Even though the University of Arkansas' cinderella season came to a disappointing end Sunday afternoon at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Razorback fans can be proud of the outstanding year the underdog Hogs put together.
The Razorbacks, picked to finish 11th in the 12-team Southeastern Conference by the coaches in the preseason, surprised the college baseball world by claiming the Western Division championship and a share of the overall league title with Georgia.
Arkansas gained a berth in the NCAA Regionals and were rewarded by being given one of the 16 regional tournament sites in Fayetteville. Arkansas dropped the second game of the tournament, but rallied behind catcher Brady Toops' ninth inning grand slam to propel the Hogs past Wichita State, shocking the Shockers and setting up a championship game in which the Hogs won 4-3. The victory advanced the Razorbacks to the Super Regional as the number eight national seed against perennial power Florida State, where the Hogs swept the Seminoles and advanced to the College World Series.
The Hogs had the unenviable task of facing number-one seeded Texas and lost their opener, 13-2, before being eliminated by Arizona 7-2. But with a team made up of mostly freshman and sophomores, prospects for SEC Coach of the Year Dave Van Horn and his Razorbacks look very bright for the future.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take my family to watch the Hogs play in the final regular season series against Auburn, when the Razorbacks claimed the conference title by taking two of three games from a tough Tiger team at Charlie Baum Stadium.
For those of you who have not had the opportunity to see where the Razorbacks play, you are missing a treat. The Hogs play in what is rated either the number one or two college stadium in the nation, depending on which publication you choose to read. Without a doubt, the Hogs boast the largest scoreboard in the country while the stadium itself looks more like a AAA minor league ballpark than a college baseball stadium..
While we were there, we saw the Razorbacks break a school record in attendance for a series, as the Hogs drew over 20,000 for the three game set, including 8,500 for the first game Friday night. The single game record lasted until the Razorbacks played Florida State in the Super Regionals, where they drew an NCAA on-campus record of over 10,000 in completing their two game sweep over the 'Noles to gain their fifth College World Series Tournament berth, and first since 1989.
Even though the Razorbacks went two and out in Omaha, Arkansas returns seven of their eight starters and the majority of their pitching staff as well as a highly touted incoming freshman class.
If you love baseball, take a trip to the hills next season and watch the Razorbacks while experiencing the thrills of the Hog calls reverberating throughout the Ozarks.
Remember, you can't beat fun at the old ball park.