JONESBORO, Ark. — Well, you’ve done it. You’ve forced my hand. I’m about to do what I swore against for years, and I’m doing it for you.
I’m about to write about baseball.
I’ve never been much of a fan of the sport (I have nothing against it, just preference), relying more on football and basketball for entertainment. When I started my sports writing journey, I claimed I would not ever write about it, mainly for the sake of the readers. I don’t follow it, so why should I speak on it?
Everything has changed as of late, though. I am still not an expert, very far from it in fact.
But this Arkansas team has won me over.
Being a lifelong Hog die-hard, I’ve covered the Razorbacks in football and basketball, but never baseball. Football was unwatchable this season, and I was disappointed in the finish for the basketball team (though extremely proud of their season as a whole). That led me down a dark path I never saw myself going down, or even considering.
I had to keep up with the Diamond Hogs.
It was rough for a while, as the games were rarely on a network I get, and, living in Jonesboro, going to a game is not a luxury but a full-weekend trip that costs money (that I don’t have). So, I was restricted to keeping up with scores as the season progressed while covering the NBA. Then, the perfect storm happened. My Boston Celtics lost, the NBA Finals were a bust, and Arkansas baseball was on television.
I’ve watched every NCAA Tournament game, so that makes me an expert, right?
Anyway, to make a long introduction even longer, the Arkansas Razorbacks are in the College World Series. How do they fare? That’s where I come in! Welcome to my first baseball article. I’m glad you could be a part of it.
COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
1 Florida vs 9 Texas Tech
5 Arkansas vs 13 Texas
6 North Carolina vs 3 Oregon State
Washington vs Mississippi State
The Razorbacks are just three wins away from making the College World Series Finals, and five wins from being crowned champions. Unless they lose one of their first two games, that is, and then those numbers shift to four and six, but I digress.
They have been one of the better teams throughout the postseason, with just two losses and one close call since the start of the SEC Tournament. The Regional was never really in question, and with the Super Regional on the line, the Diamond Hogs put on their best performance of the year with the stakes at an all-time high, winning 14-4 over South Carolina to clinch their spot in Omaha.
A lot of this success should be attributed to the overwhelming home-field advantage the Razorbacks have. After going 30-3 in the regular season at Baum Stadium, the Hogs went 5-1 at home in postseason play, in front of 11,000+ fans on a nightly basis. The Super Regionals alone brought in the third- (11,722), fifth- (11,481) and sixth- (11,217) largest crowds in Baum Stadium history. The final tally for Super Regional attendance over the three games was 34,420. Oregon State set their attendance record as well, with a whopping 4,025 fans in the seats. Just for some perspective.
Here’s how the Hogs have fared this postseason:
Beat South Carolina and Florida
Lost to LSU
Beat Oral Roberts, Southern Miss, and Dallas Baptist
Vs South Carolina
Now, Baum Stadium is closed for the season, as everything shifts to the Promised Land of college baseball: Omaha, Nebraska.
Will the Diamond Hogs be able to do it away from home? Road struggles are real for every team, but ours seem to be a little worse. Are they, though, or do they SEEM to be bad, due to how overwhelmingly great we are at home (35-4 at Baum, 9-15 away from Baum)? For some perspective, Florida, the top team in the country and defending champs, went 31-6 at home and 16-13 away from home (neutral sites included).
Some notable opponents we played away from home include (rankings are at the time of play, not current):
- 2 Florida (1-2)
- 4 Ole Miss (1-2)
- LSU (1-2)
- 13 Georgia (1-2)
Have we struggled away from Fayetteville? Yes. Was it against elite competition? For the most part. Eight of the 15 losses were to opponents ranked in the top-15.
The difference between those woes and our upcoming games is simple though. Those were ROAD games, whereas no one is playing at home in Omaha. At a neutral site, it’s anyone’s game.
That may be good news for teams like Texas and Texas Tech, whom the Razorbacks defeated earlier in the season at Baum Stadium.
Speaking of which, how do the Hogs look head-to-head against the CWS field?
Record vs CWS Teams:
|Texas Tech||1-0 (Home)|
|Florida||2-2 (1-2 Road, 1-0 Neutral)|
|Miss State||0-3 (Road)|
|Washington||Did Not Play|
|Oregon State||Did Not Play|
|North Carolina||Did Not Play|
The way I see it, you can look at these records in two different ways. Perhaps a third as well, but we’ll get to that…
Option 1: Optimism
“We’re 5-2 against teams on our side. The only two losses were on the road to No. 1 Florida, and they’ve been cold lately. The last time we saw them, it was at a neutral site and we won 8-2! I love our chances to make the championship! Even if we get there and face Mississippi State, do you really think we can’t avenge that road sweep? This isn’t Starkvegas! This is Omaha! Championship or bust baby!”
Option 2: Pessimism (I saw this one first hand on Twitter)
“We only beat Texas because we were at home. They’re going to thump us. Same with Texas Tech. No way we would have beaten them away from Baum. We suck away from home. The only reason we made it this far is because we hosted all the way through. Florida is the defending National Champ. We got lucky when we beat them in the SEC Tournament. All the teams on the other side are better than us. We might as well pack up and go home. We’ve peaked. Fire the coach, he’s garbage.”
There is legend of a mystical THIRD option, but I’m not sure this one exists in the world of sports, especially in the state of Arkansas. It is…
Option 3: Being Rational
“Wow, making the College World Series is a great accomplishment. I think we’ve got a good shot at making the Championship if we take care of business. There are no strangers on our side. We know them all. We played them at home and won (Texas, Texas Tech), but this is a whole different ballgame. We’ve beat them before and we can do it again, but we can’t rely on the past to promote the future. If we get to play Florida, it will be a fight for our lives. They’re colder now than they have been at points in the season, but they’re the champions until someone proves otherwise. It’s hard to win in Omaha. Eight teams left will become just two. We have a realistic chance, and I feel hopeful, but if we don’t win the whole thing, it’s not a letdown. It will hurt in the moment, but once we reflect, it’s been a dream season for any program. Even though I say that, I’m not losing faith of us hoisting the trophy when it’s all said and done.”
If you want to know where I fall, I’m taking Option 3. In fact, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The guy that wrote that has such a way with words.
5 Arkansas vs 13 Texas, Omaha Nebraska
Sunday, June 17, 1:00 P.M. CT, ESPN
Woo Pig, and Nevertheless, Beat Texas
Photo via WholeHogSports.com