Chris Murray: Diamond Hogs Nose Dive in Polls

Chris Murray Bio
The reeling Arkansas Razorbacks returned home Thursday night and opened a four-game series with San Diego State with a 2-0 win. The big news entering the week was the diamond Hogs’ historic drop in the national polls. Just a few weeks removed from a no. 1 ranking, then slipping to no. 2, Arkansas dropped all four of its games last weekend in the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Arizona.

As a result, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper dropped the Hogs to no. 29 (It has six SEC teams in its top 11). That precipitous free-fall makes the Arizona debacle roughly equivalent to losing to UL-Monroe at War Memorial.

On Thursday, it was more of the same for Arkansas: good-to-great pitching, and very little offense. In fact, if not for a bizarre lapse by the Aztecs infield, Arkansas may have been shut out. SDSU starter Michael Cederoth went the distance, limiting UA to three hits and retiring the final 16 Hogs he faced. Cederoth is apparently well thought of by pro scouts, though lately it seems any pitcher the Hogs face can make that claim.

Arkansas has just one week to find its stroke, as Southeastern Conference play begins next weekend when Ole Miss comes to Baum. Dominic Ficociello did not play on Thursday, as Robbie Neiswanger of Stephens Media reported that Ficociello is limited to batting right-handed, and Cederoth is a right-hander. You have to wonder about Ficociello’s injured oblique, which can be a nagging injury.

Pitch-count limited Colin Poche went four innings and was credited with Thursday’s win. He was followed by strong relief work from Brandon Moore and Barrett Astin, who is expected to be in the rotation when SEC play begins.

The series with the Aztecs might be worth attending if only due to the off chance that someone might coax SDSU head coach Tony Gwynn into taking some BP. At age 52 and checking in at likely more than three bills, the Hall of Famer with 3,141 career hits and a sweet swing could probably still hit .280. Today’s game starts at 3:05, while Saturday’s begins at 11:35 a.m. Sunday’s finale is set for a 12:05 start.

It is great to hear Heartbeat 106.7 carrying Diamond Hog games in Central Arkansas. When it’s not broadcasting UA baseball, the station delivers classic R&B and soul. I don’t listen to a lot of terrestrial radio, but this one has earned a spot on my pre-sets. So far, Heartbeat 106.7 has carried every Arkansas game, unlike the megawatt Little Rock station, which often defers to Double-R and his caller-driven mangling of the King’s English.

While on the topic, Chuck Barrett and Rick Schaeffer continue to do a stellar job with Razorback radio broadcasts. Say what you will about the various regrettable positions the two have taken (been forced to take?) over the years, and yes, Schaeffer does have a tendency to get really excited over rather ordinary plays, but they both reliably deliver game details and have keen perspective developed over decades of digesting UA baseball.

The 12-1 UCA Bears begin a weekend series with Mississippi State tonight in Starkville, Miss. UCA, whose lone loss came at no. 2 Vanderbilt, has been on an impressive tear. The Bulldogs are unbeaten in 15 games, ranked no. 5.

The UALR Trojans, which defeated Iowa twice last weekend, is now 9-4 and travels to the Austin Peay Tournament this weekend in Clarksville, Tenn. The Trojans play Creighton, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the host school.

The ASU Red Wolves host Alabama-Birmingham for a set this weekend in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves are 8-4 after a midweek win over Tennessee-Martin. The two Sun Belt rivals meet for three games in Little Rock next weekend. They close the regular season with three more in Jonesboro, May 16-18.

The National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association poll for the Central Region has four Arkansas squads among the top 10. Southern Arkansas and Arkansas Tech are tied for third, with fellow Great American Conference members Henderson State at no. 6 and Harding at no. 10. All four of those teams are playing in-state this weekend. The GAC schedule includes:

  • Southern Arkansas hosts Henderson State in Magnolia
  • Arkansas Tech hosts Southeastern Oklahoma State in Russellville
  • Arkansas-Monticello hosts Ouachita Baptist
  • Harding hosts East Central (Okla.) in Searcy

Coaches, SIDs, baseball fans from around the state: got a tip or interesting note? Pass it on to

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