SEC coaches choose Arkansas to win conference baseball title

The SEC’s 14 head baseball coaches have voted Arkansas the favorite to win the conference championship this season, according to the annual preseason poll released Thursday.

Nine of the coaches chose the Razorbacks to win the Western Division and nine also picked the Diamond Hogs to win the overall title, with LSU taking three votes and Florida getting two.

Arkansas junior right-fielder Kendall Diggs and junior starting pitcher Hagen Smith were also named to the Coaches Preseason All-SEC First Team, adding to the program’s already numerous preseason accolades.

After a disappointing early exit from the Fayetteville Regional last May, expectations are soaring for Head Coach Dave Van Horn’s revamped Hogs, as they try to reach the College World Series for the fourth time in six years. Arkansas is ranked No. 2 in the Perfect Game Preseason Top 25, and No. 3 in the D1Baseball and Baseball America polls.

The Razorbacks welcome back a solid core of veterans, but have also added the the nation’s top recruiting class, as well as a few key weapons from the transfer portal.

Diggs looks to bring stability to the lineup after slashing .299/.436/.547 last season, with 12 home runs, and team highs with 63 runs batted in and 46 walks, over 58 games. The Olathe, Kan., native, was rewarded with All-SEC second-team honors as designated hitter/utility player.

The highly-touted Smith comes in as one of the top pitchers in the country after being named a consensus All-American last season. The big 6-foot-3 lefty made 18 appearances a year ago, with 11 starts and an 8-2 record. He led the team with a 3.64 ERA, and 109 strikeouts in 71.2 innings of work during his outstanding sophomore campaign. He also recorded two saves in relief, and held opposing hitters to a .217 batting average.

Smith was a semifinalist for last year’s Golden Spikes Award and the College Baseball Foundation’s National Pitcher of the Year Award, and has already been named to numerous preseason All-American lists.

Arkansas opens the season at Baum-Walker Stadium on Feb. 16, hosting James Madison in the first of a four-game series.

2024 SEC Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll

Eastern Division

  1. Florida (11) – 88

  2. Tennessee (2) – 75

  3. Vanderbilt (1) – 73

  4. South Carolina – 50

  5. Kentucky – 44

  6. Georgia – 36

  7. Missouri – 19

Western Division

  1. Arkansas (9) – 87

  2. LSU (5) – 82

  3. Texas A&M – 68

  4. Alabama – 47

  5. Auburn – 46

  6. Ole Miss – 32

  7. Mississippi State – 23

SEC Champion: Arkansas (9), LSU (3), Florida (2)

(x) = First place votes

2024 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

First Team
C: Cole Messina, South Carolina
1B: Jac Caglianone, Florida
2B: Cade Kurland, Florida
3B: Tommy White, LSU
SS: Colby Shelton, Florida
OF: Jace LaViolette, Texas A&M
OF: Ethan Petry, South Carolina
OF: Kendall Diggs, Arkansas
DH/UTL: Ike Irish, Auburn
SP: Hagen Smith, Arkansas
SP: Drew Beam, Tennessee
RP: Brandon Neely, Florida

Second Team
C: Devin Burkes, Kentucky
1B: Charlie Condon, Georgia
2B: Christian Moore, Tennessee
3B: Billy Amick, Tennessee
SS: Jonathan Vastine, Vanderbilt
OF: Braden Montgomery, Texas A&M
OF: Dakota Jordan, Mississippi State
OF: Bobby Peirce, Auburn
DH/UTL: Hayden Travinski, LSU
SP: Jac Caglianone, Florida
SP: Carter Holton, Vanderbilt
RP: Alton Davis II, Alabama

Story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire