The Arkansas Razorback baseball team will begin practice for the 2012 season Friday Jan. 27 at Baum Stadium with high and lofty expectations.
After the Hogs finished the 2011 season 40-22, ranked No. 14, and winners of the SEC West Division, they were voted preseason No. 4 this week by Baseball America.
With 19 lettermen returning, including 10 pitchers with game experience, all eyes will be on how head coach Dave Van Horn handles his deep rotation and talented team.
Aiding the Hogs' preseason No. 4 ranking are three Arkansas players listed on College Baseball Daily’s Top 100—right-handed junior pitcher DJ Baxendale is ranked No. 25, RHP sophomore pitcher Ryne Stanek No. 57 and 3B/1B sophomore slugger Dominic Ficociello rated No. 75.
Stanek (Overland Park, KS) finished the 2011 season 4-2 with one save while posting a 3.94 ERA. He saved his best stuff for last throwing a complete game against Nevada in regional play and shut down Alabama in the SEC tournament, earning a win for the Hogs.
Ficociello (Fullerton, CA) was awarded a spot on the 2011 freshman All-American team after finishing the season with a .335 batting average and 50 RBI. He led the Razorbacks in several major hitting categories last season including RBIs, doubles (15), and hits (75).
“Fic” was a 2010 draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.
Baxendale (Sylvan Hills High School, AR) was the Friday starter for the Hogs much of last season. He finished the year 10-2 with a 1.58 ERA and earned All-SEC honors.
The scouting report on Baxendale is a great fastball with a lot of movement while mixing in a great breaking ball.
Contributing to the Arkansas No. 27 ranked 2011 pitching staff (3.20 ERA) were two more freshmen All-Americans—Nolan Sanburn and Barrett Astin.
Sanburn worked as a closer for the Hogs earning eight saves and compiling a 2-4 record with a 3.62 ERA. Astin appeared in 27 games, starting three, and finished with a 5-2 record with a 2.71 ERA.
The Hogs will face an uphill challenge in the SEC as always. Seven SEC teams are preseason Top 25 including No. 1 Florida and No. 3 South Carolina. Stanford is ranked No. 2.
Other SEC teams in the Top 25: No. 8 LSU, No. 10 Vanderbilt, No. 11 Georgia and No. 22 Mississippi
Arkansas opens their baseball season Feb. 17 against Villanova at Baum Stadium.