FAYETTEVILLE – A sellout crowd will attend the Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Missouri State Bears super regional baseball games Friday and Saturday, and if necessary Sunday, at Baum Stadium.
Game times for the super regional, whose best two of three winner advances among the elite eight playing for the national championship at the College World Series in Omaha, are 3:30 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, if a third game is required.
Tickets, even with the Arkansas-Missouri State super regional site not officially confirmed until late Monday night, were almost sold out by Monday night and announced as completely sold out Tuesday morning.
Missouri Valley Conference champion Missouri State, 48-10 and winner of the Springfield Regional it hosted last weekend defeating Canisius once and Iowa twice, is the eighth of eight national seeds.
Missouri State was bracketed to be a super regional host upon winning its regional.
However, Arkansas — 38-22, third in the SEC West and winner of last weekend’s Stillwater Regional defeating Oral Roberts, top-seed host Oklahoma State and St. John’s — hosts its first super regional since 2004 because of the Bears’ scheduling conflict.
The Bears share Hammons Field with the Double AA minor league team Springfield Cardinals. The Cardinals host Texas League rival Midland this weekend.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was asked if coach Keith Guttin’s Bears will arrive “with a chip on their shoulder” not hosting the super regional they were bracketed to host.
“They deserve to host,” Van Horn said. “They’ve had a great season. They haven’t lost anything. They’ve won everything they’ve played. Just about every series, every tournament, league play. So, I would think that they would probably have a chip on their shoulder.
But they can’t blame it on us. We just do what we do, and they told us we’ve got it and I’m glad we’ve got it.”
Arkansas, struggling to stay above . 500 at the time, lost 2-0 to the Bears in a nonconference game back on March 31 at Baum.
” I know they’re awfully good,” Van Horn said Tuesday. “A lot of times as a coach you hope you put together a team like Keith has put together up there. They’ve got a veteran team. They can hit, but what jumps out at your are their pro prospect type pitchers. We’re going to see a pitcher Friday (right-hander Jon Harris, 8-1, 1.85 ERA) that should be taken off the board on day one of the draft in the first round. His numbers are outstanding. Then their No. 2 (Matt Hall, 11-2, 2.17) is a lefty. He’s striking a lot of people out. Some people right now say he might be pitching better than the No. 1. If that’s the case, we’ve got our hands full.”
If the Bears lead late, their closer, Bryan Young, has 16 saves.
Benintendi’s Golden Spikes
Missouri State has a lot, but it doesn’t have a Golden Spikes finalist.
Arkansas sophomore center fielder Andrew Benintendi, already named SEC Player of the Year and the Collegiate Baseball publication’s National Player of the Year — currently hitting .390 with 18 home runs, 54 RBI and 22 stolen bases — is among the final four, all from the SEC, considered for college baseball’s most coveted individual trophy.
Benintendi, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson and Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer are the finalists, and all playing this weekend among the eight super regionals.
“It was a proud moment for me,” Van Horn said of receiving the Golden Spikes phone call that Benintendi is in the final four considered. “This is the Heisman Trophy of college baseball.”
Van Horn was far more animated about Benintendi’s honor than was Benintendi.
Asked what it meant to get “the call,” Benintendi replied, “I didn’t answer. It was an unknown number. They left a voicemail.”
Did he call it back?
“No,” Benintendi said matter of fact. “They left a voicemail and let me know. It was exciting.”
Benintendi takes everything in stride.
“It’s just like any other thing,” he said. “I’m honored to be up for that award. Obviously, there are three other really good players. I’m kind of happy it’s all SEC players. It’s cool.”
Hospitalized while the Hogs were in Stillwater and already hampered by tendinitis, pitcher Dominic Taccolini will not pitch for the Hogs this weekend, Van Horn said.
Jackson Lowery took Taccolini’s starting turn during the Stillwater Regional and likely would start Game Two or Game Three this weekend, depending on No. 2 starter Keaton McKinney’s recovery from an ailing hip and if Lowery had relieved Friday or Saturday and the Hogs were playing Sunday.
Friday starter Trey Killian, the junior Norfork native and Mountain Home High grad, is the only weekend starting pitcher that Van Horn was willing Tuesday to announce.
Van Horn also said catcher Nathan Rodriguez, who redshirted this season while under “suspension,” will not be among the Razorbacks in 2016.
“He’s not coming back,” Van Horn said.
NCAA Super Regional
Friday, 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m.; Sunday (if necessary), 2 p.m.
Baum Stadium in Fayetteville
Missouri State 48-10; Arkansas 38-22
ESPN2; ESPN Arkansas, 104.3 FM
The top three starting pitchers for Missouri State and Arkansas, in order of how they started in regionals:
RHP Jon Harris (8-1, 1.85); LHP Matt Hall (11-2, 2.17); LHP Jordan Knutson (6-1, 3.06)
Arkansas: RHP Trey Killian (2-4, 4.76); RHP Keaton McKinney (6-1, 3.21); RHP Jackson Lowery (7-1, 3.22)