In an effort to get you as fired up as possible for WSU's return to the NCAA baseball tournament, here is the last of our three capsule previews -- WSU's first opponent, Arkansas.
If you're unfamiliar with any of the statistics we reference -- you'll remember from basketball season how much we hate raw statistics and love rate statistics -- just click on the link for an explanation. You can find a spreadsheet with all the team stats we're referencing here.
Record: 34-22, 14-15 Southeastern Conference
Coach: Dave Van Horn - 7th year at Arkansas (269-156), 15th overall (589-313)
How they got here: At large bid after finishing fourth in the SEC West
NCAA Tournament history: The Razorbacks are making their 22nd appearance in the tournament -- and eighth in a row -- with five appearances in the College World Series. At its height, the program made it to Omaha three times in five years in the late '80s, but a long layoff wasn't ended until their most recent appearance in 2004.
The season in a nutshell: It's been a tale of two seasons for Arkansas. The Razorbacks started the season on an absolute tear, sweeping WSU to open the year and continuing on to win 24 of their first 30 games. That stretch culminated on April 8 with the second of two wins over then-No. 1 Arizona State, leading to the Hogs being ranked No. 1 themselves. But then the wheels fell off. They'd lose five of their next six, rebounding to win six of their next seven, but closing out the year losing 10 of 13.
Standing in the batter's box, you don't want to face ... Brett Eibner. No, he's not the Friday pitcher, but he's the one guy on the staff with the real potential to take over a game. He's got a mid-90s fastball and some wicked offspeed stuff, leading to a 23.1 percent strikeout rate -- tops among regular starters. Unfortunately, consistency is a major issue for Eibner, to the tune of a 10.7 percent walk rate. It's hardly surprising considering he was a full-time centerfielder in his freshman year before beginning a transition to the mound this year. (He hasn't given up playing in the field; he's second on the team with 10 home runs.)
The good news is, there's no chance the Cougars will face Eibner -- he'll be pitching in the Razorbacks' game on Saturday.
Looking down from the hill, don't give anything to hit to ... Andy Wilkins. The first baseman (and part time third baseman) bats third and strikes fear in the hearts of opposing hitters. His .294 batting average doesn't really scare you, but his .290 ISO -- powered largely by a team-leading 15 home runs -- does. He hits home runs in 6 percent of his at bats, more than triple the NCAA average. And he's a sophomore.
The Razorbacks could win the regional if ... they play like the team that went 24-6 in its first 30 games. That team put up some insanely crooked offensive numbers, at one point scoring seven or more runs in eight of 11 games, including a 20-run outburst against Mississippi State on March 27. This team's best chance is if the offense comes alive.
The Razorbacks will be 0-2-barbecue if ... they play like the team that went 10-16 after ascending to the No. 1 ranking. Friday starter Dallas Keuchel is a grinder who pitches to contact, and he stands a chance of getting unlucky against the Cougs -- he has a .325 BABIP, pretty high for a staff leader, but that can happen with guys who allow a lot of balls to be put into play -- and giving up a ton of runs. If bad Eibner shows up and walks everything in sight in the second game ... that's bad news, too. But it ultimately will come down to the offense. In losing 10 of their final 13 games, the offense that was blowing out opponents earlier in the year averaged just 2.8 runs in those losses.