As collegiate summer baseball leagues are coming to a close, the fall semester is well within view and the Razorbacks are eager to get back on campus in search of a second consecutive regional host for the first time in over a decade.
Of those playing this summer, perhaps no one had more success than center fielder Dominic Fletcher who was named the California Collegiate League All-Tournament MVP this week. For the tournament he hit .470 with 2 hits in each of the 4 games including a double, home run, and 3 RBI to lead his team to the league championship. For the season Fletcher hit .358 with 8 2B, 6 HR, 27 RBI, and 8 SB in 26 games.
Other Notable Hogs in Summer Leagues:
Eric Cole: .389, 3 2B, 4 RBI (9 games)
Evan Lee: .375, 6 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 9 SB
Jack Kenley: .303, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 5 SB
Zack Plunkett: .193, 4 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI
Luke Bondfield: .172, 2 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI,
Jordan McFarland: .176, 2B, 2 RBI (5 games)
It’s worth noting that collegiate summer leagues use wood bats, meaning lower batting averages are pretty common.
Anthony Dahl: 1-0, 0.64, 19 K, 2 BB, 14 IP
Matt Cronin: 1-1, 1.96, 32 K, 11 BB, 18.1 IP
Jacob Kostyshock: 0-0, 2.70, 6 K, 7 BB, 10 IP
Angus Denton: 0-0, 4.15, 7 K, 1 BB, 8.2 IP
This year’s recruiting class was impressive and only lost three signees to the draft, earning them the No. 4 class in the nation according to Perfect Game. Names to look forward to from this class include: Casey Opitz (C, CO), Casey Martin (SS, AR), Bryce Bonnin (RHP/SS, TX), Cole Turney (OF, TX), Jackson Rutledge (RHP, MO).
Currently ranked No. 15 by Perfect Game, this class is shaping up to be another solid one for head coach Dave Van Horn. The departure of recruiting coordinator Tony Vitello to be the head coach at Tennessee brought concerns about which, if any, commits he may get to follow him. So far only Tanner Kohlhepp, a shortstop from Eau Claire, WI, has flipped from Arkansas to the Volunteers. However, there are four other infielders who were once committed that are now uncommitted. It is unclear if this was due to the departure of Vitello, or if Van Horn needed to make room for different recruits.
The 2019 class currently sits at No. 17 in the country. Arkansas picked up a commitment from 2019 left-handed pitcher Zack Morris of Cabot, AR. Morris (6-2, 228 lbs) joins a nine player class that includes stand outs Dominic Tamez (C, TX), Travis Odom (SS, TN), Bryce Matthews (OF, CO), and Blake Adams (RHP, AR) who is the current No. 1 ranked player in the state. With such a small number so far, this should be the first post-Vitello era class to mainly consist of the current staff’s efforts.
Arkansas’ 2020 recruiting class improved this summer by adding Sheridan, AR righty Tyler Cacciatori, the state’s No. 1 pitching and No. 2 overall recruit in his class. He was also offered by Kentucky and Arkansas State and was drawing interest from Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Alabama. Cacciatori joins Heston Tole, (INF, TX), Clayton Gray (OF, AR), and Jaxon Wiggins (RHP, OK) as the only four players in this class to date.
When former Arkansas hitting coach/recruiting coordinator Tony Vitello took the head coach position at Tennessee this summer, it set into motion what would be a complex system of coach changes among several schools. At that moment, not only was Arkansas on the search for a new assistant coach, but also coach Vitello and Tennessee were looking for assistants to round out a brand new staff.
There was talk that Josh Elander, former TCU standout catcher and 2017 volunteer assistant coach at Arkansas, was vying for the vacant position. However, Dave Van Horn wanted someone with more recruiting and coaching experience, which led him to pull Nate Thompson away from Missouri State. At this point Elander was still under contract for another year at Arkansas where he had a large impact on an offense that exploded for a .286 average and SEC leading 83 home runs.
Vitello, not having the resume of Van Horn, could afford to offer Elander an incredible first full-time position, and that is just what he did. Elander was announced as an assistant coach for the Volunteers this week. His primary roles will be working with hitters as well as being in charge of recruiting. Although this is a somewhat surprising hire of someone with little experience, it should be noted that Elander also played under Vitello at TCU and has been highly regarded by the players at Arkansas after only one year with him.
Just days later, Van Horn filled the position vacated by Elander with former Southern Arkansas University assistant coach Craig Parry. Parry boasts a lengthy coaching resume with stops as an assistant at Miles CC, Sacramento State, and Dallas Baptist University where he worked for three years alongside Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson. He had a successful playing career as a good hitting catcher, which lends to his niche of coaching catchers. Van Horn typically utilizes the volunteer assistant role with someone who has catching experience, as evidenced by his hiring of Elander and Brian Walker in the past. That will be the case this year for Parry as well, who will inherit a first team All-SEC catcher in Grant Koch.
Now that everything is back in order with the coaching staff, we can look forward to the beginning of the fall semester when the team will finally be able to come together for fall practice leading up to the annual intrasquad Fall World Series.