The School: The University of Arkansas, formerly known as Arkansas Industrial University. Its motto is Veritate Duce Progredi, Latin for “To Advance with Truth as our Leader.” A strange motto for a school in a state that advanced with Bill Clinton as its leader for 12 years.
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas. An otherwise unobjectionable town that unfortunately has (according to Wikipedia) chosen to call itself “The Athens of the Ozarks.” This is roughly the same as Knoxville slapping itself with the moniker “The Paris of East Tennessee,” a designation that, while technically correct, mostly just serves as a reminder that the towns surrounding Knoxville are somehow even worse. To our knowledge, Knoxville has not labeled itself as such, but Fayetteville has decided it appropriate to tell everyone it’s more cosmopolitan than Bentonville, the World Headquarters of Wal-Mart, as well as dozens of towns where the denizens spend the vast majority of their time figuring out how to get their hands on Oxy.
The Mascot: The Razorback. This is actually a cool, original mascot that I can’t even think of a good way to make fun of. On the other hand...
And, uh, people complain about the Vanderbilt Whistler?
Record: 46-18, 20-10 in the SEC
How’d they get here? Swept the Fayetteville Regional by beating Central Connecticut, followed by two wins over TCU. Then took two of three against Ole Miss in the supers because of course Ole Miss blew it in the supers.
Best win: While the Razorbacks did beat Vanderbilt on April 14, taking one of three from the Commodores is probably less impressive than sweeping Mississippi State — by an aggregate score of 27-10 — from April 18-20.
Most embarrassing loss: Lost 17-7 to Little Rock, a Sun Belt team that went 29-28, on April 2. In addition to not being particularly good, Little Rock is roughly to Arkansas what MTSU is to Vandy. There’s just an added level of embarrassment when you lose to that specific team.
Most terrifying batter: Well this is awkward. Arkansas has five hitters batting over .300, five with ten or more homers, and six (!) slugging over .500 — but there’s also no single JJ Bleday type who you look at and think “oh shit, that guy.”
So we will go with Heston Kjerstad, who in addition to being tied for the team lead in homers with 15, also has a truly terrifying name. “Heston Kjerstad” definitely sounds like the name of a man who pillages coastal towns while wearing a horned helmet and drinking goblets of mead. You are hereby warned.
Best pitcher: This one’s easy: Isaiah Campbell, with 115 strikeouts and 20 walks in 111.1 innings, a 12-1 record, 2.26 ERA, and .205 opponents’ batting average, is the cream of the Arkansas pitching staff and it really isn’t up for debate.
Most terrifying pitcher: But we would be remiss not to mention freshman lefthander Patrick Wicklander, who has hit 9 batters in 65 innings of work this season. He also has 88 strikeouts.
Best NCAA Tournament finish: Runners-up in 1979 and 2018, though you could also argue accurately that 2018 was Arkansas’s worst finish:
Should Vanderbilt be scared? Well, Vanderbilt wouldn’t have to play them until the finals — but then, they’re also probably the biggest threat to Vanderbilt in the CWS. So yeah, if Vanderbilt should be scared of anyone, this is probably the team.