Chris Murray: Hogs Crack Top 25, Have RPI Work To Do


Similarly to last year, the Arkansas Razorbacks have an RPI problem. That figures to improve as the season progresses, but this year they may be needing a boost from RPI just to get in the field, as opposed to jockeying to host an NCAA Regional.

Despite taking two of three from No. 1 South Carolina last weekend at Baum Stadium, the Hogs are sitting at 78 in Warren Nolan’s RPI rankings. That is up three spots following Arkansas’ split of midweek games with No. 17 UNLV.

What really hurts the Hogs’ rating is some of their weak non-conference opponents, namely Grambling and Mississippi Valley State, who are near the bottom of the 302 Division-I teams.

Arkansas entered the poll at No. 24 this week following its series win over the Gamecocks. The Hogs dropped the opener on Saturday in game one of a doubleheader, 2-1. They led that game until Carolina scratched across two runs in the eighth. Jalen Beeks and Chris Oliver came through with dominant pitching performances to help the Hogs take the series. Tyler Spoon drove in a pair as the Hogs won game 2, 4-1. Brian Anderson had three hits, and Joe Serrano drove in two runs as the Hogs jumped on Carolina Sunday for five runs in the second and won 7-0.

Taking a series from the nation’s no. 1 team should lift Arkansas’ RPI and confidence. (Of course, wins over South Carolina weren’t convincing to the RPI computers last season when the Hogs were lobbying to host a regional).

Arkansas is back on the SEC road this weekend, heading to Baton Rouge for a three-game set starting tonight. LSU is no. 8 in the country with a 25-8-1 overall record, but just barely better than the Hogs in SEC play at 6-5-1 (LSU and Georgia played to a tie due to travel time restrictions). The Hogs have struggled away from Baum Stadium, but they are back to .500 in SEC play and still have a lot to play for.

Trey Killian squares off with Aaron Nola in a 7 p.m. start tonight. Nola is 6-1 in eight starts with a ridiculous 0.47 ERA. It’s Jalen Beeks versus Jared Poche at noon Saturday, with Chris Oliver set to start Sunday’s 1 p.m. finale against an LSU hurler to be announced. LSU is led by catcher Kade Scivicque, who has four homers and 23 RBIs to go with an .983 OPS. Outfielder Sean McMullen has a .902 OPS to go with 18 extra-base hits.

Three Razorbacks received individual accolades this week. Beeks and Oliver, who combined to throw 17 innings without allowing an earned run against the Gamecocks, were named the SEC’s Co-Pitchers of the Week. Meanwhile, slugging second baseman Anderson was named as one of 50 finalists for the Golden Spikes award.

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Four Arkansas State pitchers combined for a five-hit shutout Wednesday as the Red Wolves topped UCA 3-0 in Jonesboro. Eric Wilcoxson’s two-run double in the first was all ASU would need. Bryan Ayers fired six innings of four-hit baseball for the win.

The Red Wolves improved to 18-14 overall, but are 8-4 in the Sun Belt Conference after dropping two of three at Western Kentucky.

ASU is three games behind UL-Lafayette, who is 31-4 overall and ranked third in the nation. The Ragin’ Cajuns host UALR for a weekend series. The Trojans continue to struggle at 3-9 in league play, though they did win a series last weekend with Georgia State, and 13-17 overall. Arkansas State begins a three-game series tonight at South Alabama.

UCA is 6-6 in Southland Conference play, firmly in the middle of the pack. McNeese State leads the league with a 9-3 mark. The Bears head to Thibodaux, La., for a weekend series with Nicholls State, where they will look to make up some ground on McNeese and the Colonels, who are 8-4.

Hogs have RPI work to do

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