FAYETTEVILLE – Officially the Arkansas Razorbacks and Illinois-Chicago Flames have deferred to Friday’s Fayetteville weather forecast and revised the schedule of their 4-game Thursday through Sunday baseball series at Baum-Walker Stadium.
With snow predicted Thursday, the series starts Thursday with a noon doubleheader, no game Friday, and regularly scheduled 2 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. games Saturday and Sunday.
If remnants of Friday’s snow renders the field unplayable Saturday, the Razorbacks, 7-3, of the SEC and Flames 4-5 of the Horizon League will still try and finish starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Sunday’s would remain a single game thus cutting the 4-game series to three if there are consecutive Friday and Saturday games.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said UIC Coach Sean McDermott and the Flames come fully apprised that with Arkansas’ facilities they can progress their continuing season’s preparations towards their Horizon League schedule even if this series gets drastically curtailed.
“They figure if we don’t play Friday and Saturday that we’ve got a really nice indoor facility and they can work out there,” Van Horn said.
Though only 4-5, the Flames come to town much in the mold of the Illinois State and Southeastern Louisiana University teams that have bedeviled Arkansas thus far. At Baum-Walker, Illinois State defeated Arkansas, 3-2 in the season opener and played the Hogs tough though Arkansas won the next two 5-1 and 4-2.
“Teams normally don’t play us, especially early, unless they really know what they have,” Van Horn said. “We lose opening day and then had to fight to win the next two.
SELU, also 4-5 like UIC now when arriving last weekend in Fayetteville, beat Arkansas, 7-3 scoring all seven runs in the sixth inning and in a Saturday revised doubleheader played because of last Sunday’s inclement weather forecast, battled hard in a 4-2 loss before the Hogs hitters finally asserted themselves in an 11-1 romp.
Van Horn said the combination of granted an extra year of eligibility because of covid seniors vs. Power Five teams most likely losing more players to the Major League draft makes mid-majors major obstacles.
“Some mid-majors have guys 24, even 25 years old,” Van Horn said.
UIC offensively leads with outfielders Bryan Rosario, .324, two home runs and five RBI, and Rayth Petersen, one double and one triple and five RBI.
McDermott for starting pitchers relies on left-handers Cristian Lopez, 1-0, 2.35 earned run average, Sam Menegat, 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA, and Nate Petersen, 1-1, 2.66 ERA and right-hander Tyler Ingram, 0-3, 4.73.
Van Horn has listed regular weekend starter senior Connor Noland, 1-1, and debut starting freshman Austin Ledbetter, 0-0 of Bryant to start Thursday’s doubleheader with SEC weekend regulars Hagen Smith, the outstanding 2-1 freshman, and sophomore right-hander Jaxon Wiggins, 2-0, will pitch for Arkansas Saturday and Sunday.
Ledbetter debut starts as a bright spot throwing 2 2-3 shutout, hitless innings in relief of last Friday’s 7-3 loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
“He had some really good outings in the fall practices as well,” Van Horn said of rewarding Ledbetter with a start. “We felt let him start. We see him as a starter in the future. And he kind of earned it the other day when he came in and pitched well.”
Van Horn explained what he’s seen from the 6-foot 1 right-hander from Bryant.
“We like the fact that he has got three or four pitches he can throw for a strike,” Van Horn said. “We don’t expect him to go 80 to 90 pitches but it would be nice if he could give us three innings plus. Plus three would be great and then we’ll go from there and see how the game is at the time.”