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NCAA Baseball Tournament: Kansas State 4, Arkansas 3 -- The Title Season That Wasn't

The preseason national championship favorites are knocked out of the NCAA playoffs well short of Omaha. So what now?

File
File
Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

This was supposed to be Arkansas' year. Back in the preseason, the Hogs had the hype and were seen as the class of the best conference in college baseball. That hype was completely obliterated in one 0-4 record in Arizona; the losses to Arizona State (twice), Gonzaga and Pacific knocked the Hogs out of the Top 10, and they never returned.

That weekend likely also cost Arkansas the chance to host a regional in one of the more controversial decision the selection committee made, and that at the very least made it more difficult for Arkansas to get out of the regionals. They made it all the way to the final game of the Manhattan Regional before Kansas State edged the Razorbacks 4-3 on Sunday night.

That leaves Arkansas well short of Omaha and facing an offseason of uncertainty. The key reason for all the preseason attention Arkansas drew was its pitching staff; now, all three regular starters will likely at least have offers to consider after the MLB Draft. Randall Fant (5-1, 1.92 ERA) is a senior, while Ryne Stanek (10-2, 1.39) and Barrett Astin (4-4, 1.79) are juniors who will likely get picked somewhere. (Unlike the NFL Draft, players don't have to declare for the MLB Draft and can opt to return to school.)

But if Stanek and Astin decide to come back, there are enough pieces here to make another run at Omaha. The offense suffers a few losses, but nothing as notable as the pitching staff, largely because almost nothing on the Arkansas offense is as notable as the pitching staff. The top two hitters will return in 2014.

Next year, though, is little comfort for a team that fell from postseason favorite to first-weekend knockout. This year was supposed to be Arkansas' season to win the title, and this year showed the dangers of projecting too far into the future.