FAYETTEVILLE - Auburn is not one of the finest teams in the Southeastern Conference when it comes to baseball this season. And yet, right now, the Tigers are better than Arkansas.

FAYETTEVILLE - Auburn is not one of the finest teams in the Southeastern Conference when it comes to baseball this season. And yet, right now, the Tigers are better than Arkansas.

If that continues through the weekend, there are problems.

The Razorbacks were swept in their SEC-opening series at South Carolina last weekend. It was not an especially shameful loss - the Gamecocks are a top 15-ranked program in the country. But a winless record after three conference games puts Arkansas in a tie for worst in the league. Even Auburn, which has an overall mark at just a game over .500, took one in the first weekend.

So Arkansas taking a sweep, or, at least, winning the three-game set this weekend at Baum Stadium is of capital importance.

"We’ve all paid the price for it, suffering through this … It hurt everybody," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "You come back 0-3, don’t have a midweek game, don’t have a chance to play, you’ve got to get it going.

Arkansas did lose its first two SEC series last season and still made the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Those two, however, were against Vanderbilt and LSU, a pair of teams that actually joined the Razorbacks in Omaha. Auburn has, by most objective measures, almost no chance at getting there.

The Tigers have the worst earned-run average in the SEC. Nobody in the league has allowed more walks, earned runs or sacrifices. Losses dot Auburn’s record from Southern, Troy, Georgia Tech, Oral Roberts, Michigan State, Southern Mississippi and two at the hands of Sacramento State.

What Auburn can do, though, is hit. It has scored eight-or-more runs in each of it’s last seven games. The Tigers scored a total of 25 runs, even, in their season-opening series against Texas A&M. The Aggies are the No. 2-ranked team in the nation.

"The league is so good this year. It’s so balanced," Van Horn said. "It’s an older league. There’s not too many times you can let a game slip away you can make it when you can look at the schedule and go ‘we get it there.’ … We need to turn it around a little bit on the weekends."

Arkansas is ranked 20th after a sweep at the hands of the Gamecocks. And as bad as Auburn’s pitching has been, Arkansas’ is only slightly better. In the 14-team SEC, Arkansas has the No. 12 ERA and No. 12 batting average-against. Dominic Taccolini, the expected starter Friday, was dinged for six runs last week. Keaton McKinney’s, Sunday’s probable starter, gave up four in 4 2/3 innings last time out.

Most troubling may be the play of Zach Jackson. The preseason All-American junior right-hander has floundered lately. In relief of McKinney last Sunday, Jackson went 2 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on three hits and five walks. Before that - which was back on March 11 - he worked 3 innings and walked three more.

But Van Horn has never failed to make the NCAA Tournament at Arkansas. Panic isn’t looming in the least. Not with him or Jackson or anyone else. The SEC-opening weekend at Baum Stadium pending.

"All you have to do is go back to this year at the same time," Van Horn said. "Wild. Behind in the count. Think about South Alabama, Maryland, Vandy … then it started getting better. Hopefully he’s got it all behind him and he’ll figure it out.

"Seems like just about year-in, year-out we have to battle our way up."

Series Ticket

Auburn (11-10, 1-2) at Arkansas (15-6, 0-3)

When: Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.

Where: Baum Stadium in Fayetteville

TV: SEC Network+

Radio: Razorback Sports Network

Projected rotation: Justin Camp (1-1, 4.94 ERA) vs Dominic Taccolini (3-1, 4.06 ERA); Saturday - Casey Mize (1-1, 3.38 ERA) vs Keaton McKinney (0-0, 6.14 ERA); Sunday - Cole Lipscomb (1-2, 6.33 ERA) vs TBD

Key hitters: Auburn - OF Joshua Palacios (.433 AVG, 8 2B, 26 R), OF Anfernee Grier (.432 AVG, 6 HR, 34 R); INF Niko Buentello (.400 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI); Arkansas - 3B Carson Shaddy (.387 AVG, 5 HR, 23 RBI), OF Luke Bonfield (.333 AVG, .593 SLG, 3 HR), OF/1B Clark Eagan (.317 AVG, 18 RBI)