The Diamond Hogs will begin their season Friday at the College Baseball Showdown, and it is time for HawgBeat’s week-by-week predictions for the Razorbacks’ 2023 schedule.
With 55 regular season games scheduled, we went through each week and gave notes on each opponent, plus the record we think Arkansas will have that week. We finished things off with a postseason projection as well.
Week 1 – vs. Texas (Feb. 17), vs. TCU (Feb. 18), vs. Oklahoma State (Feb. 19)
While the starting rotation will feature a pair of arms who have proven themselves as Hogs — Hagen Smith and Will McEntire — there are a lot of new faces that will be playing on the big stage for the first time. Facing three big-time opponents, two of which are ranked, is a good start to the season for a new group, but it’s also very challenging. The veteran pitching will power them to a pair of victories, but I can see the Hogs dropping one of the three matchups at Globe Life Field.
Week 2 – vs. Grambling (Feb. 21), vs. Eastern Illinois (Feb. 24-26)
While Grambling was picked to finish second in the SWAC Western Division, they won’t match the Hogs. Last season, the Tigers lost a pair of eight-inning midweek games to the Hogs by a combined score of 27-4.
Eastern Illinois will likely finish in the middle of the Ohio Valley Conference this season. Shortstop Chris Worcester and senior utility player Ryan Ignoffo were named preseason First Team All-OVC, but they won’t be able to stop the Razorbacks from sweeping the series at Baum-Walker.
Record: 4-0 (6-1 overall)
Week 3 – vs. Illinois State (March. 1), vs. Wright State (March 3-5)
Like Arkansas, Illinois State has a lot of new faces in the lineup. The Redbirds do return sixth-year senior LHP Jared Hart, who was the team’s Friday night starter for the second half of last year, but he probably won’t pitch on a Wednesday, giving the Hogs a midweek win.
Wright State won the Horizon League in 2022 and made an appearance in the Blacksburg Regional, where it lost its first two games to Virginia Tech and Gonzaga. The Raiders return a lot of talent on the mound, and I can see them stealing a game from the Razorbacks.
Record: 3-1 (9-2 overall)
Week 4 – vs. Army (March 7), vs. Louisiana Tech (March 10-12)
Army has won the Patriot League for four straight seasons, and it was picked to win the league again this year. The Black Knights had four preseason All-Patriot League Selections, including shortstop Kevin Dubrule, who was picked as the preseason Defensive Player of the Year. This won’t be your normal midweek snooze fest, but I think the Hogs get a victory.
Louisiana Tech was picked to win the Conference-USA this season, and it has a very talented starting pitcher in Jonathan Fincher. Arkansas will win the series, but I don’t expect a sweep.
Record: 3-1 (12-3 overall)
Week 5 – vs. UNLV (March 14-15), vs. Auburn (March 17-19)
For some reason, Van Horn has mentioned the UNLV series on a few different occasions. Another team picked to win their conference, UNLV also had three players on the preseason All-Mountain West Conference team. If Van Horn hadn’t made it seem like this one was circled, I’d pick UNLV to steal a game in the midweek, but I’ll take the Hogs to win both right before conference play gets started.
After fielding a College World Series team in 2022, Auburn is expected to take a step back this season. The Hogs got the job done last year in Auburn by winning two of three games, and I expect them to sweep the series to start conference play in Fayetteville.
Record: 5-0 (17-3 overall, 3-0 SEC)
Week 6 – vs. Southeast Missouri State (March 21), at LSU (March 24-26)
SEMO is the heavy favorite to win the OVC this season, but they won’t steal a midweek from the Hogs. I expect this one to be closer than the earlier matchup with Grambling, but Arkansas will prevail ahead of the biggest weekend of the year so far.
Another heavy favorite to win its conference, LSU loaded up in the transfer portal over the offseason. On top of that, the Tigers return Dylan Crews, who is MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall draft prospect this year. Throw in Tommy White from NC State and Paul Skenes from Air Force, and the Tigers will be a tough task all season long. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arkansas steals a game at Alex Box Stadium, but I’ll say LSU gets the sweep.
Record: 1-3 (18-6 overall, 3-3 SEC)
Week 7 – vs. Omaha (March 28), vs. Alabama (March 31-April 2)
The Diamond Hogs crushed Omaha 15-3 in a midweek game last season and I see the same type of result happening this time around. Omaha is the only team with a pair of All-Summit League first teamers back, as Player of the Year Mike Boeve returns along with Newcomer of the Year Caleb Riedel.
If I were the Razorbacks, I’d have this series against Alabama circled. The Crimson Tide won three straight against the Hogs last year — two to end the regular season and one in the SEC Tournament. The Arkansas pitchers got rocked around by Alabama, and they will have something to prove this time around. Lefty Grayson Hitt will be a tough matchup for the Hogs, as he is the No. 43 overall draft prospect on MLB Pipeline. I see Arkansas winning the series, but not getting the sweep.
