FAYETTEVILLE — North Dakota should feel plenty at home this weekend.

FAYETTEVILLE — North Dakota should feel plenty at home this weekend.


Arkansas will host the school from Grand Forks in the Diamond Hogs’ season-opening series February 13-14. The three-game set was supposed to be played on the usual Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, but expected temperatures in the low 30s Sunday moved that game up a day. The first game will be Friday at 3:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium and Saturday will feature a double-header beginning at 11:35 a.m.


Cold shouldn’t bother North Dakota. The temperature on the visitors’ campus Friday night probably won’t rise above negatives. The hypothermia-inducing temperatures and the outrageous snowfall have kept North Dakota indoors all winter. That’s where Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn figures his team has an edge.


"A lot of times a team that hasn’t been outside a lot has trouble catching fly balls," Van Horn said. "As far as pithing and swinging, I think it will be about the same except they haven’t been outside. It does make a difference. I have been on that side of it. Those are things we are probably a little bit ahead of them on."


About all Van Horn wants to get out of the weekend is health. A series win is obviously top of the list, but the Diamond Hogs are already a MASH unit and the season hasn’t even begun.


Ace right-hander Trey Killian, the expected usual Friday starter, is out with tendinitis in his throwing elbow. He may not even be ready by the time conference play starts against defending national champion and SEC favorite Vanderbilt.


Then there’s slick-fielding Michael Bernal, who is doubtful for the whole weekend with a strained knee. First baseman Clark Eagan is nursing a hurt shoulder but should go for the weekend. Max Hogan, a junior second baseman who was competing to start, is out with a concussion after being beaned in the head and having the ball shatter his helmet in practice.


Killian’s the most concerning. Sophomore James Teague gets the call for the Friday opener in his stead and fellow second-year righty Dominic Taccolini will start one game Saturday. The two have four career starts between them. The final starter is yet to be determined, Van Horn said.


Even if Killian were healthy, though, the two backend starters are all auditioning, anyway. Taccolini, who had three starts and 17 total appearances last year, figures to make the most his chance.


"It’s good that they thought of me and (Teague) as being the first two to start the opening weekend," Taccolini said. "So hopefully me and him and whoever (else) starts can keep throwing well and make the decision even harder for coaches on who to pitch. Overall, if we have a lot of options to choose from, it shows how good our staff is. Hopefully everyone keeps improving over the season."


Newcomer Rick Nomura won the second base job. The junior-college transfer hit .388 last year for Alvin Community College in California. Catcher, the other highly-contested position, will be Tucker Pennell’s in the opener. Van Horn stressed, for the third time in the preseason, that position will probably be in flux all season, anyway.


North Dakota isn’t expected to compete for a Western Athletic Conference championship. The team was picked ninth out of 10 teams in the preseason coaches’ poll. Arkansas was picked Thursday to finish fourth in the SEC West by the league’s 14 coaches. It’s the same spot the team actually finished last year before making it to the NCAA Tournament and falling to eventual national runner-up Virginia.


Razorbacks outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in chilly Ohio, said he doesn’t mind the cold and even his southern-raised teammates won’t, either.


"Last year a week before the season, the field was covered in snow. I remember last year we shoveled the snow off the field and pulled the tarp back and played an infield scrimmage," he said. "So I don’t think it (weather) will be an issue."