The University of Tennessee and University of Arkansas are separated by 574 miles but it hasn’t stopped the pair from developing one of the fastest rising rivalries in the country.
It was on display this weekend when Arkansas second baseman Robert Moore brought the Vols up unprovoked in his postgame press conference following the Razorbacks’ weekend sweep of LSU.
“It’s easy to say you’re confident after sweeping LSU,” Moore said. “But we’re pretty confident. I think we are going to go into the (SEC) tournament and shake a lot of heads too with a team that’s at the top of the East.”
Robert Moore said the Hogs are pretty confident after sweeping LSU.
“I think we are going to go into the (SEC) tournament and shake a lot of heads too with a team that’s at the top of the East.” pic.twitter.com/movZNTT9xM
— Mason Choate (@ChoateMason) April 16, 2022
The team at the top of the East is Tennessee. The top-ranked Vols sit at 14-1 in SEC play at the halfway point of the conference season and Arkansas is the only team standing in the way of Tennessee’s first SEC Regular Season Championship since 1995.
Through five series, Tennessee sits at the top of the SEC East with a 14-1 record and Arkansas sit at the top of the SEC West with an 11-4 record.
Georgia (9-6) and Alabama/Auburn/Texas A&M (8-7) hold the next best records in the SEC. This is truly a two-team race for the regular season title.
Unfortunately, Tennessee and Arkansas don’t meet on the diamond in the regular season leading Moore to reference making noise against the Vols in the SEC Tournament.
Tennessee and Arkansas’ budding baseball feud technically began in 2017 when Tony Vitello left his role as a Razorbacks’ assistant coach to become Tennessee’s head coach.
However, the feud didn’t truly take form until last season when the Vols burst onto the college baseball scene. Arkansas was the nation’s No. 1 team for the majority of the season and came to Knoxville in mid-May for a top five series.
Arkansas defended its No. 1 ranking but the series wasn’t without drama. Max Ferguson’s walk off homer in game two gave Tennessee its lone win of the weekend and Vitello and his former boss Dave Van Horn came face-to-face in an impassioned conversation following the ending of the series.
The Razorbacks would best the Vols again two weeks later in Hoover, defeating Tennessee in the SEC Tournament Championship. However, Arkansas’ season met its unanticipated conclusion in the Super Regional while Tennessee returned to the College World Series for the first time since 2005.
The roles have reversed this season, however, as Tennessee has been the nation’s No. 1 team for four weeks and Arkansas has been a top five team— just not as dominant as they were last season.
It’s a shame these two teams don’t meet in the regular season, but a SEC Tournament matchup would be a strong consolation.