Razorbacks get ready for next SEC series.
FAYETTEVILLE — Fayetteville, and its high school from which Carson Shaddy graduated, is almost as close as it gets in Arkansas to being farthest from Louisiana. Chris Shaddy, Carson’s father, and a former stellar Razorbacks shortstop, played during Arkansas’ Southwest Conference era and never played against the LSU Tigers. Yet Carson Shaddy, the Razorbacks’ .323, seven home runs hitting fourth-year junior second baseman, said he was bred to loathe LSU, 20-10, 5-4 in the SEC West, and meeting the tied Razorbacks, 24-6 and at 7-2 tied for best in the SEC West, in a 3-game at Baum Stadium starting at 6:30 tonight and continuing at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. “I was raised to hate LSU,” Carson Shaddy said after the Razorbacks swept a nonconference doubleheader against Grand Canyon University Wednesday at Baum. “I try to show it as much as I can through my passion for the game and for this university. You’ll see a lot of passion this weekend.” Literally, see it since the Razorbacks anticipate Baum about busting with fans this weekend. “Man, I can’t wait to get under these lights with the Baum faithful,” Shaddy said. “They love their Hogs and we love them. There’s nothing better than playing in Fayetteville.” Blaine Knight of Bryant, tonight’s Arkansas starting pitcher, expressed similar Arkansas love/LSU antipathy. So does third baseman Jared Gates and he just arrived last fall via Wichita, Kan. and Iowa Western Community College. Oh, yeah,” Gates said. “I’ve been around these guys long enough to know that these guys (LSU) aren’t the good guys. I’m ready as well.” Even at 5-4 in the SEC Coach Paul Mainieri’s Tigers come so loaded with talent and tradition to be ranked 13th in the USA Today Coaches poll while coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, sweeping since SEC unbeaten Mississippi State at home then winning 2 of 3 at Missouri and at Alabama, are 15th. “They were preseason ranked in the Top 5 in every poll,” Van Horn said. “I think seven, of their starting position players back. They actually had I think two, maybe three, of their position players turn down the draft.” LSU first baseman-outfielder Greg Deichmann, .321 with nine home runs, and Saturday left-handed starter Jared Poche, 6-1, 1.15 ERA, stunned the college baseball world turning down Major League draft money to return as seniors. Junior right-hander Alex Lange, with talent and past success, including two outings over Arkansas belying his current 3-3 record, starts for the Tigers tonight. “Lange's an outstanding pitcher,” Van Horn said. “The first couple of times he's gotten us and we haven't been able to get to him. He's a projected first-round pick and he's got first-round stuff.” Sophomore Knight, 4-1, 2.23 ERA with an incredible 48 strikeouts vs. 2 walks, is awfully tough, too. Knight’s 2016 to 2017 contrast epitomizes the resurgent Razorbacks already winning as many SEC games as last year’s completely uncharacteristically last-place 7-23 in the SEC team. “His attitude is so much stronger,” Shaddy said. “People don’t look at him as this skinny little guy who sometimes can run it up to 93. They look at him as a dog on the mound who can run it up to 97 and he’s going to get you out with his best stuff. He’s not afraid to go at you.” Knight certainly hasn’t pitched afraid or acted afraid. “ We’ve been confident all year long and I think it’s going to carry through,” Knight said. “We are not scared of these guys. We know we’re better than them so we’re ready to get going.” Actually, Knight, 2-1, 2.98 ERA, pitched pretty well for a struggling team last season but says he pitches better now because he’s succeeding to throw harder without really trying. “Not trying to do too much has helped me out,” Knight said. “Just learn how to spot up every pitch and not try to burn everything by everybody because you aren’t going to beat anybody with just a fastball in this league. They can catch up to 100 (miles per hour) very easily. I don’t throw 100 and so I don’t try to anymore.” Right-handers Trevor Stephan, 4-2, 2.92, and Josh Alberius, 2-3, 3.64, start for the Razorbacks Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. All of Arkansas’ games are on the Razorbacks’ radio network and this weekend on the Internet at SEC +.