What's Next For Arkansas, Baylor, Louisville, Oklahoma and Wichita State
Arkansas looks to bounce back
What Happened? Arkansas went 1-3 last week, losing a midweek game at Charlotte before dropping a taut, highly-anticipated series at No. 2 Florida. The Razorbacks (18-7, 4-2 in SEC) slipped this week to No. 6 in the Top 25 and face another tough series this weekend when they travel to No. 4 Mississippi (22-3, 4-2).
What’s Next? The Razorbacks had a tough week on the road last week and lost their series against the Gators despite on Friday night becoming the first team this season to beat Preseason All-American Brady Singer. To make matters worse, coach Dave Van Horn announced righthander Isaiah Campbell, their No. 2 starter, is out this week due to elbow inflammation.
Arkansas has no time to wallow, however. It beat Memphis, 8-7, on the road Tuesday and has a quick turnaround before its series at Ole Miss begins Thursday. The Razorbacks and Rebels are tied for first in the SEC West and the winner of this weekend’s series will gain a key edge in the division race.
Though Arkansas broke out for eight runs at Memphis, its potent offense has not been as good this season away from Fayetteville. On the road, the Razorbacks are averaging 4.22 runs per game, about a third of what they are scoring at home. To beat Ole Miss this weekend, Arkansas will have to find a way to get its bats going on the road against another elite pitching staff.
Wichita State begins a new era
What Happened? Wichita State last year left the Missouri Valley Conference, which it had been a member of for nearly 70 years, to join the American Athletic Conference. The move was driven largely by basketball, but is also a big move on the diamond for the Shockers. After a strong start to the season, Wichita State (18-4) will begin play in its new conference with a stern test at No. 17 East Carolina (18-5, 2-1).
What’s Next? Wichita State is off to its best start in a decade and is led by first-team Preseason All-Americans Greyson Jenista (.338/.510/.606, 6 HR) and Alec Bohm (.333/.450/.605, 5 HR). The sluggers give the Shockers an imposing presence in the heart of their lineup and both are likely to be first round picks. Trey Vickers (.353/.351/.588, 2 HR) has helped lengthen the lineup since returning from a hamstring injury and Gunnar Troutwine (.276/.373/.483, 3 HR) provides senior leadership behind the plate.
Wichita State’s biggest question coming into the year was on the mound after posting a 4.75 team ERA last season. Righthanders Codi Heuer (4-0, 3.18) and Liam Eddy (5-0, 1.57) have stepped up to lead the rotation and closer Chandler Sanburn (0-1, 3.24, 4 SV) has anchored the bullpen. Now, they must prove they can go head-to-head against some of the conference’s top arms. The American this season is loaded with high-end pitchers and it is imperative that Wichita State be able to match up with them over the next eight weeks.
This week at ECU will be a good test, as the Pirates rank ninth in the country with a 2.58 team ERA. They are coming off a series win at Central Florida, the defending American champion. ECU has played like the team to beat in the American thus far and Clark-LeClair Stadium will likely provide a raucous welcome to the conference for Wichita State.
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Louisville going for series win on the road
What happened? No. 20 Louisville has lost two consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference series, including only its second conference series loss at home (to Clemson last weekend) since it joined the ACC in 2015.
What’s next? The Cardinals (18-6, 4-5) are heading down to Tallahassee for a Top-25 matchup against No. 5 Florida State (20-6, 5-4). The Seminoles won the series at Louisville on the last weekend of the regular season last year—becoming the first ACC team to win a series at Jim Patterson Stadium since Louisville joined prior to the 2015 season. After running out teams loaded with draft talent the last three years, the Cardinals are in somewhat of a transitional year, leaning on a lineup composed of only two juniors and a weekend rotation with two new pieces. Louisville has hit a rough patch but remains solid and should provide a stiff challenge for the Seminoles—who have narrowly won their last two ACC series against North Carolina and Notre Dame. While it’s too early in the season to claim this series as a must-win for either team, it would certainly behoove Louisville to come away with a series win, as the Cardinals will play Atlantic Division leader North Carolina State next weekend. The schedule isn’t getting any easier.
Baylor and Oklahoma square off for key Big 12 series
What happened? Oklahoma and Baylor rank second and fourth in the Big 12 Conference, respectively, after the start of conference play. Both teams have shown flashes of potential and are looking to make their case as title challengers.
What’s next? The Sooners (17-10, 3-0) will host Baylor (13-9, 3-3) this weekend in a key Big 12 series that could serve as a resume booster for whichever team comes out on top. The Sooners, led by first-year head coach Skip Johnson and Preseason All-American outfielder Steele Walker (.340/.434/.456, 2 HR), have quality wins against Indiana, Dallas Baptist and a series win against Alabama on their resume and are coming off a weekend sweep of conference foe West Virginia. The Baylor series kickstarts a rigorous stretch in which Oklahoma will travel to No. 19 Texas Christian, host Texas, then travel to No. 11 Texas Tech—and that stretch could very well make or break Oklahoma’s season. Meanwhile, Baylor has a less gaudy overall record and has battled some inconsistency this season. However, the Bears already have a marquee series win against the Red Raiders and have played a strong schedule to this point, including an appearance in the Frisco College Classic. Much like the Sooners, the Bears are beginning a difficult slate in which they’ll play 10 of their next 11 games on the road. A series win this weekend, as well as a successful road trip, would go a long way toward securing Baylor a regional bid.