Ask Mike: Home Runs & Omaha, Courtney’s CFB Video Game Obsession & Will Texas Dominate the SEC?

By Mike Irwin
on 2024-06-10 18:29 PM

Q. Our first question is from KYHOG who asks: Were you surprised that Kansas State went two & out in the Super Regional? Even if Arkansas had won its own regional I think Virginia would have gone to the College World series.

A. There no way to know for sure but I tend to agree with you. I thought Kansas State showed some fight but they did not have enough offense to beat a team like Virginia. Arkansas hit .271 with 83 home runs through regional play. Virginia hit right at .330 with 114 home runs. Arkansas averaged a little over six runs a game and gave up just under 4. The Cavaliers scored 9 runs a game and gave up a little over 5 in the regular season. Their margin of victory was just under four runs a game. Arkansas’ was a little over two runs a game. Pitching is important but it can’t make up that much difference in scoring.

Q. HL McCamish says: Van Horn said he will bring in more athletic hitters next season that run the bases with fewer home runs. That’s sounds good but several of the teams that are headed to Omaha hit home runs in bunches. Maybe Arkansas just wasn’t good at hitting home runs.

A. For all the complaining Arkansas fans have done about swinging for the fences too much, it’s pretty clear to me that home run hitting is a huge part of college baseball these days. Of the seven teams headed to Omaha (Georgia & NC State game played after Ask Mike was recorded on Monday) six are in the top 16 in home run hitting starting with No.1 Tennessee which has hit an astounding 173 home runs so far this season. Georgia is trying to become the eighth team in the CWS field and the ‘Dogs are second nationally in home runs with 149. The only team in CWS field this season not in the top 16 is Kentucky. Actually they’re not top 50. So you don’t have to hit a ton of home runs to be good but it sure helps.

My take on this season for Arkansas, the Hogs weren’t a good hitting team period. They had their moments but most of the time Arkansas won with pitching. In the biggest game of season, an elimination game against SEMO facing SEMO’S game three pitchers, Hog batters stuck out 10 times and scored just three runs on six hits.

Q. Hawgredneck says: DVH said he’s going to have to do a major rebuild at the plate for next season but what about the pitching? Every starter is gone. We’ll be going from the known to the unknown.

A. Not necessarily. The bullpen was outstanding last season. Gage Wood and Gabe Gaeckle are two guys that I think will be in the mix as starters. But with Matt Hobbs reputation as a pitching coach they’re going to get a starting pitcher or two though the portal. The thing I hope they do is bring in a couple of pitch-to-contact guys like Connor Noland. His numbers in the 2022 NCAA tournament were amazing. Let’s look at it.

Just 4 strikeouts against Grand Canyon in the Stillwater Regional (which had been red hot at the plate) but Nolan scattered 6 hits and gave up one run. He went 7 innings with just 86 pitches.

To the super regional against North Carolina. One strikeout and again, six hits. Noland shut them out through 6 and 2/3 on 89 pitches.

At the College World Series against Stanford. 1 strikeout, 6 hits, 2 runs and get this. 7 & 3/2 with just 79 pitches.

Finally Ole Miss. His numbers, 7 K’s , 7 hits and two runs against the team that won it all that year. Noland lasted eight full innings using just 84 pitches.

If you look at what’s he’s doing in the minor leagues right now, it’s the same approach. Low strikeout numbers, scatters hits, goes long on fewer pitches and wins games. There’s something to be said for a pitch-to-contact pitcher who uses location to keep from giving up big RBI hits and home runs. A pitcher who allows the defense to do its job.

Q. Armon Abbe asks: There’s some Internet chatter that Texas is about to offer Vitello a boat load of money with NIL funds to match. If that happens do those clowns take over SEC baseball?

A. It has to happen first and right now it’s just a rumor. What would Vitello do? He might stay at Tennessee if they matched Texas’ offer which they probably could. I do agree that if you put him at Texas with a lot of money to buy players it would not likely be good for the rest of the SEC.

Q. sglies wants to know: What’s your take on Brazile returning to the basketball team. A few fans are complaining but do they think John Calipari doesn’t know what he’s doing?

A. First of all getting even one player back who the fans are familiar with is a plus. Next, Brazile himself will be valuable to the incoming players in terms of telling them what the U of A is all about. The school, the campus, the fans and Northwest Arkansas.

