Baseball Hogs get top preseason pick from USA Today

The University of Arkansas baseball team continues to receive favorable preseason picks, with Thursday (Jan. 24) producing a  No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and a No. 3 tag in the Baseball America preseason poll.

The Razorbacks have been ranked in the top three in all four preseason polls that have been released so far. The Razorbacks were the top-ranked team in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll. Arkansas was No. 2 in the Perfect Game preseason top 25.

The Razorbacks were also ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll. Arkansas has been ranked second by Perfect Game and third by Baseball America.

Arkansas finished the 2012 season with a 46-22 record and advanced to the College World Series for the seventh time in program history, finishing in a tie for third. The 46 victories were the most for the Razorbacks under head coach Dave Van Horn and the most in a season since the 1990 team won 47 games.

Arkansas finished the season ranked in the top six in all four of the major national college baseball polls, including a No. 3 ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, the NCBWA poll and the Collegiate Baseball poll.

The Razorbacks return 10 pitchers from last year’s pitching staff that finished the season with a 2.83 team ERA, the second-lowest single-season ERA in program history. Arkansas’ pitching staff had 10 shutouts, which also ranked as the second-highest total in a season.

In the NCAA Tournament, Razorback pitchers compiled a 1.92 team ERA, including a team ERA of 1.80 in the College World Series. Junior Ryne Stanek, who was named a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game, and senior Randall Fant return as weekend starters from last year’s team. Stanek, who earned All-SEC honors last season from, finished his sophomore year with an 8-4 record and a 2.82 ERA in 17 games. Fant pitched in 15 games, including 14 starts, in 2012 and compiled a 2-3 record with a 3.27 ERA.

Out of the bullpen, junior right hander Colby Suggs, who was named a 2013 preseason All-American by the NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game, made 30 appearances in 2012 and went 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA.

Junior righty Barrett Astin pitched in a team-high 32 games and had a 3-5 record with a team-leading 11 saves and a 1.99 ERA. Junior right hander Brandon Moore went 5-2 with three saves and a 2.43 ERA in 29 outings. Redshirt senior Trent Daniel (2-0, 1 save, 5.06 ERA), senior Cade Lynch (3-1, 2 saves, 2.11 ERA) and senior Tyler Wright (1-0, 2.60 ERA) are all left-handed options out of the bullpen. Sophomore right handers Michael Gunn (1-0, 2.57 ERA) and Chris Oliver (1-0, 3.86) also return for the 2013 season.

Offensively, Arkansas returns six position players who made 30 or more starts during the 2012 season. Collegiate Baseball preseason All-American Dominic Ficociello finished his sophomore season with a .290 batting average, six home runs and 41 RBI. Sophomore infielder/outfielder Brian Anderson, who was named to’s SEC All-Freshman Team in 2012, and sophomore outfielder Joe Serrano were regulars in the starting lineup in the second half of the 2012 season. Anderson hit .283 with a pair of homers and 11 RBI, while Serrano batted .333 with seven RBI. In the NCAA Tournament, Serrano hit .444 (12-for-27) with a pair of RBI.

Other returning position players that had 30 or more starts in 2012 include senior infielder Jacob Mahan (.257, 18 RBI), redshirt junior outfielder Jacob Morris (.236, 3 HR, 23 RBI), senior outfielder Matt Vinson (.217, 13 RBI) and junior catcher Jake Wise (.244, 2 HR, 25 RBI).

Eight SEC teams were included in the USA Today poll. Joining Arkansas in the poll was LSU (3rd), South Carolina (5th), Vanderbilt (8th), Florida (13th), Kentucky (15th), Oklahoma (16th), Mississippi State (18th) and Texas A&M (24th).

The Razorbacks open the 2013 season on Feb. 15, when they host Western Illinois. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.