A new season of Arkansas baseball is quickly approaching, and all signs point to another fun year. Last week, head coach Dave Van Horn mentioned in a press conference that he expects his team to be every bit as electric as the past few seasons. We have no reason to doubt the Head Hog, and I believe this team may be even more electric than in years past. So, let’s take a look at what we know about the 2022 Diamond Hogs and what we could potentially see with the season just a few short weeks away.
The 2022 roster returns several familiar faces for the Razorbacks. Sophomore Cayden Wallace and veterans Zack Gregory and Zebulon Vermillion will represent this year’s captains. Additionally, infielders Robert Moore and Jalen Battles return to anchor the middle infield and add some pop to an already potent lineup.
In addition to the returning veterans, fans will likely see familiar faces in news sports. Last season, Cayden Wallace broke out offensively and defensively from his outfield spot as a freshman. This year, Wallace is expected to start at third base with the departure of Jacob Nesbit and Cullen Smith. Similarly, the Hogs return another power bat in Brady Slavens, but the senior is expected to see more outfield time this season.
Soon fans will be introduced to Peyton Stovall as the likely replacement of Slavens at first base. The Louisiana native was recently selected as the preseason SEC freshman of the year by D1Baseball. Stovall was a projected first-round draft pick in last year’s MLB draft before withdrawing and committing to Arkansas.
Other notable position players who will return in 2022 includesenior outfielders Zack Gregory and Braydon Webb, andsophomore catcher Dylan Leach. Overall, the Hogs return seven players who contributed to last season’s .267 batting average. Last year’s team also tallied a slugging percentage of .482 with 109 home runs.
The Hogs have a more substantial void to fill on the mound in 2022. Kevin Kopps recorded the most impressive season of all time by a college pitcher in 2021, and his absence is significant in itself. However, recent news of Peyton Pallette’s season-ending UCL injury creates more opportunity for some Hog pitchers to assume important roles.
According to Van Horn, junior Connor Noland is fully healthy and throwing with increased velocity. Expect him to be a strong candidate for a weekend starter position. Also, sophomore Jaxon Wiggins recorded meaningful innings as a reliever last season and is now rumored to be a full-time starter. If Wiggins addedsome control and an off-speed attack to his lively fastball, thenhe is sure to be a nightmare for SEC hitters.
Familiar pitchers for the new season include Elijah Trest, Kole Ramage, Miller Pleimann, Heston Tole, Gabriel Starks, Zebulon Vermillion, and Zack Morris. In addition, Hagen Smith headlines a list of substantial newcomers. As another potential weekend starter, Van Horn seems to be high on the young left-handed Smith. Expect Van Horn and Matt Hobbs to take some time during the early season to experiment with a bullpen that is full of talented, young arms.
Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks are primed for yet another exciting year in his twentieth season as head coach. Offensively, the Hogs’ identity will be rooted in the long ball thanks to a stacked lineup and deep bench. On the other side, the Hogs are equipped with more reliable arms than last season. Hopefully, the bullpen’s rejuvenation will spark the efforts as the club works through conference and tournament matchups. The year of the Hog continues on the diamond on February 18 against Illinois State. Woo Pig!