Arkansas vs. Georgia Advance

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Coach Dave Van Horn’s nationally No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks and Georgia Coach Scott Stricklin’s Bulldogs each have pitching rotation changes set for their weekend 3-game SEC series starting tonight at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Returning to Baum Walker after going 4-2 in successive series the last two weeks on the SEC road, the Razorbacks bring a 34-8 overall record and 15-6 SEC West/SEC Overall leading record into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game with 6 p.m. and 2 p.m. games scheduled Saturday and Sunday.

A presently forecast 60 percent chance of Sunday scattered thunderstorms could cause the Razorbacks Saturday playing their fifth consecutive doubleheader during an SEC series.

“It’s always a possibility,” Van Horn said Thursday of playing a Saturday doubleheader. “I’m sure that if we we had to move something up, move something back, we’ll do whatever we need to do.”

Whatever they do, after starting ace left-hander Patrick Wicklander, 3-1, 1.89 earned run average, in the first game and Benton’s Peyton Pallette, 1-2, 4.02 in the second, the Hogs start a different starter than they have recently started in Game Three.

Regular Game Three starter Lael Lockhart, ineffective lately especially last week not surviving the first inning of the lone loss at LSU, will be replace by either senior right-hander Zebulon Vermillion, fourth-year junior right-hander Caleb Bolden or true freshman right-hander Jaxon Wiggins. Vermillion and Bolden have previously started SEC games.

Jackson, the hard-throwing last inning closer to start the year but recently left with nothing to do as National Collegiate Baseball Writers Pitcher of the Month for April Kevin Kopps stars 6-0 with six saves mostly pitching from the seventh inning on, has never started a college game.

Hard to ask a freshman to debut start against a SEC team in May?

“ I guess it’s all difficult but either you can or you can’t in my opinion,” Van Horn said. “It’s more about seeing what he can do. If he can’t do it, we get him out of there pretty quick.”

Georgia normally starts left-hander Ryan Webb, 3-3, 3.04, in its SEC series openers. However because Webb “tweaked his back,” in last week’s start against Auburn, Stricklin said he’ll give him more rest and start him Sunday.
Freshman left-handed reliever Liam Sullivan , 1-0, 4.74 in 19 innings, will start tonight. Georgia left-hander Luke Wagner, normally a weekend starter, becomes an all-purpose reliever likely to pitch some tonight.

Right-hander Jonathan Cannon, 2-2, 4.19, is Georgia’s Game Two starter.

“That (debut starting Sullivan tonight) is a lot to ask of a freshman on the road,” Stricklin said. “Especially in a tough atmosphere. But he pitched really well last week and deserves it. Luke Wagner will pitch out of the bullpen, and it will be all hands-on-deck in Game One.”

Though under SEC .500 at 10-11 in league play, the Bulldogs of the SEC East stand 27-16 overall. Earlier in the season at then No. 1 Vanderbilt they beat the reigning national champion Commodores 2 out of 3 at Vandy’s home in Nashville, Tenn.

“The Vandy series is the one that really jumps out at you,” Van Horn said. “Because it’s hard to take a series from Vandy anywhere. Whether it’s a neutral site or at home or on the road especially.

Georgia’s roster is loaded with talent. I was looking it over. I think they only have, like, three players on that whole roster that aren’t from the state of Georgia. That’s how good that state is.”

The Tate brothers, right fielder Connor, .351 batting average 10 home runs and 30 RBI, and shortstop Cole, .304 lead Georgia’s attack also powered by designated hitter Corey Collins, 10 doubles, seven home runs and a team leading 32 RBI while batting .275.

Arkansas junior center fielder Christian Franklin offensively comes home the hottest Hog. Franklin, .303, 10 home runs and 45 RBI, was named SEC Player of the Week knocking in 10 runs while the Hogs took 2 of 3 from LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

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