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2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 11, Arkansas

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Last season: 46-21 (18-12 in the SEC), reached the CWS
Final standings: No. 4
Coach (register at school): Dave Van Horn (796-423, 20 seasons)

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The good news: Arkansas brought back the bulk of the staff that helped it last season reach the College World Series, falling by just one win from play for the national title. Veterans like Conor Noland, Cole Ramage and Zebulon Vermillion are gone, but rookies Will McIntyre, Hagen Smith and Jackson Wiggins will return, as will key relievers Zack Morris and Brady Tygart. Smith and Teggart were freshmen last season and pitched in important roles, which has them poised for more in 2023. Wiggins is one of the toughest pitchers in the country with an excellent edge. Morris is unexpectedly back for Season 4 in Fayetteville and could play in a variety of roles with the Razorbacks.

The bad news: While Arkansas has plenty on its staff, its lineup faces the opposite situation. The Razorbacks lost seven regular players from last year’s team, with running back Peyton Stovall and veteran player Brady Slavens. The Slavens’ 16 home runs tied last year are the most on the team, and it’s a welcome boost for the Razorbacks. But they still have to replace a lot of production. Jace Bohrofen and Kendall Diggs will be called upon for bigger roles in 2023, but the Razorbacks will mostly be newcomers in the lineup. Outfielders Tavian Josenberger (Kansas) and Jared Wegner (Creighton) are two experienced hitters going to school, while junior college players Caleb Cali and Harold Coll are sexy positives. Arkansas will need newcomers to match their offense and defense, as the Razorbacks have been one of the best defensive teams in the country for the past two years. Replacing the midfield from Jalen Battles and Robert Moore won’t be easy, but finding the right balance between offense and defense is crucial.

Player to know: Jaxon Wiggins, RHP.

Wiggins has a large right arm and has run a fastball up to 100 mph in shorts and high 90s as a junior. His high-octane stunt stuff gives him a huge positive side, and he was on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He’s also still learning how to harness it, however, and last year he went 6-3 and 6.55 with 82 strikeouts and 43 walks in 66 innings pitched. If Wiggins is at his best in 2023, he could give Arkansas a head start capable of matching up with anyone in the SEC. With that in mind, his evolution is one of the main stories to watch.

The road to Omaha: Last year Arkansas found itself in the opposite position to this year – an experienced lineup, but a greener staff. The Razorbacks finished a game behind Texas A&M in the SEC standings and made it to Omaha. Now, they’ll try to do that with the flip of the text. Their lineup has talent, but they’ll need it to conquer it sooner rather than later to take on the bumpy SEC West. The way Arkansas has hit out over the past several years under head coach Nate Thompson, it makes sense to be optimistic about the lineup’s make. But finding the right leaders in the new lineup will be just as important as Arkansas looking to reach the CWS for the fourth time in five seasons.

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StackedBalls-mj

Column: Training and playing in the real world

Tony Apatin gives players and coaches tips for training in the real world.

POS. Noun Season AVG OBP SLG AB HR RBI
c Hudson Polk Son. Transfer — Oklahoma
1 b Brady Slavins R-Sr. .255 .332 .523 239 16 58
2b Peyton Stovall So. .295 .373 .425 200 6 31
3 b Caleb Cale R-Jr. Transfer — JC from Central Florida
SS Harold Cole Son. Transfer — San Jacinto (Texas) GC
from Jared Wegner R-Sr. Transfer – Creighton
from Tavian Gusenberger Son. Transfer — Kansas
from Jess oven Son. .228 .333 .435 92 3 17
DH Kendall Diggs So. .197 .367 .361 61 3 14
POS. Noun Season w the era IP So SV
SP Jackson Wiggins Son. 6 3 6.55 66 82 0
SP Hagen Smith So. 7 2 4.66 77 90 2
SP Hunter Holan Son. Transfer — San Jacinto (Texas) GC
RP Brady Tegart So. 3 4 3.82 38 51 8
RP Zack Morris R-Jr. 6 1 2.31 35 26 1

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