Auburn, fresh off its first SEC series win against Miss State and a midweek win at Samford returns home this weekend to host the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks. Here's what you need to know about the visiting Hogs:
Arkansas is 14-14 overall, 3-6 in conference. Like Auburn, their opening conference schedule has been brutal. Arkansas was swept at Vandy, won a single game against LSU (no mean feat), and took two of three from Ole Miss at home. Arkansas seems to lack pitching depth as they've struggled mightily in mid-week games. They've lost their last three midweek games against Missouri State, Memphis, and Southeast Missouri.
Arkansas is led offensively by third baseman Bobby Wernes, so Section 111 had better be on its game this weekend. Wernes is batting .347 with three homers and more walks (14) than strikeouts (13). He also has surprising speed for a third baseman as demonstrated by his four triples and 75% stolen base average (3-4). Arkansas' other threat is their speedster centerfielder Andrew Benintendi who bats for power and average. Benintendi (with apologies to Harry Doyle) leads the Hogs in most offensive categories including nose hair.
On the mound, Arkansas has two regular starters, Dominic Taccolini and Keaton McKinney. No other Hog has more than four starts but lately, they've been turning to Trey Killian because, as long time Tiger fans can attest, they play three games each weekend no matter how many starters you're comfortable with. Taccolini is a big, talented sophmore with a sinking low 90s fastball who is responsible for two of Arkansas' three SEC wins, having surrendered no more than three earned runs in any start in conference play. When Arkansas has the lead late, they hand the ball over to the best pitcher on their staff, Zach Johnson. Zack, like Taccolini is a big sophmore with a 1.33 era and two saves on the year. Zach is one of only two Oklahomans on the Arkansas roster which leads me to believe that the U.S. Marshalls in Fort Smith aren't pursuing Oklahomans as actively as they used to.
Both teams come into this series desperately needed two wins and believing they can get them. Coming into the weekend, the squads were tied for 11th in the SEC with Miss State, all with 3-6 records. One of the three teams would not make it to Hoover. Put differently, both Auburn and Arkansas need wins to feel more comfortable about their chances and the schedule won't get easier for either squad than it is this weekend.
Auburn throws Cole Lipscomb tonight at 6, likely against Trey Killian. The game can be streamed on the SEC Network + option of your WatchESPN app or heard on the Auburn network. Auburn has been nigh unbeatable on Fridays, winning 5 of 6 this year. There's no reason to expect the Tigers to lose on Good Friday with that matchup. If you're in town, get to the ballpark early to take advantage of the tuxedo shirt giveaway. That way, when Auburn wins, you'll already have the appropriate attire for a night at the Supper Club.
The best matchup of the weekend comes Saturday at 1 as Auburn throws Keegan Thompson against Taccolini. The nontech savvy crowd can catch this matchup on the regular SEC Network. If Thompson handles Taccolini, it could set up a very special weekend.
Easter Sunday sees Dalton Rentz against TBA. I can't find TBA on the Arkansas roster but I assume that's the name Keaton McKinney uses on trips to Vegas. A quick reminder that your Friday night tuxedo shirts are not appropriate for your Easter Sunday visits to Lakeview Baptist. First pitch is at 1 and, can again be streamed through SEC Network + on the watchESPN app. Be on the lookout for Easter Eggs with concession coupons in them. Stick around after the game to watch kids hunt for eggs in the outfield.