FAYETTEVILLE — Power abounds in the lineups with power abounding in the rankings of nationally No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 6 Ole Miss, No. 7 Mississippi State, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 9 Texas and No. 10 TCU at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown.
The powerful question is will there be power to operate the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field, site of the three-day, season-opening Showdown in Arlington, Texas.
The Showdown matches SEC teams Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State versus Big 12 teams Texas Tech, Texas and TCU, the teams that Arkansas in order plays at 7 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. Monday.
The Rangers’ roofed stadium enables games to be played indoors but the Showdown has already been postponed from the original Friday through Sunday format because of power outages throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex from this week’s onslaught of snow, ice and below zero degree temperatures.
Are the games still on, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was asked Thursday?
“We talked to some of the administrators of the tournament a couple of times yesterday and they said they’re still ready to go,” Van Horn said. “As far as the tournament, electricity and power in the ballpark they are good to go. Obviously that could change throughout the day. Right now we’re planning on heading out.”
Van Horn named a starting pitching rotation of returning right-handed relievers become starters Zebulon Vermillion starting against Texas Tech, and Peyton Pallette starting against Texas with left-handed transfer and former University of Houston Friday night pitcher Lael Lockhart starting Sunday against TCU.
Although right-hander Connor Noland and lefty Patrick Wicklander were No. 2 and No. 3 in the rotation of the 2019 College World Series Hogs and Nos. 1 and 2 in last spring’s COVID abbreviated 2020 season, they start this season in the bullpen.
“I think it’s more about depth and just going with the guys that have been more consistent at the beginning,” Van Horn said. “I think both of the guys (Noland and Wicklander) are going to be a huge part of our pitching staff whether they’re starting or coming in for long relief. We’re just trying to go with the guys we feel like, as of right now, maybe just a step ahead of some guys.”
Texas Tech, Texas and TCU all are old Arkansas rivals from bygone Southwest Conference days.
But the Razorbacks and their fans seethed at no rival like they seethed at the Burnt Orange of Texas.
So Benton’s Pallette knows his family this weekend pulled for him to be the second night instead of opening night starter.
“Growing up, my father didn’t want anything in the house that was orange,” Pallette said. “So that’s why I’m ready to get out there and play.”
Pallette, who as a true freshman saved Arkansas’ last game last March before COVID-19 shut down all spring semester sports, has literally grown into a starting role.
“I’ve gained about 15 pounds,” Pallette, now listed 6-foot-1,175 pounds, said. “I’m confident that if I want to throw an inside fastball to a righty or lefty I can do it. Same thing on the other half of the plate.”
Elijah Trest and Kevin Kopps as closers and Noland, Wicklander, Caleb Bolden and Jaxon Wiggins among others in long and middle relief are probabilities with all on early-season pitch counts.
Afield, true freshman Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier, will open in the right field spot he’s contested with redshirt Zack Gregory.
“He’ll be the only freshman who starts in game one,” Van Horn said. “He’s been very consistent. I think Wallace brings a little more power to the lineup. We need that.”
Designated hitter Matt Goodheart of Magnolia, voted Preseason first-team All-SEC by the SEC coaches as were Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz and Preseason All-American center fielder Christian Franklin and second baseman Robert Moore, will bat third, Van Horn said.
Goodheart still recovers from surgery limiting his throwing as a first baseman. So either Cullen Smith or Brady Slavens will open at first.
Goodheart’s DH bat and approach is always appreciated.
“He doesn’t chase a whole lot,” Van Horn said. “He’ll take a walk. He can have an at-bat and you’ll go, ‘Wow, that wasn’t a good at-bat,’ and the next time at-bat he’ll hit one 400 feet or he’ll hit one off the top of the wall. DH-ing is not real easy. You have to learn to go back, sit on the bench and wait your time again a couple of innings, then go out and hit, without being in the field. There’s more to it than just going up to the plate and hitting.”
What’s he doing to keep in the game?
“Keeping your body hot,” Goodheart said. “Keeping your body moving is a pretty important factor I’d say. You don’t want to go out there having not done anything.”
Arkansas’ other starters include new shortstop Jalen Battles, and returnees Jacob Nesbit at third base and Braydon Webb in left field.