FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Arkansas baseball team picked up its second top-10 ranking of the 2012 preseason on Tuesday as Baseball America ranked the Razorbacks fourth in its preseason top 25.
The No. 4 preseason ranking is Arkansas' highest since the 2007 preseason when Collegiate Baseball also ranked the Razorbacks at No. 4 in its preseason poll.
Arkansas returns 19 letterwinners from last season's team that finished the season with a 40-22 record and won the SEC Western Division championship. Arkansas brings back five position starters from last year's team, including freshman All-American Dominic Ficociello, who hit .335 with four homers and 50 RBI. Other returning position starters include 2012 team captains Bo Bigham and Matt Reynolds, along with Tim Carver and Matt Vinson.
On the mound, the Razorbacks return a bulk of their pitching staff that finished the 2011 season with a 3.20 team ERA, the eighth-best in program history and the lowest since the 1982 season. Arkansas brings back 10 pitchers in total, led by staff ace DJ Baxendale, who earned All-SEC honors as a sophomore. Baxendale, who is one of three team captains in 2012, finished the 2011 season with a 10-2 record and a 1.58 ERA. Freshman All-Americans Barrett Astin and Nolan Sanburn also return for the Razorbacks. Astin went 5-2 with three saves and a 2.72 ERA last season, while Sanburn posted a 2-4 record with a team-high eight saves and a 3.62 ERA.
Seven teams from the Southeastern Conference are ranked by Baseball America, including six teams in the top 11. Florida is Baseball America's preseason No. 1 team, while South Carolina checks in just ahead of the Razorbacks at No. 3. LSU is slotted at No. 8, while Vanderbilt is ranked 10th. Georgia checks in at No. 11, and Ole Miss is ranked 22nd.
Arkansas opens the 2012 season on Friday, Feb. 17, when it hosts Villanova at Baum Stadium. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m.
For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
2012 Baseball America Preseason Top 25
3. South Carolina
7. Texas A&M
9. North Carolina
12. Georgia Tech
17. Arizona State
20. Florida State
21. Central Florida
22. Ole Miss
23. Oregon State
25. Cal State Fullerton