 starter or if a shakeup is coming in the rotation.