FAYETTEVILLE — Nationally seeded No. 1 and thus of course the No. 1 seed of the Fayetteville Baseball Regional they start hosting Friday at Baum-Walker Stadium, the SEC champion/SEC Tournament champion Arkansas Razorbacks learned Monday that the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, the Northeastern University Huskies and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers are the remaining teams in the four-team, double elimination tournament.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, 46-10, play the No. 4 seed Newark, New Jersey, based America East champion Highlanders, 26-22, at 2 p.m. Friday.
No. 2 seed Nebraska, the 31-12 Big Ten champion whose coach, Will Bolt, was an infielder captaining Van Horn’s two College World Series Nebraska teams before Van Horn in 2003 started coaching his Arkansas alma mater, and Boston based Northeastern, the third see 36-10 Colonial Athletic Conference champion, meet at 7 p.m Friday.
Saturday’s slate has a 2 p.m. loser’s bracket game and 8 p.m. winner’s bracket game.
Sunday’s schedule has a 2 p.m. loser’s bracket final and the 8 p.m. championship game.
Should the lone unbeaten be defeated Sunday night, a winner take all championship game is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday.
In the following weekend’s best two of three Super Regional advancing the winner to among the Elite Eight playing for the national championship at the College World Series in Omaha, the Fayetteville Regional winner will play the Ruston Regional winner which includes host Louisiana Tech, Alabama, North Carolina State and Rider.
As the national No. 1 seed, Arkansas would host the Super Regional if it wins this weekend’s Regional.
Coach Robbie McClellan’s NJIT Highlanders obviously aren’t Arkansas household words.
“I don’t know much about them,” Van Horn said Monday after the entire 16 regionals/64 teams field was announced. “I know their tournament ended interesting.”
The Highlanders were to play Stony Brook in Sunday’s bad weather canceled America East Tournament final in Stony Brook, New York.
NJIT was awarded the America East’s automatic NCAA Regional bid because it was unbeaten in the America East Tournament while Stony Brook had emerged through the loser’s bracket to reach the final never played.
Though likely not facing a catcher the caliber of Arkansas senior Casey Opitz, the nation’s best defensive catcher in Van Horn’s view, the Highlanders have stolen an impressive 61 bases in 67 attempts.
“Their percentage is incredible,” Van Horn said. “And you know… controlling the running game starts with the pitcher. The catcher can only do what he can do. The pitcher’s got to give you a chance, so it’ll be something we’ll definitely address. It’s a big part of their offense, it looks like.”
Shortstop Julio Marcano, .333 batting average, 10 home runs and 42 RBI, and center fielder Albert Choi, .313, five home runs and 35 RBI, are NJIT’s top hitters.
Right-handers Ryan Fischer, 4-3, 2.77 ERA, and Tyler Stafflinger, 6-5, 3.77, are NJIT’s top starting pitchers.
While nobody sports a reliever quite like Arkansas SEC Pitcher of the Year Kevin Kopps, 10-0 record, 10 saves and 0.81 ERA, the Hogs could fret if trailing NJIT late.
Highlanders lefty closer Jake Rappaport sports an 8-2 record and matches Kopps’ 10 saves.
Nebraska, because of its Van Horn’s connection and Big Ten championship, got the most Arkansas media attention Monday among the teams about to visit Baum-Walker, but Northeastern should not be overlooked.
Huskies right-hander Cam Schlitter stands 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 73 innings.
Right fielder Jared Dupere leads Huskies hitters batting .351 with 21 home runs and 48 RBI.
Northeastern coach Mike Glavine, brother of former Atlanta Braves pitching great Tom Glavine, is a two-time Colonial Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
For Nebraska’s Cornhuskers, lefty Cade Povich, 6-1, 2.82 ERA, has been the No. 1 starter and right-hander Chance Hroch, 5-2, 4.00, No. 2.
Centerfielder Jaxon Hallmark .341, eight home runs and 18 RBI, third baseman Max Anderson, .337, seven home runs, 32 RBI and first baseman Luke Roskam .308, eight home runs, 34 RBI, lead the Nebraska attack.
Van Horn was asked about facing the school he coached from 1998-2002 with great success (Nebraska’s first two ever CWS entrances, one Big 12 championship and three Big 12 Tournament championships.
“It didn’t surprise me that we were getting Nebraska,” Van Horn said. “It did a few people because they did win the outright conference championship and a lot of times, they’re not going to send the champion to such a high seed as a No. 2. I don’t know what went into all those decisions. I just see Nebraska as another quality team that we’re probably going to have to play. It’s going to be good to see Will and some of the guys.”