NCAA BASEBALL REGIONAL: Arkansas Razorbacks Preview

National Rank: #15

Record: 40-18, 18-12 Southeastern Conference

Coach: Dave Van Horn (7th year, 316-176)

How they got here: At large, SEC

NCAA Tournament history: Five College World Series appearances, 21 postseason appearances. Highest finish was national runner-up in 1979. Won last year's Norman regional that included host Oklahoma and your own Washington State Cougars.

The season in a nutshell: Won 8 out of 10 to start the year, including taking 2 of 3 on the road from Cal in Berkeley. Consistently beat up on lesser competition, but weren't exactly dominant in the SEC, finishing with the fourth best conference record and taking second in the SEC West at 18-12. The Razorbacks have been phenomenal at home, however, posting a 26-8 record in Fayetteville. The Hogs made a speedy exit from the SEC tournament, losing 2-0 to Vanderbilt, then 5-4 to Florida in the elimination game.

Standing in the batter's box, you don't want to face ... Drew Smyly. Don't let the fact he has the cutest name on the team fool you; Smyly is a crafty pitcher who leads the team in strikeouts with 98 (versus 29 walks), and is 8-1 on the year with a FIP of 2.68. Opponents are only hitting .237 against him, and that's with a BABIP against of .343. So he's good. The Cougs have to hope they can avoid him, or at least make enough contact against Smyly to get lucky. Tough, considering he K's 9.9 batters every nine innings.

Looking down from the hill, don't give anything to hit to ... Zack Cox. This Cox rocks! OF Brett Eibner may get a lot of attention - with his team high 18 home runs - but Cox is the hidden gem of this batting order. Well, I guess it's kind of hard to hide with a .432 batting average and a team-high .489 wOBA. He also has eight home runs and 47 RBIs (if you're still into that stat). He's also stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts; so not only does he get on base, he also doesn't clog up the basepaths once he's on them! And we all know how important that is. Cox doesn't strike out much either. WSU's pitchers would do well to minimize the damage from this fellow.

The Razorbacks could win the regional if ... They simply take care of business. Cox appears to be the best pro prospect on any of the teams involved, and Smyly may be the best ace in the regional. Arkansas boasts the best pitching staff, with only WSU coming close on paper. While by no means a dominant hitting team, the Hogs are clearly the best in the regional, and may not need much in the way of scoring if their pitching plays up to par. They already topped WSU last year, and since the Cougs are their biggest threat this year, they should have plenty of confidence that they can get through this regional. Especially since they've played their best baseball in 2010 at home. 

The Razorbacks will be 0-2-barbecue if ... It's hard to see them going 0-2. The only way Arkansas doesn't win this regional is if they fall to both Wazzu and KSU. Which is entirely possible because baseball is a crazy, unpredictable game and the margin for error in a short series such as this is pretty small. If Smyly has a bad day (or two), and the Hogs can't handle the intense pressure of a NCAA regional, they may just end up staying home. But it's doubtful.

This is the team the Cougs need to target if they want to advance to a Super Regional.

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