2017 Razorback Baseball Season Preview

By Reed Bushkuhl

The Hogs look to bounce back in 2017 from a dreadful 2016 campaign where they finished with an overall record of 26-29 and finishing SEC play at 7-23, worst in the conference. This was the first time in 15 years that the Razorbacks had failed to make the post season, which does not sit well with Razorback fans or Head Coach Dave Van Horn. The Hogs lost some veteran leadership last season in senior middle infielders Rick Nomura and Michael Bernal, while losing utility man Clark Eagan and pitcher Zach Jackson to the draft. The Hogs look to rebound from the down season and get back to their winning ways.

The Razorbacks bring back 2 of the 3 weekend starters on the mound – Blane Knight and Dominic Taccolinni while losing Sunday starter Keaton McKinney to injury. Taccolinni had a rough year last year compared to his previous 2 years in Fayetteville, but looks to be a leader and should get back to his previous form. Taccolinni will get the ball on Friday Nights, Blaine Knight will take the hill on Saturdays, and the Sunday spot is still up for grabs in a battle between Barett Loeske, Evan Lee, and Trevor Stephens.

The Hogs bring back 5 starters defensively from last year which include Luke Bonfield, Carson Shaddy, Eric Cole, Chad Spanberger, and Jake Arledge. Bonfield led the team in round trippers last season with 8 and also in RBI’s with 39.  He looks to have an even bigger year as the primary guy in left field. Key newcomers to look for are Freshman Dominic Fletcher, Junior transfer Hunter Wilson, and sophomore transfer Jax Biggers. Fletcher was ranked as the #10 outfielder coming out of high school and is going to be the starting centerfielder. Fletcher came in the fall and Van Horn said he immediately wanted him as the starting centerfielder. He can run and hit for power as he slugged 6 homeruns in fall practice. Hunter Wilson is a transfer from Eastern Oklahoma State Junior College, where he led the squad to an NJCAA Region 2 championship. He is the team’s backup shortstop, but will also be used as a utility man.Wilson isa great defender and if he can get the bat going he may be able to crack the starting lineup. Jax Biggers is a transfer from Cisco Junior College in Texas where he hit .385 and helped his team reach the Junior College World Series. Biggers is slated to hit anywhere between 7-9 in the lineup and will  be the starting shortstop for the diamond Hogs.

Grant Coch, who has really improved from last season to this season will be behind the dish for the Hogs come opening day.   Coch played a few games last season, but is poised to have a breakout year this year. Jake Arledge, who started half the season last year in right field or left field, is back, and will be the primary DH for the Razorbacks.  Whenever he is not hitting, Arledge will likely be platooning in Right Field with Sophomore Eric Cole. Chad Spanberger, Carson Shaddy, and Cody Scroggins all have new positions this season. Spanberger, who played first base last year, will be the starting 3rd baseman with freshman Jared Gates being the likely starter at first base. Shaddy will move over to 2nd base replacing Rick Nomura, after being the opening day 3rd baseman last season. Cody Scroggins, who played some 3rd base late in the season last year, is now moved to full time pitcher, and we could see him in the closer’s role if he shows improvement throughout the season.

Projected Opening Day lineup

  1. Eric Cole (9)
  2. Luke Bonfield (7)
  3. Chad Spanberger (5)
  4. Grant Coch (2)
  5. Jared Gates (3)
  6. Carson Shaddy (4)
  7. Jax Biggers (6)
  8. Dominic Fletcher (8)
  9. Jake Arledge (DH)

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