Ask Mike: Fayetteville Regional Breakdown, Vitello’s New Image & Why Do LSU Fans Love Hoover So Much?

By Mike Irwin
on 2024-05-27 20:01 PM

Q. Our first question is from mousetown who wants to know: What do you think about the field for the Fayetteville Regional. Good or bad? Did the selection committee stick it to us?

A. A lot better than last year. Louisiana Tech is the 2 seed. Not saying they will roll over to Arkansas but I would not compare them to TCU last year.

The surprise is maybe the 4 seed. Southeast Missouri State was just 34-25 on the season, second in the Ohio Valley but won the OVH tournament. Here’s what’s scary. They they hit .293 as a team with 98 home runs, which makes them dangerous in game one. If Arkansas’ pitching in that game is not good they could get beat. SEMO’s pitching isn’t terrible. A 5.59 ERA. They are average defensively. Common opponents? They beat Missouri but lost two of three to Little Rock which Arkansas run-ruled.

Let’s look at Louisiana Tech. 43-17. That’s impressive. They won Conference USA with an 18-6 record but lost to Liberty and Dallas Baptist in the conference tournament. They bat .299 as a team. Have hit 88 home runs and have an ERA of 4.99. They are a good fielding team.
Common Opponents, LSU beat them 11-1. They squeezed out a 7-6 win over Little Rock. They did win two of three from Dallas Baptist which was ranked for most of the year.

Finally there’s Kansas State. The Wildcats were 32-14 and finished tied for 6th in the Big 12. The ‘Cats got hammered by Tennessee 15-5 and lost 3 of 4 to TCU which didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State also got knocked out of the Big 12 Tournament by TCU.

My overall assessment, don’t overlook SEMO in game one. You don’t want to get into the loser’s bracket after game one. Does DVH use Hagen Smith in game two to beat Louisiana Tech or does he use him against a dangerous SEMO team?

As far as the super regional if Arkansas advances, Virginia and Mississippi State are sitting there. Both are ranked. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a rematch of the Mississippi State series from a few weeks ago. Arkansas won two of three but it was not easy.

Q. Hawgredneck asks: What’s up with all the Internet fighting over the impact of the SEC Tournament? To some it was a disaster. Other say the Mississippi State and Kentucky losses were meaningless. Which is it?

A. The History of the SEC Tournament suggests that it doesn’t usually have much to do with getting to Omaha. This is especially true of the Razorbacks. But every year is different. I would be more concerned if Arkansas laid a complete egg in Hoover. If the guys played like the games didn’t mean anything. They were in both games. They lost to South Carolina because DVH used more of a mid week approach with his pitching. It was a midweek game but clearly the competition was a lot better. Ben Bybee and Parker Coil gave up four of the six runs the Gamecocks scored, Gabe Gaeckle was touched for the other two on the only home run he’s given up all season.

The Kentucky game was tough in that the ‘Cats had gotten totally embarrassed the day before. Run ruled by LSU 11-0. Their coach chewed his players out before the game. They came out fired up and scored 6 of their 9 runs in the first 4 innings. Arkansas got off to a slow start probably because of the 10:30 AM start time. The concern to me was that Hagan Smith, Gage Wood and Brady Tygart gave up all nine of Kentucky’s runs although both of the runs Smith was charged with were unearned.

However it’s not just the SEC Tournament that has a lot of fans worried. Like this guy.

Tom Bates says:
I can see how our showing in the conference tournament isn’t that important, but we’ve now lost 7 of our last 11 overall. Took 46 games to lose our first 7, then 4-7 over the final 11. Gotta right the ship.

And that’s really at the heart of the matter. Arkansas has gone from 39-7 to 43 and 14 in a month.

The pitching has to get better and there has to be more consistency at the plate.

On the plus side this team is 33-3 at home this season and has not lost two game at home in any series. So to me their chances in the regional look good.

Q. Sgles wants to know: What did you make of Vitello’s statement after the Mississippi State game in Hoover? Apparently some of their players were calling him “Tony” during the game. He said he would never let any of his players call Van Horn “Dave.” A lack of respect thing.

A. Sounds like Vitello and Van Horn talked after the Mississippi State series in Fayetteville where the Bulldogs’ dugout was chippy. No question Vitello has calmed down a lot since that season where he had DVH got into an argument after Arkansas won a series against Tennessee in Knoxville. His players are doing less showboating these days. Arkansas fans have noticed. We’re starting to see some of them mention Vitello as DVH’s replacement when he decides to hang it up.

But that’s a few years down the road.

Q. KY Hog says: I would never go to the SEC Tournament in person but it’s okay on TV. I see where they’re about to upgrade the place. Who is paying for that and do any fans care except maybe LSU fans?

