Martin's speed a gamechanger for Arkansas

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Monday, June 25, 2018
Arkansas third baseman Casey Martin runs after recording a hit during a College World Series game against Florida on Friday, June 22, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.
( Ben Goff)
Arkansas third baseman Casey Martin runs after recording a hit during a College World Series game against Florida on Friday, June 22, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. — From his coaches box at third base, Arkansas hitting coach Nate Thompson told Casey Martin to be ready to run.

Anyone familiar with Arkansas baseball in 2018 knows that’s no problem for the freshman from Lonoke, whose high school mascot was appropriately the jackrabbit.

After a double down the line in left to open the fifth inning of the College World Series semifinal against Florida, Martin scampered to third on Heston Kjerstad’s groundout to first. Martin was again applying pressure to the defending national champions and standing only 90 feet away scoring for a third time.

Then, as soon as Luke Bonfield’s high chopper left his bat, Martin was off, scoring on the play without a throw from Gators third baseman Jonathan India.

“He was shot out of a cannon,” Thompson said of Martin.

If anyone other than Martin had been on third, Bonfield isn't certain he's credited with an RBI.

"It's special speed,” he said. “I bet you here in two years he'll be a first rounder just because of the speed, and you see his power. It's special."

Using that rare speed, Martin scored three runs and beat out a slow roller to second base with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, plating Jared Gates to set the final score in Arkansas’ 5-2 semifinal win over Florida.

Martin, who played slot receiver in a triple option offense at Lonoke, even received praise from Razorbacks linebacker De’Jon Harris after his infield hit in the sixth.

Martin said he hasn’t run a 40-yard dash lately, but believes he would be clocked in the 4.3- to 4.4-second range. In the past, he’s been timed at 6.5 seconds in the 60, the preferred speed test for baseball. Second baseman Carson Shaddy said it's "scary" Martin is only a freshman.

“I think anytime you can get all the Arkansas football players all over Twitter saying how fast that kid is, that's a true testament to how fast he really is,” Shaddy said. “That kid is the best athlete I've ever been around. Seems like he's always in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

“And his speed, it's just absolutely incredible. He's the fastest guy I've ever seen and played with for sure.”

At the SEC Tournament, ESPN college baseball analyst Chris Burke, who played for the Astros, Diamondbacks and Padres during his six-year MLB career, asked Thompson about Martin’s speed. The response he got from Thompson took him a bit by surprise.

“I said I think he’s as fast as anybody in the country," Thompson said.

“He’s as fast as (TCU outfielder) Josh Watson or (LSU outfielder) Antoine Duplantis, some of these outfielder-type guys who have speed?” Burke replied.

“I think I’d take Casey in a foot race,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t have to get hits to get hits.”

Not only has Martin’s quickness been on full display of late, but his defense has been solid. Martin has made numerous gold glove-caliber plays at third base this postseason. Arkansas starting pitcher Blaine Knight has been nothing short of impressed.

“He’s an incredible athlete,” Knight said. “His speed plays in really well, and I think it helps him defensively as well. He moves really well over at third base and is able to make some really tough plays look easy.”

Thompson said the easy comparison for Martin is Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, but with added foot speed. A lot more foot speed.

“He’s also really good mentally, too, and I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that,” Thompson said. “He’s come a long way in that department. I’m glad he’s on my team.”


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