FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The last time Arkansas and Stanford met, it would not have been a stretch to say it was a battle between two teams that would be in Omaha come June.
After both teams hit rough patches throughout the season, each squad now finds itself among the final eight teams in college baseball.
Back on Feb. 27, the Hogs were shutout by Stanford, 5-0, in Round Rock, Texas. After the game was originally scheduled to be played the day before, storms rolled over the dell diamond and it ended up being the first game of a double-header for the Razorbacks.
The Cardinal three-hit the Hogs on their way to being crowned champions of the Round Rock Classic. What was originally a highly-anticipated matchup ended up being a tough loss for Arkansas.
In just his second career start, freshman lefty Hagen Smith allowed three runs on six hits in just 2 ⅓ innings pitched. On the flip side, the pitching staff received no help from an offense that struck out 10 times at the hands of Stanford left-hander Quinn Matthews.
To say each team has come a long way since them would be an understatement.
Arkansas left Round Rock and won its next five series before finally dropping a road series to Florida in early April. After the series against the Gators, the Hogs went 3-3 in series down the stretch, lost its regular season finale to Alabama and went 0-2 at the SEC Tournament.
Stanford took a different route after its game against Arkansas, losing seven of its next 10 games. After that, the Cardinal went 28-6 down the stretch and won the inaugural Pac-12 Baseball Tournament.
The lineup for each team has remained similar for most of the season with the main difference being some batting order shake up. The pitching staff for each team has come a long way, though.
Ironically, both of the starters from the meeting in February — Smith and Matthews — now serve as elite closers for each squad. Smith’s development as a relief pitcher came on recently, but Matthews has nine saves to his name this year.
Similar to the Hogs, Stanford has messed around with its starting rotation at times. Each team has a consistent ace — Arkansas’s Connor Noland and Stanford’s Alex Williams — who will both likely throw in Saturday’s meeting. After those two, it seems to be a decision based on matchup as far as a starter goes.
The performance the Hogs gave the Cardinal back in February is one of the worst games they played all year. Now, Arkansas is one of the hottest teams left playing and Stanford will get their best shot.
Saturday’s meeting at Charles Schwab Field Omaha will start at 1 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on ESPN and Fubo.TV.
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