Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Bryant 2-way player commits to Arkansas
Bryant freshman Austin Ledbetter is the third member of his family to commit to the Razorbacks.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas added two commitments from in-state baseball players Wednesday.
Bryant freshman shortstop/pitcher Austin Ledbetter committed to the Razorbacks on Wednesday night, just hours after Watson Chapel sophomore pitcher Markevian "Tink" Hence did the same.
Ledbetter (6-1, 170 pounds) committed during a phone call with Arkansas hitting coach Nate Thompson around 8:30 p.m. He attended a Razorbacks camp in January and visited Fayetteville for a series against Kentucky last month.
"Austin is an intriguing guy," said Chase Brewster, Ledbetter's summer coach with the Arkansas Sticks. "He's a big-time shortstop who can really hit. He is starting at shortstop for Bryant as a ninth grader, which is something you don't see. He's closing games for them as well.
"He's also one of the top quarterbacks, if not the top quarterback, in the 2021 class. He's got a lot of options ahead of himself as a hitter, as a pitcher, as a quarterback. He's one of those once-in-a-generation athletes and I know Arkansas was excited to get him."
Brewster said he thinks Ledbetter, a right-hander, could be a two-way player for the Razorbacks. His fastball has been clocked at 88 mph.
Ledbetter is a first cousin to brothers DJ and Blake Baxendale, former Arkansas players.
"I've been around the program for a while," said Ledbetter, who also had been recruited by TCU and Oklahoma.
Bryant, one of the state's top programs, has been a recruiting hotbed for the Razorbacks in recent years. Arkansas' 2018 roster includes two players, Blaine Knight and Evan Lee, from the high school.
"I've grown up with Evan," Ledbetter said. "We've been working out with each other for a long, long time. Blaine's little brother is a sophomore on our team, so I've gotten to know Blaine some."
Ledbetter is the second in-state player to commit to the Razorbacks in the class of 2021. Ashdown outfielder Braylon Bishop committed in December.
With Ledbetter's commitment, the Arkansas Sticks have 16 commitments and signees with the Razorbacks between the high school classes of 2018-21.
"The thing that we've seen is getting good players together and getting them in the same dugout, and you can kind of see guys working off each other," Brewster said. "I think guys are starting to be driven by guys around them who are good players. They're not going out of state anymore and not doing the national stuff, but they are staying together, working out together and a lot of these in-state guys are wanting to stay and go to Arkansas.
"A lot of those guys are excited to play together in the future."
Verbal commitments are not binding.
Arkansas Baseball 2021 Commits
Braylon Bishop, OF, 6-0, 175, Ashdown, Ark.
Austin Ledbetter, SS, 6-1, 170, Bryant, Ark.
Josh Phillips, INF, 6-2, 205, Bridgeland, Texas
Max Soliz, C, 6-2, 190, Houston, Texas (Homeschool)
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