Then there’s the fact that Brazile will be almost two years removed from his knee surgery. The word I got was that last year he was having some soreness in the knee that was repaired. It’s not unusual with ACL injuries for athletes to hold back, sometimes without realizing it. The mind is telling the body, don’t put too much stress on that knee. It might blow out again.

By all accounts Brazile performed well at the NBA combine. His agent supposedly told him he was a late first round or early second rounder if he stayed in the draft. If he came back under a new staff, a coach like Calipari and a really talented team, he could maybe jump himself up to a mid first rounder.

There’s no way to know right now how this is going to work out but it sure sounds like a good thing to me.

Q. joyousRZRback says: In Houston we are super excited for next year’s softball class. Could you get the rest of the fanbase up to speed on the four ELITE players headed to The Hill from Houston, and are there any other freshmen we should know about?

A. The 2024 Arkansas softball recruiting class has been rated number 5 in the nation by Extra Innings.

In it is a right handed pitcher from Katy Texas, a Houston suburb who is rated the number 6 pitcher in the country coming out of high school with a .81 ERA. There’s the number one rated infielder and number three overall player in the nation who batted .678 with 12 home runs. She’s from Richmond, Texas which is also a Houston suburb. And from Katy the number 22 player in the country, an outfielder who batted .484. Also an outfielder from from, Shreveport who hit .500 and is number 16 in the class. And the player of the year out of Oregon who ended up with an astounding .19 ERA.

So yeah some help is coming for Courtney Deifel’s Razorbacks.

Q. teamOTIS says: Now that baseball is over, I’m patiently waiting on the release of NCAA 25. Will you be playing the game at all? I know Courtney has posted about it in the past.

A. I’m not a video game guy but Courtney is going nuts waiting for the release of NCAA 25.

Q. robs4516 says: The 2025 FB recruiting class is not looking good so far, compared to our SEC brethren. Can you and Otis find some optimism?

A. Recruiting looks like it’s picked up in the last several days but we’ve got a long way to go before the early signing period. The rankings could change a lot. Also Sam Pittman continues to say that until something changes the portal will continue to be his top priority. I don’t care where his 2023-24 portal class was ranked I saw those guys this past spring and I was totally impressed. Virtually every problem they had last season has been addressed with the only question at linebacker. The linebackers looked good in the spring but there’s not much experience there. It’s a young group overall.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: We’re officially entering the new SEC with OU and Texas as members. Do you see each of them climbing immediately to the top of the pecking order in most sports having a big say in the way the league is run?

A. Normally I’d say no because Texas has underachieved for years but with the NIL situation I’ve mentioned and the open buying of players Texas could be able to have an impact on the SEC in several sports. However those people are not used to the kind of competition they will face so we’ll see. As far as running things, no. The SEC office is still in Alabama, not Texas. That’s one of the biggest things those folks are going to have to get used to.

Q. Lanny asks: What’s your take on the rumor that the Aggies are considering a move to the B1G? Supposedly they feel like the SEC office backstabbed them by letting Texas into the SEC.

A. Yes I’ve heard it. Supposedly it’s coming out of the B1G. I doubt it will happen but there’s no question that the A&M athletic department is not happy with Texas joining the SEC. A&M left the Big 12 to get away from Texas running everything. My guess is they are waiting to see if Texas tries to take over the SEC. As long as it doesn’t happen I think they’ll stay.

Q. RazorAlex88 wants to know: If you or Courtney have been to a MLB game, what was your favorite MLB experience? We just went to a Phillies game this week and it was fantastic! Of course, I don’t think the MLB game experience could compare to a game at the Baum!

A. I have two. My dad took me to a Cubs game in 1961. I wasn’t a Cubs fan, he was, but I saw Willie Mays go three for five that day with two doubles. He also made a couple of unbelievable catches in the outfield. I never forgot that game. Many years later I got to talk to him before an Arkansas football game in Little Rock. He’s a really nice guy.

The other game was a Rex Sox- Rangers game at old Arlington Stadium when I was working at a TV station in East Texas. I got a photographers well press pass next to the Red Sox dugout so I could see Carl Yastrzemski up close. As it turned I was totally disappointed. He said some things about the Rangers and the state of Texas that I didn’t like. I lost all interest in him and the Red Sox after that.

(Last updated: 2024-06-10 18:29 PM)