Coming off back-to-back College World Series appearances, the Diamond Hogs find themselves in familiar territory having to replace a Friday night ace pitcher. In 2018, Blaine Knight had the greatest season for a pitcher, record-wise, in Arkansas history boasting a 14-0 record and a 2.80 ERA while leading the Hogs to the National Championship final. Isaiah Campbell, who was the Sunday starter in 2018, picked up where Knight left off the following season earning a 12-1 record and a stellar 2.13 ERA.
With Sophomores Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander slated to take over the Friday and Saturday spots, true freshman Blake Adams looks to be the next youngster to make an impact for this Razorback team who, once again, enters another season with high expectations.
Blake Adams comes in from nearby Har-Ber High School in Springdale, AR as 101st player overall and 34th-ranked RHP in the 2019 class according to Perfect Game. He had a very successful senior season going a perfect 7-0 with a 1.69 ERA, 96 SO, and 3 complete games. Adams is slated to be the Sunday starter as it stands right now, and brings in a variety of pitches with his fastball topping at 93 MPH. His sneaky changeup is also known to take defending teams off-guard and should also earn him some extra strikes and outs.
Wicklander returns after a solid 2019 campaign achieving a 6-2 record and 4.32 ERA on 15 starts. The lefty ranked second on the team among starting pitchers in conference play, holding opponents to a .209 batting average. He really came into his own during the NCAA tournament against TCU and Ole Miss, respectively, allowing just one run and striking out nine in 6.2 innings of work.
While Wicklander may have been the most consistent returning starter, Connor Noland enters 2020 with the highest expectations earning the Friday night spot on the mound. Noland had a so-so 2019 while splitting time between football spring practice and the Saturday starter. This past August, he decided to give up football to focus strictly on baseball and after devoting an entire off season to his throwing you can expect him to make major strides.
In his freshman campaign, Noland went 3-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 19 starts. His 14 walks were tied for third in the SEC and 37th nationally. Out of his three victories, his best was against Central Connecticut in the NCAA Regional throwing 5.1 innings allowing only two hits, one earned run, and a walk on 58 pitches. Both Wicklander and Noland were named to the SEC All-Freshman team, while Noland also earned a spot on the Perfect Game Freshman All-American squad.
With a vast amount of talent on this 2020 Arkansas team, one of the biggest question marks is pitching, particularly from a reliever standpoint. The Razorbacks are picked to finish first in the SEC West (82 votes) and second overall behind the Vanderbilt Commodores (87 votes).