FAYETTEVILLE (UofA) – For the third time in the preseason, the Arkansas baseball team has been ranked in the top 10 as the Razorbacks are ranked eighth in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, released on Thursday afternoon.
Arkansas has already picked up two other top 10 rankings this season, earning a No. 4 ranking from Baseball America and a No. 8 national ranking from Collegiate Baseball.
The Razorbacks return 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 from last year's team, 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.
The SEC placed three teams in the top 10 of the poll. Florida is the top ranked team, while South Carolina comes in at No. 2. Other conference teams in the poll include No. 12 Vanderbilt, No. 14 LSU and No. 25 Georgia.
A pair of Arkansas' 2012 non-conference opponents are also in the poll with Texas being ranked fifth and Oklahoma 15th. Arkansas will face the Longhorns on Sunday, March 4, in the Houston College Classic. The Razorbacks face Oklahoma in Norman on Tuesday, April 10.
Arkansas opens the season on Friday, February 17, at 3:05 p.m. against Villanova at Baum Stadium. Season tickets for Arkansas' 36-game home schedule are now 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.
USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll – Preseason
2. South Carolina
4. North Carolina
6. Texas A&M
9. Florida State
10. Georgia Tech
13. Miami (Fla.)
16. Cal State Fullerton
19. Oregon State
21. St. John's
Italic indicates 2012 Arkansas opponent