Record: 3-1 (21-7 overall, 5-4 SEC)
Week 8 – vs. Arkansas State (April 4), at Ole Miss (April 6-8)
The matchup with Arkansas State will be a little reunion for both teams’ catchers as Arkansas’ Parker Rowland played for the Red Wolves during the 2020-21 seasons, and former Hog Cason Tollett now plays for ASU. The Razorbacks will win this one, just as they did in a two-game midweek series last year.
A College World Series rematch in Oxford should be fun to watch. These two teams met three times in Omaha, with the Rebels taking two of the three after the Hogs went 2-1 in the regular season series. Both teams weren’t far apart in the preseason coaches picks for the SEC West standings, as the Hogs came in at third and the Rebels were fourth. Having the advantage of Swayze Field, along with MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 prospect in Jacob Gonzalez, will give Ole Miss a series victory.
Record: 2-2 (23-9 overall, 6-6 SEC)
Week 9 – vs. Little Rock (April 11-12), vs. Tennessee (April 14-16)
Another OVC opponent, the Trojans will come to Fayetteville looking to get a big win over the team up north, but it just won’t happen. The Hogs should rake against Little Rock ahead of a much-anticipated home series.
The matchup that the college baseball world was robbed of in 2022: Arkansas vs. Tennessee. The Hogs will host the Volunteers, who were picked to finish first in the SEC East, for the first matchup between the two since the 2021 SEC Championship. RHP Chase Dollander is MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 draft prospect and transfer Maui Ahuna is an elite shortstop. Still, I see the Hogs getting up to play for this one and winning the series at a real SEC ballpark.
Record: 4-1 (27-10, 8-7 SEC)
Week 10 – vs. Central Arkansas (April 18), at Georgia (April 20-22)
The last of the in-state matchups will come against the UCA Bears, who nearly knocked off the Razorbacks at Dickey-Stephens Park last season. Arkansas prevailed 2-1 in 10 innings, but there was a real chance that it was going to lose for most of the game. UCA was picked to finish 10th in the ASUN preseason poll and I don’t see a way they beat the Hogs in Fayetteville.
A trip to Georgia won’t be easy for the Razorbacks, but I think they will be in a groove by this point. The lineup should be fairly concrete and the pitching staff will have learned their roles. LHP Jaden Woods will give Arkansas fits when he throws, but I’ll take Arkansas to sweep in Athens.
Record: 4-0 (31-10 overall, 11-7 SEC)
Week 11 – at Missouri State (April 25), vs. Texas A&M (April 27-29)
Traveling to Missouri State will not be an easy challenge for the Hogs, but I don’t see them losing. The last time Arkansas played in Springfield was in 2019, when the Hogs beat the Bears 8-2. Don’t look into the loss to Missouri State in Fayetteville last year, as that was a wonky game for the Razorback pitching staff.
A&M gave the Razorbacks fits in College Station last season, and they return a lot of talent from last year’s College World Series team. I see the Arkansas pitching staff limiting the very talented Aggies lineup led by Jack Moss and Ryan Targac. RHP Nathan Dettmer will be a tough pitcher to hit, and he will give the Aggies their only win of the weekend.
Record: 3-1 (34-11, 13-8 SEC)
Week 12 – vs. Lipscomb* (May 2), at Mississippi State (May 5-7)
Ah yes, the yearly game playing in North Little Rock that cannot be televised despite it being the year 2023. Lipscomb was picked to finish near the top of the ASUN this season, and it has some talented veteran pitchers, beginning with starter Michael Dunkelberger. The Razorbacks might struggle like they did against UCA last year, but they will pull it out behind a strong midweek start from a veteran pitcher.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding a Mississippi State team that is just two years removed from an College World Series title. The Bulldogs didn’t even qualify for the SEC Tournament last season, and they will have to figure a lot of things out with plenty of new faces this year. The Hogs win the series at Dudy Noble, but the Bulldogs win on Sunday to avoid getting swept.
Record: 3-1 (37-12, 15-9 SEC)
Week 13 – vs. South Carolina (May 12-14)
A middle of the pack team in the SEC East, the Gamecocks will bring a strong pitching staff to Fayetteville. RHP Will Sanders is MLB Pipeline’s No. 18 prospect for this year’s draft. I see the Gamecocks as a dark horse team in the east, but I don’t see them getting a series victory in Fayetteville.
Record: 2-1 (39-13, 17-10 SEC)
Week 14 – at Vanderbilt (May 18-20)
After wrapping up the regular season with an awful showing at Alabama last season, the Hogs will have to take a trip to Nashville to play an always difficult Vanderbilt squad. Enrique Bradfield Jr. likely still haunts the Hogs after last year’s series in Fayetteville, and the Commodores have two really strong pitchers in Patrick Reilly and Carter Holton. Arkansas ends the year with a series loss in Nashville.
Record: 1-2 (40-15, 18-12 SEC)
Postseason Projection: National seed, return to Omaha