The Razorbacks will play regional away from Fayetteville

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By: Matt Jones

Posted: Sunday May 29th 2022

FAYETTEVILLE — For the first time in seven years, the Arkansas baseball team will open the NCAA playoffs away from Baum-Walker Stadium.

The Razorbacks were not among the 16 regional hosts announced by the NCAA on Sunday. Arkansas (38-18) has a record comparable to many teams hosting a regional debut on Friday, but the Razorbacks were hurt by a low score in the Ratings Performance Index, which emphasizes strength of the calendar.

The team’s RPI ranked 41st nationally heading into games played on Sunday. The host with the lowest RPI was Texas A&M (20).

Arkansas will learn its regional destination Monday at 11 a.m. when ESPN2 unveils the 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket. The Razorbacks will likely be the No. 2 seed in one of 16 regional areas.

No one knows where Arkansas will play. While some teams receive first-weekend assignments at nearby campuses, regional areas often include teams from various parts of the United States.

The Arkansas-Fayetteville region last year, for example, included Nebraska and a pair of teams that ran more than 1,300 miles, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Northeastern.

Razorbacks will not be sent to any of the SEC campuses that host regions – Tennessee, Texas A&M, Auburn or Florida.

That leaves 12 regional sites as potential landing spots for Arkansas. These regionals will be played at local stadiums at Virginia Tech, Stanford, Maryland, Texas, Oregon State, North Carolina, Miami, Georgia Southern, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Southern Miss or East Carolina.

The Razorbacks have never played a regional at nine of those venues under the current tournament format. Arkansas played regionals at Texas in 2003 and 2005, Stanford in 2008 and Oklahoma State in 2015.

Oklahoma State is the closest host site to Fayetteville, approximately 200 miles away.

Arkansas has hosted a region in every NCAA tournament that has been played since 2017. The Razorbacks have won home regions in all three tournaments that have been played since 2018.

The last Arkansas team fired during regional play was the 2015 team that went to the College World Series. The Razorbacks won a regional at Oklahoma State that year and a super regional which was played in Fayetteville due to a scheduling conflict at Missouri State Stadium.

Arkansas has been on the road for 10 previous regions since the NCAA adopted its current tournament format in 1999. In addition to the 2015 win at Oklahoma State, the Razorbacks won road regions at Wichita State in 2002 , Oklahoma in 2009 and Rice in 2012.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Arkansas was a lock on hosting a region again. After the Razorbacks won a series at Auburn on May 8, they were expected to make the national top eight, which guarantees home-court advantage heading into the College World Series.

But Arkansas staggered down the stretch and lost back-to-back series to Vanderbilt and Alabama before an 0-2 week at the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks will enter their region on a four-game losing streak and are 2-6 in their last eight games.

Recent losses, coupled with a perceived weak non-conference schedule, have caused Arkansas’ RPI score to drop significantly over the past two weeks. The Razorbacks ranked 20th in RPI after the Auburn series.

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