FAYETTEVILLE - Folks in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains don’t know a lot about Central Michigan. A crash-course:

FAYETTEVILLE - Folks in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains don’t know a lot about Central Michigan. A crash-course:


The school is based in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.


Its nickname is the Chippewas.


Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos was the head coach for the football team there before joining the Razorbacks staff.


And the school has a pretty good baseball team.


Central Michigan is the first in a long line of mostly-unfamiliar teams who could cause the Arkansas baseball team a bit of trouble in the 2016 season. But that’s just the way coach Dave Van Horn likes it. Central Michigan is good enough to give the Diamond Hogs a test and not quite good enough - probably - to come through Baum Stadium and sweep a season-opening series.


The two teams begin the college baseball season Friday at 3:04 p.m.


"I think it’ll be a great test," Van Horn said. "And probably as far as teams that are coming in from the north I think this is probably one of the best teams. They had a top 100 RPI last year and won their division. You know I saw where they had five kids on their team that are picked all-conference in their league. So it’s a good club."


Central Michigan is predicted to win the Mid-American Conference’s West Division and garnered two votes to win the entire conference by the league’s coaches in the preseason poll released Wednesday. The Chippewas won the MAC regular-season title but went 0-2 in the conference tournament and failed to make the NCAAs.


Their likely weekend rotation consists of all players who were with the team last year, led by right-hander Sean Renzi, a first-team All-MAC selection. Renzi went 5-2 with a 2.33 earned-run average and 60 strikeouts in 2015. He is the scheduled starter Friday against Arkansas’ Dominic Taccolini.


"They have their starting rotation back. As a matter of fact, one of the pitchers that’s starting was their top closer last year and they moved him into the rotation late in the season," Van Horn said. "I was looking at their statistics from last year; they got 11 pitchers back from last year’s staff and, I don’t know, 13 position players and five or six starters. So they’re an experienced team."


Arkansas, ranked No. 22 in the preseason National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll, has some experience, just not like Central Michigan’s. The projected starting lineup for the Razorbacks on Friday includes five players who could be called "regulars" from last year’s team. Second baseman Rick Nomura, shortstop Michael Bernal, outfielder Clark Eagan, catcher Tucker Pennell and third baseman Carson Shaddy were all starters more often than not by the end of the year.


But Eagan, first base, and Shaddy, catcher and outfield, were at other positions. They’ve been moved to fill holes left by a pair of players, Andrew Benintendi and Bobby Wernes, who left Arkansas early for the professional ranks. Three of the other four (including a designated hitter) starters saw time last year but almost always off the bench and that quite limited. Luke Bonfield is expected in left field for Joe Serrano. Chad Spanberger is likely in right for Tyler Spoon. Cullen Gassaway should be a first for Eagan. Freshman Eric Cole was not with the team last year and he will probably serve as the DH.


Mark none of them down in pen, though. Eagan, Nomura and Bernal are probably the only three that have semi-permanent spots in the lineup, and even Eagan’s position is a to-be-determined basis game to game. But he and Nomura did garner second-team All-SEC selections Thursday. But at Arkansas, there are six reserves, at least, who could vie for playing time. The leash for slumps and struggles, accordingly, is probably short.


"I’ve pretty much got the opening lineup in my head. It’s basically what we thought it would be. It’s like I told the players yesterday. The lineup will change, it’ll evolve. And right out of the blocks you don’t play maybe the best lineup. You play some guys with experience and some guys down the road will catch them and pass them and we’ll be a better team."


Arkansas was picked to finish third on the SEC West in the preseason SEC poll released Thursday. Last year’s Razorbacks team was picked fourth and went to the College World Series. There are questions that remain. But some will have some answers by the time the weekend against Central Michigan is finished.


Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin


Series Ticket


Central Michigan (0-0) at Arkansas (0-0)


When: Friday at 3:04 p.m., Saturday at 2:04 p.m. and Sunday at 12:054 p.m.


Where: Baum Stadium


TV: SEC Network+


Radio: Razorback Sports Network


On the Mound: Friday - RHP Sean Renzi vs RHP Dominic Taccolini (6-4, 4.32 ERA); Saturday - LHP Nick Deeg vs. RHP Blaine Knight (no stats); Sunday - RHP Pat Leatherman vs. RHP Keaton McKinney (6-2, 3.21 ERA)


At the Plate: Central Michigan - INF Zach McKinstry (.317 AVG, .390 OBP, 69 hits), OF Logan Regnier (.312 AVG, .452 SLG, 7 3B ), INF/OF Daniel Jipping (.281 AVG, .444 SLG, 6 HR, 40 RBI); Arkansas - OF/INF Clark Eagan (.288, 13 2B, 31 RBI), INF/OF Carson Shaddy (.337 AVG, .427 OBP, .517 SLG), 2B Rick Nomura (.298 AVG, 11 2B)


All stats are last season