FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The fourth-ranked Arkansas Razorback baseball team opens the 2012 season this weekend as it hosts Big East foe Villanova in a three-game series at Baum Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. on Friday and 1:05 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
All three games of the weekend series will be available on RazorVision through ArkansasRazorbacks.com and on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG College. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett (play-by-play) and former Arkansas Sports Information Director Rick Schaeffer (analyst) will call the action.
Single-game tickets for this weekend's series are $10 for reserved seats and $8 for general admission. Season tickets for Arkansas' 36-game home schedule are also on sale. Season tickets are $190 for adults and $140 for University of Arkansas staff, youth and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased by calling 1-800-982-HOGS (4647) or by visiting the online ticket center at ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Single-game tickets can be purchased on gameday at Baum Stadium.
Along with several exciting in-game promotions, a couple of giveaways are planned for the weekend series. On Friday, fans can pick up a copy of the 2012 baseball poster sponsored, while 2012 baseball magnet schedules will be given out on Sunday.
Arkansas begins the 2012 season as a consensus top 10 team and is ranked as high as fourth in the preseason. The No. 4 ranking is the Razorbacks' highest preseason mark since the 2007 season when Arkansas was ranked fourth by Collegiate Baseball. Arkansas returns 19 letterwinners from last year's team that finished the season with a 40-22 record, won the SEC Western Division title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight year.
The Razorbacks bring back 10 pitchers from last season's team, including nine hurlers that pitched at least 20 innings. Last year's staff finished the year with a 3.20 team ERA, which ranked 27th in the country and the best team ERA since the 1982 season finished the year with a 3.00 ERA.
Staff ace DJ Baxendale is scheduled to start the season opener on Friday. A 2012 preseason All-American, Baxendale finished his sophomore season with a 10-2 record, three saves and a 1.58 ERA. He became the first Razorback to win 10 games in a season since Nick Schmidt in 2007. On Saturday, sophomore right hander Ryne Stanek is scheduled to get the start. Stanek, who was named a preseason All-American by Baseball America, posted a 4-2 record with a 3.94 ERA as a freshman. Sophomore righty Barrett Astin is the projected starter in the series finale on Sunday. Astin, who was a freshman All-American last season, went 5-2 with three saves and a 2.72 ERA last year.
Out of the bullpen, redshirt junior Trent Daniel returns for the Razorbacks. Daniel went 2-0 with four saves and a 2.91 ERA in 2011. Preseason All-American Nolan Sanburn led Arkansas with eight saves last season and had a 2-4 record with a 3.62 ERA. Junior left hander Cade Lynch compiled a 4-4 record with a 3.11 ERA last season, while sophomore Brandon Moore went 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA. Sophomore Colby Suggs had a 2-1 record with a 0.90 ERA in 12 appearances.
At the plate, freshman All-American Dominic Ficociello returns for the Razorbacks. Ficociello led Arkansas with a .335 batting average to go along with four homers and a team-high 50 RBI. Ficociello tied the school's freshman single-season record with 75 hits in 2011. Other returning position starters for the Razorbacks include senior Bo Bigham (.291, 2 HR, 20 RBI), redshirt senior Tim Carver (.232, 1 HR, 13 RBI) and junior Matt Reynolds (.243, 3 HR, 22 RBI).
Villanova brings back 22 letterwinners and six starters from last season's team that posted a 20-32 record and a 7-20 record in the Big East. The Wildcats also return six position starters and 10 pitchers from last year's team.
Senior outfielder Matt Fleishman is the top returning hitter for the Wildcats. Fleishman finished the 2011 season with a .325 batting average with five homers and 42 RBI. Senior shortstop Marlon Calbi also returns for Villanova. Calbi also hit .325 last season and added 12 RBI.
Senior southpaw Kyle Helisek is scheduled to start the series opener for Villanova. Helisek started 12 games a season ago and had a 1-9 record with a 6.23 ERA. On Saturday, sophomore right hander Pat Young will get the ball for the Wildcats. Young appeared in 14 games last season, including six starts, and had a 2-2 record with a 5.28 ERA. In the series finale on Sunday, sophomore righty Max Almonte will start for Villanova. In 11 appearances, including five starts, last season, Almonte went 2-0 with a 4.63 ERA.
Out of the bullpen, junior right-handed pitcher Stephen Ostapeck appeared in 20 games last season and posted a 2-2 record with a 2.96 ERA. Senior righty Jerry Battipaglia pitched in 11 games, seven in relief, and compiled a 2-2 record with a 5.01 ERA.
This weekend's series marks the first-ever meetings between Arkansas and Villanova.
For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Weekend Schedule (Times Central and Subject to Change) - Fayetteville, Ark.
Friday, Feb. 17 - 3:05 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 18 - 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 19 - 1:05 p.m.