Baseball: Vanderbilt hosts Arkansas

The tuneups are over and it's time for the real baseball season to start, the Southeastern Conference season. Vanderbilt will host an always strong Arkansas squad for a Friday-Sunday series. Look inside for a scouting report on both teams.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas

Friday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network+)
RHP Carson Fulmer (3-0, 0.81) vs. RHP Keaton McKinney (1-1, 3.45 ERA)

Saturday (2 p.m., SEC Network+)
RHP Walker Buehler (0-0, 1.50) vs. RHP Dominic Taccolini (3-1, 3.13)

Sunday (Noon, SEC Network+)
TBA vs. RHP Trey Killian (0-0, 2.45)


ABOUT VANDERBILT

The defending National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores swept Quinipiac in a mid-week two game series 9-2 and 8-0. Last weekend in a series at Los Angeles, the Commodores played three opponents UCLA, USC and TCU and came away with a solid win over the Bruins but fell in close losses to the Trojans and Horned Frogs (at Dodger Stadium). The 13-4 Commodores will now embark on the toughest part of its schedule, SEC play. The Dores will host the always strong Arkansas Razorbacks for a three game series.

Vanderbilt as a team is batting at a .321 average (2nd in SEC) and has scored an average of 6.30 runs per game. The Commodores lead the SEC in hits with 190.

Right fielder Rhett Wiseman (.435, 14 RBIs) has been Vanderbilt's most consistent hitter. Wiseman leads the squad in homers with three. Short stop Dansby Swanson .380 is the 'Dores top base stealing threat with eight successful steals in nine attempts. Local fan favorite, Zander Wiel (.356, 20 RBIs), is a powerful hitter who is a threat to knock the ball out of the zip code every time he is at bat. Wiel currently leads the team in RBIs and walks. Left fielder Bryan Reynolds (.286, 12 RBIs) and third baseman freshman Will Toffey (.278, 10 RBIs) round out the top Commodore hitting threats.

Vanderbilt leads the SEC in combined staff strikeouts with 175 and opposing bating average (.187). The Commodores are just ninth in the conference ERA at 2.93, likely the result of a rigorous non-conference slate and some key injuries. Righty Carson Fulmer (3-1, 0.81 ERA) was a closer early in the 2014 season but moved to into a starting pitcher position later in the season and excelled. He finished the season with a 7-1 record and 1.98 ERA. Carson seems to have improved on his power and ability to go deeper into games. Fulmer struck out nine in the 6-0 win over UCLA and has 20 strikeouts in his past two starts.

Junior righty Walker Buehler will take the mound for the 'Dores on Saturday. Buehler hasn't pitched much this season due to injury. He did pitch on Sunday in the 4-2 loss to TCU. In that game Buehler struck out five while allowing one earned run on three hits in four innings of work. Buehler had strong 2014 season finishing with a 12-2 record and a 2.64 ERA. The Kentucky native started the season as a mid weeker but finished the season as a part of the weekend rotation.

Sunday's starter is to be announced. Some of the possible starters include LHP John Kilichowski (1-0, 4.0), freshman RHP Kyle Wright (1.0, 2.16) and righty Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 2.41). Ben Bowden (2-1, 1.69) has appeared in seven games this season as a relief pitcher. Bowden gave up a costly walk off home run in Saturday's game with USC. Other than that one pitch Bowden has been fairly sound.

ABOUT ARKANSAS

Arkansas (9-5) has seen seven of its game either be cancelled for postpone due to foul weather. Most recently the Razorbacks were swept in a two game midweek series against Gonzaga. The Hogs started the season with a three game sweep of North Dakota and then loss two of three in South Alabama Tournament before a string of cancellations. Arkansas also earned 3-game sweeps over Eastern Illinois and Loyola Marymount.

Arkansas as a team bats .315 and is No.1 in the SEC in slugging percentage (.491) and fourth in on-base percentage (.404). Razorback batters have hit 14 home runs, good for fourth in the conference.

Bobby Wernes (.386, 7 RBI) is the Hogs' most consistent hitter, percentage wise. He's is in a three-way tie for the team lead in hits with 17. Rick Nomura (.378, 5 RBI) is one of the players Wernes is tied with. Tyler Spoon (.327, 13 RBI) lead the team in doubles with six. Andrew Benintendi (.311, 16 RBI) leads the team in RBIs and home runs with four. Brett McAfee (.278, 4 RBIs) and Carson Shaddy (.438, 4 RBI) are two other key Arkansas hitters to watch out for.

On the mound the Razorbacks are last in the league in ERA allowing 4.46 earned runs a game on average. The Hogs are also tied with Ole Miss for last in opposing batting average (.232).

Righty Keaton McKinney will start for the Razorbacks on Friday. In his most recent start Keaton pitched 3.1 inning against Loyola Marymount on March 8. In that game he gave up three hits and four earned runs. Keaton's fastball reaches the mid 90s. He was drafted in the 28th round by the New York Mets in 2014.

On Saturday the Hogs are scheduled to pitch another righty, Texan Dominic Taccolini whose fastball reaches the low 90s. Taccolini has given up three home runs this season, most of the Razorback pitchers but he's also pitched the most innings by far on the team (23). Taccolini's strength is that he keeps walks to a minimum, allowing only five so far this season.

Yet another righty, Trey Killian will start the Sunday contest. Killian is the most experienced of the Hog starters. Killian has pitched just 3.2 innings so far this season, allowing four hits, a run and no walks. Last season Killian started 14 contests and finished the season with 2.30 ERA. He had nine strikeouts in one start against Missouri.

SEC STANDINGS
EAST CONF GB ALL
FLA 0-0 -- 16-2
USC 0-0 -- 14-3
KEN 0-0 -- 13-3
VAN 0-0 -- 13-4
MIZ 0-0 -- 12-4
GEO 0-0 -- 12-5
TEN 0-0 -- 7-6
--- --- -- ---
WEST CONF GB ALL
TAM 0-0 -- 18-0
LSU 0-0 -- 16-1
MSU 0-0 -- 15-4
AUB 0-0 -- 13-4
ARK 0-0 -- 9-5
ALA 0-0 -- 9-6
OLM 0-0 -- 9-7
SEC THIS WEEK

Arkansas at Vanderbilt
Missouri at Georgia
Tennessee at Florida
Kentucky at South Carolina
Alabama at Mississippi St
Auburn at Texas A&M
Ole Miss at LSU

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