Just thinking ahead a little

Which may be dangerous considering the tenuous nature of our pitching staff, but…

We finished the first half of the season 24-4, now 26-5 after escaping Mississippi. Last six SEC series are not quite as tough – no Vandy, LSU and Florida are down, but we do have to go to Knoxvile and the Poultry.

The school record for wins is 51, which we did twice – 1985 and 1989. Assuming the weather cooperates and we get to play 52+ regular season games, that mark is in jeopardy. I don’t expect 46-8 in the RS (but I’d take it!), but with Hoover and a regional and possible super likely at Baum, I think we potentially could get to 51 before Omaha. Both the 85 and 89 teams got to Omaha.

It seems like we haven’t played Vandy in awhile. When do they come back on the schedule?

We played them in 2019. They won the first two, third game was a wild one a lot like yesterday which we won 14-12. Of course we didn’t play anyone in the SEC last year, but Vandy wasn’t on the schedule.

We play four of the seven teams in the East every year. No Misery, Jellycats or Vandy this year. Presumably one of those rotates back on next year and one of EOE, Jawja, Poultry or Wallets rotate off.

In fact, that game ignited us into a strong finish of the season. Without looking up the particulars, we were in sort of a slump at the time of that game, and had we lost game #3, in danger of getting a bit behind the proverbial 8 ball…with regards to the lofty expectations everyone had for them following 2018. But that win righted the ship and carried us forward into another trip to Omaha (albeit, a short one).

That win at Vandy started a 9-game SEC win streak including sweeps of Moo U and EOE at Baum. Streak ended in game 3 at Kentucky. Record for the rest of the regular season was 15-5, including series loss to TAM and a midweek loss to Northwestern State during the SEC win streak.

Vanderbilt will be back on the schedule in 2022, in Fayetteville.

This team can win it all we get the pitching figured out which is much easier said than done but hopefully we can it squared away.

Something I haven’t heard a lot of people mention is the coming return of Connor Noland. If he pitches like he is capable, he is a pitcher who can eat up innings on the weekend. Couple that with some longer starts, and the bullpen struggles are greatly diminished.

I haven’t forgotten Noland, but I wonder if he can stay healthy.

I sure hope so, Matt.

If our starters don’t start eating up more innings, our bullpen is going to wear out.

No doubt. Outside of Kopps (and Pallette before he went back to the rotation), though, there aren’t a lot of workhorses in the bullpen right now, whereas in recent years there were two or three who might throw significant innings on the weekend. In 2019 it seemed like Kostyshock and Scroggins were pitching a lot in that role.

One thing Arkansas isn’t having to do a lot this year is pitch its top relievers in the midweek. With such a big roster, there are a lot of other pitchers who are handling those games. And this week will be the final week with five games. It seems the pitching numbers get better once there are only three or four games in a week because the arms are fresher.

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Kopps in particular. He is starting to remind me of Charley Boyce in the postseason on DVH’s first Omaha team. Two extended outings back to back against Wichita in the regional.

Your thoughts on Starks?

I think Boyce threw 99 and 104 pitches on back-to-back days. Kopps threw 41 and 47.

I don’t think we’ll ever see anyone do what Boyce did again.

I remember the WSU coach pitched a mini-fit that DVH would do that to Boyce. I was thinking that was his senior season and he knew his baseball career was about to end, but it was his soph year.

Starks has looked good the last couple of outings. His fastball-offspeed combination reminds me a lot of Jaxon Wiggins, although I’m not sure he can spin the ball as well as Wiggins.

If Starks had been as consistent in practice as he has been the past two weeks, I think we would have seen him more by now. I think he’ll get more work in the midweek as long as he pitches like he has the past two weeks. He is on the travel roster, but he hasn’t pitched against anyone near SEC level yet.

I was wondering if they had taken Starks to Oxford. I think the travel squad is slightly larger this year but not enough to take 21 pitchers.

The travel roster limit is 30 this year, up from 27.

I was just going to mention that as a possibility of really helping our pitching, when he’s on he’s tough to hit, keeping fingers crossed he can come back strong.

Starks was in Oxford.He is someone who looks fantastic but hasn’t gotten the experience to be ready against top competition. I would love for him to start a midweek game.