Diamond Hogs happy to be back at Baum

By: Matt Jones
Published: Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn instructs his players during practice Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn instructs his players during practice Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Three Arkansas players took the field at Baum Stadium on Tuesday, three months after they thought they had done so for the final time.

Pitcher Blaine Knight, utility player Luke Bonfield and infielder Carson Shaddy figured their college days were over when the Razorbacks lost 3-2 to Missouri State in an NCAA regional championship game June 5. But all three failed to go where they wanted in the MLB Draft in June and returned to Arkansas.

Now they are part of a talented lineup that many predict could be one of college baseball’s best in 2018. The roster for the Razorbacks’ start of fall practice includes seven position players who started that Missouri State game and a number of pitchers who had key roles last season.

Dave Van Horn addresses the media on the first day of Fall Ball

(By Blake Sutton )
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“You can recruit players, but you really can’t bring in that kind of experience,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “In the Southeastern Conference, experience wins a lot of times. You have to have guys that can handle the grind of a season and can lead a little bit, make plays and get big hits.

“It adds up to a few more wins.”

Knight, a junior pitcher who was Arkansas’ Friday starter for much of last season, said he was happy to be back at Arkansas after some draft day disappointment. Knight was rated by Baseball America as one of the top 90 prospects, but fell to the Texas Rangers in the 29th round because of a high asking price for a signing bonus.

“It was a good experience,” Knight said. “I’m not mad about it, not upset about it; I’m thankful for it. It’s going to make me better in the long run.

“I’m looking forward to the season starting, and as far as I’m concerned it starts today.”

Along with infielder Jared Gates, Bonfield and Shaddy give Arkansas three seniors on the roster. Bonfield, a three-year starter in the outfield, went undrafted for the second consecutive year that he was eligible.

“I thought I was worth a little more than they thought I was worth,” said Bonfield, who was a top 100 prospect out of high school.

Bonfield worked at first base during his summer stint with the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League and will practice some at the position this fall.

“Day three of the draft, I gave Coach Van Horn a call and told him I was coming back, and I talked to him about the possibility of first base,” Bonfield said.

“I played a little bit last fall here and then a little bit in high school, but not a ton. It was a really good experience (in Cape Cod). I got some really good coaching up there…and I think I got a lot better up there.”

While much is known about the team, the fall will be about building cohesion with several new faces. Arkansas welcomes a 16-member true freshman class that Van Horn called arguably his best in 16 seasons, and the Razorbacks are breaking in a new hitting coach (Nate Thompson), volunteer coach (Craig Parry) and strength coach (Blaine Kinsley).

The fall also will give coaches a chance to evaluate Isaiah Campbell, a redshirt sophomore pitcher who threw only once last season after developing bone spurs in his throwing elbow.

“He’s good to go,” Van Horn said. “We’re having to put the reins on him, telling him to slow down a little bit.”

Pitchers Keaton McKinney and Cody Scroggins will not be able to pitch this fall after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier in the year. Van Horn said he is hopeful McKinney will be cleared to play by the early portion of the 2018 season, but Scroggins’ rehab is behind McKinney’s because his injury happened later in the year.

Arkansas also will be without freshman outfielder Cole Turney this fall after he underwent shoulder surgery in August. Turney was one of Arkansas’ top signees last November and was projected to be a high-round draft pick before falling to the 34th round because of sign-ability concerns.

“He should be ready to swing the bat for us some time in the spring, maybe early spring,” Van Horn said. “You don’t redshirt a kid like that. He’s probably not going to be with us after his third year anyway. If that bat can come on with the power he has…maybe he helps us this year a lot and gets him ready for next year, as well.”

VIDEO: Sights and Sounds from Day 1 of Fall Practice

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