Greenbrier pitcher couldn't pass up new Hogs coach

By: Tim Cooper
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2016
Greenbrier pitcher Hunter Milligan signs a commitment letter play baseball next year for the Arkansas Razorbacks during an athletic signing day ceremony at Greenbrier High School on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Milligan is a highly-rated left-handed pitcher who at one point was the No. 7 prospect in the country.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Greenbrier pitcher Hunter Milligan signs a commitment letter play baseball next year for the Arkansas Razorbacks during an athletic signing day ceremony at Greenbrier High School on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Milligan is a highly-rated left-handed pitcher who at one point was the No. 7 prospect in the country.

GREENBRIER -- Hunter Milligan thought so much of pitching coach Wes Johnson that the Greenbrier pitcher had a change of heart when it came to selecting a college.

Johnson was Mississippi State's pitching coach when Milligan made his commitment to the Bulldogs in 2015. In June, after Mississippi State lost in the NCAA super regionals, Johnson resigned to take the same position at the University of Arkansas.

On Wednesday, Milligan -- a 6-4, 220-pound left-hander who compiled a 1.20 earned run average with the Panthers in the spring -- signed a national letter of intent to play baseball for the Razorbacks.

"He has a good track record," Milligan said of Johnson. "He had multiple guys throwing in the mid- and upper 90s. He knows how to develop guys into great pitchers. Before he came to Mississippi State, they were hurting. But he helped turn that team around."

MSU's team ERA fell to 3.35 this season after it posted a 4.51 mark in 2015. Mississippi State finished 24-30 in 2015. The Bulldogs were 44-18-1 and SEC champions in 2016. Prior to arriving at Mississippi State, Johnson spent four years at Dallas Baptist, where that program advanced to three NCAA regionals.

"He's an outstanding guy and good person to be around," Milligan said of Johnson. "He's just a really good coach."

And Milligan is considered a really good catch for the Razorbacks. With good command and the ability to throw three pitches -- a fastball, a curveball and a change-up -- for strikes, the left-hander struck out 80 batters in 52 innings for the Panthers as a junior. His record was 4-2, which former Greenbrier coach Terry May said was deceiving.

"Arkansas is getting a left-hander with a tremendous upside," May said. "He's throwing in the high 80s and low 90s right now with the potential to improve that. He's got some things left in him that [Arkansas] will get out of him."

May said Milligan suffered a loss in one game in the spring in which he allowed no hits.

"I've always wanted to play college baseball ever since I was 6 or 7 years old," Milligan said. "It's been a long grind, and I'm happy I'm finally at the point where I'm going to see that come true."

Milligan said he was playing in a summer tournament in Florida when he received a call from Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn, who told Milligan that Johnson had been hired as the Razorbacks' pitching coach.

"I told Coach Van Horn that I'm still committed to [Mississippi State], but that I'm not going to turn you down just to talk," Milligan said. "I had already been to Arkansas on an official visit. I knew the facilities were fantastic. I drove around. We looked at the dorms. I talked to the coaches again. I realized I wanted to be where coach Johnson was."

"Hunter is dedicated, and he has a love for the game," May said. "He's a big ol' strong kid with a live arm, but his love for the game sets him apart from a lot of other players."

Five other Greenbrier seniors signed letters of intent Wednesday: Paxton Wallace signed a baseball letter with Wichita State; Ryan Flake signed a baseball letter with Eastern Oklahoma State; Addison Harmon signed to play softball with Lyon College; Chastity Gandy signed to play softball with Williams Baptist; and Cirstin Lee signed to play volleyball with Central Baptist College.

Sports on 11/17/2016

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