A. The City of Hoover. They’ve already added $11 million dollars worth of upgrades. More is coming for next year. The total cost will be $24 million. I guess the local businesses are expecting a lot of new business with Texas coming into the league. But honestly if it weren’t for LSU fans I’m not sure this event would have stayed in Hoover. For some reason they think it’s cool to go there. Stay there. Shop there and go to the big Mall they have.

Hog fans save their money for Omaha. It’s not just the College World Series that attracts them. The downtown Omaha area is a really nice place to visit.

Q. WizardofHogz wants to know: If you could add just ONE former Razorback to this year’s baseball team for the post-season run, who would it be, and why? For me, it has to be Kevin Kopps.

A. Kopps would add pitching depth for sure but I still think Arkansas’ pitching is fine. This team needs a guy at the plate who can hit for a high average and hit for power. I’d have to go with Heston Kjerstad. Hog fans never got to see what he could have done his junior year. That was the year that most of the season was wiped by COVID. I think he’s gonna have a great major league career but Baltimore needs to trade him instead of leaving him stuck at its AAA club.

Q. Hogdogger asks: Can you tell me the purpose of a double base at first?

A. To reduce the chance of injuries when a runner arriving at first at full speed could run square into a first baseman who is reaching for a throw to the foul ball side of the base. It won’t totally eliminate that possibility but it will help. Imagine if Arkansas had lost its first baseman, Ben McLaughlin, in such a collision at the SEC Tournament or any of its hitters? They’d be headed to regional play without a key member of the team.

The two base system was in place in Hoover and I thought it worked well. No bad collisions and it looked like batters reached the second bag at first slightly quicker.

Q. Hog in Iowa says: Word on the street is that Baum-Walker actually has a home plate and is sometimes used by the umpire. However, it’s not evident from the center field/batter’s eye camera. I don’t think it would be a budget breaker to raise the camera platform up a couple of feet.

A. We’ve addressed this before. I used to shoot with my own camera on the centerfield platform in the early days of Baum Stadium. I mentioned this to Jeff Long’s people. Neither they or Hunter Yurachek’s staff have acted on it. I can only assume that there aren’t enough complains about it for them to build a new platform. The ESPN 3 and SEC Network people use that platform all the time. I assume they haven’t complained either.

Q.WVHogfan says: Coach Pittman, DVH, and Cal are all getting up in age. How many more years do you see each one coaching?

A. A lot of fans have Pittman gone before next season is over. They’re the ones who think Hunter Yurachek is going to fire Pittman and hire Petrino as head coach. I’ve been told that Petrino doesn’t want to be the head coach here or anywhere else. He’s done with that. He wants to finish out his career as an offensive coordinator and he wants that to be here. I think this team will improve with Petrino calling plays and running the offense. I think Pittman has a better handle on the NIL imbalance that caused so much trouble last season and I like the way he and offensive line coach Eric Mateos are working together to get that O-line going. I think there’s going to be a big difference there. Sam? I see him coaching three or four more seasons here.

Calipari? I don’t know him well enough to offer an opinion on that right now. Kentucky fans are claiming on the Internet that Cal wanted out bad and Arkansas was his only option. That’s idiotic. They also say he will be in the NBA after next season because Arkansas’ facilities are rinky dink compared to Kentucky’s That’s nonsense too. I’ve heard nothing about him not being happy here. He even seems to be taking an interest in non sports happening around the state. Looks like to me he’s found a new home.

Cal has summer camps starting for kids next month. I’m gonna go ahead and predict that he will be here for at least the five seasons on his contract.

Van Horn, I see him going another few years at the minimum. If Arkansas wins a national title, he might decide to retire sooner. I’m not sure.

Q. whippersnapper says: Between the towns of Greenwood, Charleston and Booneville there are over 20 state championships in just football alone. The 3 towns all seem to be within 20 miles or less from one another too. So what’s in the water (or chicken) these days for that area? I don’t believe there is another region in the state that can say that for high school football.

A. To me it starts with the fans in those communities. Kids growing up in places like that see at an early age how community pride can be reflected in its athletic teams. The school board is given the go ahead to pay more to get top coaches. The facilities are top notch and they win. Their best athletes go to the next level and that’s been good for Arkansas. I hope it stays that way for a long time.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: If I read correctly the NCAA agreed to a settlement this week that would allow athletes to be compensated directly… without the fraud of NIL? Will this now introduce contracts as you’ve discussed before?

A. Maybe. What’s I’ve read so far is not encouraging. It looks like the NCAA is trying to settle some lawsuits in order to get judges on their side to stop more future lawsuits. Letting schools pay athletes up to $20 million out of the athletic department’s budget with a cap on it is interesting. But what about NIL. Does it go away? If not do we still have the schools with the most money buying the best players? Until that issue is resolved college athletics is in danger of imploding. Not enough people are paying attention to the fans. They don’t want open bidding for players. I’m nearing retirement. I was looking forward to becoming a fan but I won’t be if this nonsense continues.

(Last updated: 2024-05-27 20:01 PM)