Hogs Get Pleasant Surprise With National Seed

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' baseball players crowded around a TV in the corner of their locker room at Baum Stadium on Monday morning.

They ate chicken wings and waited to hear which teams would be coming this week to play in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional.

The locker room was relatively quiet — at least until ESPN showed a list of the eight teams that had earned a national seed for the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

The players clapped their hands and cheered when they saw that — to their surprise — the Razorbacks had received the No. 7 seed.

That made their road to Omaha for the College World Series a little bit easier.

"I was very surprised. I didn't think we were going to get a national seed at all," Arkansas second baseman Ben Tschepikow said.

"We saw it up on the TV screen, and it kind of looked like it was fake at first. Then we realized we had a national seed. We were like, ‘This is awesome. We've got a great opportunity in front of us.'"

Like many of his teammates, Arkansas pitcher Nick Schmidt wasn't too optimistic about the Razorbacks' chances of receiving a national seed.

After all, national seeds don't often go to teams that lose six of their final nine games of the regular season. But there it was on the TV — Arkansas as the No. 7 seed.

"It was a huge relief to us," Schmidt said. "A lot of us doubted maybe we weren't going to get (a national seed), but our strong showing in the (Southeastern Conference) tournament really helped us out."

As it turns out, the Razorbacks dramatically improved their case for a national seed by advancing to the SEC championship game this past weekend in Hoover, Ala.

Arkansas lost 7-4 to Vanderbilt on Sunday, but not before first proving itself to the NCAA baseball selection committee.

After the excitement died down Monday afternoon, Arkansas' players sat quietly as ESPN unveiled the names of the three other teams that will be playing in the Fayetteville Regional.

Creighton University (44-14) received the regional's No. 2 seed, Oklahoma State (38-19) got the No. 3 seed and the University of Albany (29-27) will be making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed.

"It's going to be a tough tournament," Arkansas first baseman Danny Hamblin said. "Creighton seems like they've had a good year, and Oklahoma State is always dangerous as a (No.) 3 seed.

"It's going to be a fun tournament."

Anything is possible, of course. But at least on paper, several Arkansas' players admitted they were pleased with how the regional shaped up for them.

"I like the way it looks," Arkansas center fielder Jake Dugger said. "We've played Oklahoma State in the past, and we know how they can play. They're a good team."

Creighton and Albany are a little bit more of a mystery to the Razorbacks.

But after last year's disappointment of losing in the Fayetteville Regional at Baum Stadium, Arkansas catcher Brian Walker didn't want to assume anything.

"Every team that's going to be in a regional is going to be good," Walker said. "And everybody is going to have a couple of good arms and be able to swing the bat."

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