Arkansas baseball picked 3rd in SEC West, 4 players on Preseason All-SEC 1st Team

Arkansas baseball picked 3rd in SEC West, 4 players on Preseason All-SEC 1st Team
Arkansas baseball logo (Source: Arkansas Razorbacks)

For the third consecutive year, Arkansas baseball has an SEC-best four preseason first-team honorees.

Casey Opitz (catcher), Robert Moore (second base), Christian Franklin (outfield) and Matt Goodheart (designated hitter/utility) landed on the 2021 Coaches Preseason All-SEC First Team, which was released along with the annual preseason coaches’ poll on Thursday.

The Razorback foursome is the most of any program in the conference – a feat Arkansas also achieved ahead of the 2019 and 2020 campaigns. No other school has more than two first-team honorees on this year’s preseason All-SEC squads.

Opitz, the Razorbacks’ primary catcher and a team captain, slashed .302/.361/.509 with six doubles, one home run and 11 RBI in 16 games during the pandemic-shortened season. He started 14 games behind the dish for the Hogs, throwing out six-of-10 base stealers on the year.

The Centennial, Colo., native, who entered the 2020 campaign as a Baseball America Third Team Preseason All-American, was a preseason All-SEC First Team honoree at catcher one year ago as well. Opitz is ranked as the No. 6 catcher in D1Baseball’s preseason position power rankings headed into the 2021 season.

Moore started all 16 games in his debut as a Hog one year ago. The then-17-year-old freshman slashed .317/.403/.444 with two homers and 17 RBI before the season was cut short due to the pandemic. His 20 hits on the year ranked second among freshmen in the SEC, and his batting average and RBI total were third most among the league’s first-year newcomers.

The Razorback second baseman earned SEC Player of the Week and Perfect Game National Player of the Week honors last season, becoming the first freshman in program history to do so. The Leawood, Kan., native heads into the 2021 season as a D1Baseball Third Team Preseason All-American and as the No. 3 second baseman in D1Baseball’s preseason position power rankings.

Franklin continues to add to his growing list of preseason accolades with this most recent first-team recognition. Already anointed a preseason first-team All-American by Perfect Game, D1Baseball and Baseball America, the Razorback captain enters the 2021 campaign as one of the top prospects in the nation.

The Overland Park, Kan., native slashed .381/.467/.619 with three home runs, 11 RBI and a team-best 21 runs scored in 16 games during the pandemic-shortened season. He started every game in center field after manning left field as a Razorback rookie in 2019 when he hit .274 with six home runs and 34 RBI to earn SEC All-Freshman honors.

Goodheart, meanwhile, picked up preseason All-SEC First Team honors at designated hitter/utility for the second consecutive year. The Magnolia, Ark., native slashed .302/.400/.492 in 16 games for the Hogs during the pandemic-shortened season, totaling three homers and 18 RBI over 63 at-bats.

The Razorbacks’ three-hole hitter tallied six multi-hit games and five multi-RBI performances in 2020, driving in a season-high three runs on three occasions. Goodheart finished tied for the team high in free passes (11), which included a team-leading 10 walks and one HBP.

Arkansas, as a team, was predicted to finish third in the SEC Western Division, collecting two first-place votes from the league’s head coaches. Ole Miss (seven votes) and Mississippi State (three votes) were selected to finish first and second, respectively, in the division.

The Hogs’ 2021 slate begins next weekend with the State Farm College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas will take on Texas Tech in a clash between nationally ranked programs to open the season, with first pitch set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19.

Copyright 2021 KAIT. All rights reserved.