Charlottesville Regional: Arkansas Preview

Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

It's been 5 years since UVa last played Arkansas. Let's hope if the two meet this year, the results are far better.

Five years later, and the wound still stings. It was tough thinking about that extra inning affair in Omaha from 2009. Tears were shed then, and nearly shed again when thinking about it.

But that was then, and luckily this year's UVa team is better than that team.

Arkansas will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 38-23 overall record and a 16-14 record in the SEC. They entered the season ranked #25 by Baseball America, and did not disappoint in the billing.

Even though they have a strong record, they enjoyed the friendly confines of Baum Stadium more than any other place this season. At home, the Razorbacks were 25-10, while on the road they were only 8-10 and had only 1 road series victory; at SEC cellar dwellar, Mizzou. Luckily for UVa fans, this weekend will not be in Fayetteville, but at UVa's favorite place, Davenport Field.

Similar to UVa and the other two teams in the regional, Arkansas prides itself on being a strong pitching squad. They rank 4th nationally with a .216 batting average against and allowing only 6.9 hits per game. More impressive is their team ERA of 2.63 which is 15th best in the country, and 1.12 WHIP which is the 8th best in the country.

If UVa plays Arkansas on Saturday, they will likely see Junior RH Chris Oliver. Oliver has an 8-4 record on the season and 2.45 ERA in 15 games. His 1.06 WHIP isn't too bad to go along with opposing batters only batting .212 against him. His last outing came against Ole Miss in Arkansas' second game of the SEC tournament. He battled the Rebels over 6.1 innings, holding them to only 1 run on 4 hits. He only struck out 1, but only walked 2 as well. 10 days off could be a long time for a starting pitcher, but I'd imagine Oliver will be on his game if needed on Saturday night.

Also keep an eye out for Junior LHP Jalen Beeks to possibly appear out of the pen. Beeks was expected to be a big contributor for Arkansas this year, but has been sidelined with an injury since May 3 against Ole Miss. Reports are that he has progressed, and could see some action this weekend.

Arkansas' offense has seen woes similar to UVa's. They bang out 8.5 hits per game, but have only put together a .263 team average for the season. Combine that with a .355 slugging percentage, and you can see why the Arkansas pitching staff has had to be so dominant much of the season to accomplish the record they have.

They look to only have 1 starter batting over .300 on the season, and that is Junior INF Brian Anderson. Anderson lead the Razorbacks in average (.316), hits (71), slugging percentage (.476), and RBI (49). Although he did not lead the team, he also put up 6 home runs on the season. They have two other hitters with a large amount of games started that are batting close to .300, but the offense appears to run through Anderson.

In all, this Arkansas team looks very similar to many of the ACC opponents UVa has faced throughout the year. They have a very strong pitching staff that have the capability of shutting down any opponent on any given day. Since UVa has such a strong staff as well, if the two meet, it will likely come down to which offense is able to string together hits and manufacture runs.

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