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.
Casey Martin named semifinalist for national player of the year award
Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin points toward the sky after hitting a home run during the first inning of a game against LSU on Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE One day after Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell was named a semifinalist for one college baseball's top two individual awards, Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin was named a semifinalist for the other.
Martin, a sophomore, is one of 26 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, which goes to the nation's most outstanding player, as voted on by the National Collegiate Writers Association.
Campbell was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award on Wednesday. The Golden Spikes Award is presented by USA Baseball.
Martin and Campbell are Arkansas' first semifinalists for the respective awards since Andrew Benintendi won both in 2015. The Golden Spikes and Howser Trophy both will be presented prior to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., next month.
After an early-season hitting slump from the leadoff position, Martin has rebounded well batting second in the order for Arkansas. He has a .311 batting average entering the No. 4 Razorbacks' final regular-season series at No. 19 Texas A&M.
Martin has 12 home runs, 19 doubles and 3 triples, and has driven in 50 runs this season. He has scored 55 runs
He has three inside-the-park home runs, including two in consecutive games two weeks ago against Grambling State and Kentucky. He has successfully stolen 8 of 10 bases.
Early in the year, Martin struggled chasing pitches outside the zone and struck out on several swing-and-miss strike threes. His 59 strikeouts are third-most in the Southeastern Conference this season, but he has cut down on strikeouts in recent weeks.
"I'm letting the ball get deep (into the strike zone) so I can see it longer," Martin said last month of his turnaround. "I'm letting it get deep and hitting to the right-center side. If you do that, it allows the ball to come into your bat path. I'm not pulling balls foul; instead, I'm hitting them in between the lines, whether it's left field, or right field or in the gaps."
Defensively, Martin has struggled some in his move from third base to shortstop and his 18 errors lead all players in the SEC. But Martin has also made some spectacular, rangy plays from short that have helped offset some of the miscues.
"If you get to see him play every day, he makes plays that other shortstops can't make," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said earlier this week.
"He's pretty talented, he's done a great job and if you take off eight or nine of those errors, he'd be right where he needs to be. And eight or nine of those errors are what I call learning-curve errors, or nonchalant errors that we've had to fix, and I think he's starting to get there."
Martin is one of seven SEC players who were named semifinalists for the Howser Trophy. The others are Vanderbilt position players JJ Bleday and Austin Martin; Mississippi State outfielder Jake Mangum and pitcher Ethan Small; Kentucky pitcher Zack Thompson; and Georgia pitcher Emerson Hancock.
Finalists for the award will be announced June 6.
2019 Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalists
JJ Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt
Hunter Bishop, OF, Arizona State
Reid Detmers, SP, Louisville
Ryan Garcia, SP, UCLA
Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico State
Emerson Hancock, SP, Georgia
Kody Hoese, 3B, Tulane
Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
Chris Lanzilli, OF, Wake Forest
Jake Mangum, OF, Mississippi State
Alek Manoah, SP, West Virginia
Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas
Austin Martin, 3B, Vanderbilt
Kyle McCann, C, Georgia Tech
Patrick McColl, 1B, Harvard
Joey Ortiz, SS, New Mexico State
Jack Ralston, SP, UCLA
Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State
Jake Sanford, OF, Western Kentucky
Bobby Seymour, 1B, Wake Forest
Ethan Small, SP, Mississippi State
Noah Song, SP, Navy
Zack Thompson, SP, Kentucky
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California
Davis Wendzel, 3B, Baylor
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