Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
Happy to be a Hog: Ezell’s college path ends at Arkansas
Arkansas first baseman Trevor Ezell fields a ball during an SEC Tournament game against Ole Miss on Friday, May 24, 2019, in Hoover, Ala.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Given a second chance to recruit Trevor Ezell after last baseball season, University of Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn didn't hesitate.
"I think he felt like he missed out on me in high school," said Ezell, who played at Bryant. "So once he had another opportunity, he was on it."
Trevor Ezell at a glance
CLASS Redshirt senior
POSITION First baseman
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 5-8, 200
HIGH SCHOOL Bryant
NOTEWORTHY Transferred to Arkansas after graduating from Southeast Missouri State … Has started all 58 games this season and is batting .307 with 8 home runs, 19 doubles and 41 RBI … Leads team with 64 runs and 47 walks … Has stolen 17 bases in 18 attempts … Voted by coaches as the All-SEC second-team first baseman. Also voted to the SEC all-defensive team … Has a .996 field percentage with two errors … Batted .377 last season at Southeast Missouri State, where he was the first-team Ohio Valley Conference second baseman and graduated with a business degree. Is working on master’s in operations management at Arkansas … Named to the SEC Good Works Team for his community service.
Ezell, who batted .336 in 181 games for Southeast Missouri State, joined the Razorbacks as a graduate transfer this season.
Starting all 58 games for No. 5-ranked Arkansas -- 52 at first base and six at second -- Ezell is batting .307 with 9 home runs, 41 RBI and a team-high 64 runs going into the Razorbacks' NCAA Fayetteville Regional opener against Central Connecticut State at 1 p.m. today.
"I should have had him for three or four years," Van Horn said at a Swatters Club meeting earlier this season. "But we messed up there."
Ezell, who graduated from Southeast Missouri State with a business degree, told Redhawks Coach Andy Sawyers that he wanted to play his final college season at an SEC school.
"I just wanted a chance to play in the best league in the country," Ezell said. "So that's what I've gotten to do, and I've been fortunate."
Sawyers -- who played for Van Horn at Nebraska -- called his old coach to let him know Ezell was looking to transfer.
"Once that word got out, like a lot of other schools, we got on Trevor pretty fast," Van Horn said. "There were a lot of SEC schools that were interested in him along with us-- Texas A&M, Missouri, Tennessee."
Van Horn said while the Razorbacks were in Omaha, Neb., playing at the College World Series, he stayed in touch with Ezell.
"We talked with him as much as could," Van Horn said. "Once we got back from Omaha he visited here, and I think the next day he committed to us."
The Razorbacks returned several key players from last year's team that finished second to Oregon State at the College World Series.
"I knew it was going to be a great team with great talent here, but it has worked out phenomenally," Ezell said. "I've really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to continuing the ride."
Ezell, 23, batted third at Southeast Missouri State last season -- when he hit .377 with 6 home runs and 50 runs batted in -- and hit in that spot the first 28 games this season.
After Ole Miss defeated Arkansas two of three times the last weekend in March, Van Horn moved Ezell to the leadoff spot against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on April 2. UALR won 17-7, but Ezell went 3 for 5 with a walk.
Ezell batted .286 as the No. 3 hitter, but in 30 games since moving to the top of the order he is batting .336 with 27 walks and 38 runs.
"When he's going good, he's seeing pitches, fouling off pitches, taking his walks," Van Horn said. 'He's been a really good leadoff man for the second half of the season."
Ezell batted leadoff his first two seasons with the Redhawks.
"I'm very comfortable there," he said. "I can be aggressive if I need to or I can take some pitches and I try to get started that way. Any way to get a good at-bat to get the team rolling."
Ezell has a team-leading 47 walks.
"I've always taken my walks when they're given," he said. "I'll be aggressive with a few pitches at the plate early, but if they're not there, I'll take it and hopefully it's called a ball and draw a walk."
Coaches voted Ezell the All-SEC second-team first baseman and to the all-defensive team, even though he hadn't played the position prior to this season.
"It was a surprise," Ezell said of making the all-defensive team. "There are a lot of good first basemen in the league, but I guess I showed I could make some plays over there."
Ezell, 5-8 and 200 pounds, doesn't have the ideal height for a first baseman.
"I'm probably one of the shortest ones in the country, if not the shortest," he said. "If they throw it low, I feel better about picking it than having to jump up and get it for sure. The guys have done a real good job feeding me the ball."
Ezell's teammates have been impressed by his defense.
"He's a phenomenal athlete," junior second baseman Jack Kenley said. "No one here works harder than he does. He truly enjoys being here at the ballpark every single day, and he's one of those guys who if you tell him to do something, then he's going to do it.
"As good of an athlete as he is, I wouldn't be surprised if you stuck him behind the plate or in the outfield, and he would succeed."
Ezell has committed two errors and has a .996 fielding percentage.
"That dude just competes," sophomore shortstop Casey Martin said. " He just wants to play. It doesn't matter where you play him.
"He's done outstanding things for this program so far. We're just happy to have him."
Ezell figured to replace Carson Shaddy -- a senior last season -- at second base, but he wasn't fully recovered from right shoulder surgery a week before the season started.
Van Horn adjusted by putting Ezell at first and having Kenley and Jacob Nesbit swap places at second and third.
"Those guys have all done a great job," Van Horn said.
Ezell said he had no concerns about moving to first base, even though he'd never played there.
"Just getting used to the footwork," Ezell said of the biggest adjustment to playing first base. "The game's the same on the dirt. Instinctively, you know what's going on, it's just a matter of making yourself do it.
"I think moving around the bag took some getting used to, taking pickoffs from pitchers and just little stuff like that. But I've gotten used to it."
Van Horn said he hasn't been surprised by how well Ezell has played at first base.
"He can field and he's got baseball IQ, common sense," Van Horn said. "We threw him over there, and he's done a tremendous job.
"It's about making the plays and just being consistent. I think he was as good as anybody in the league."
Ezell, who redshirted in 2017 because of a back injury, is a rare fifth-year senior college baseball player.
"A lot of us call him 'Dad,' " Kenley said. "He's very mature and goes about his business every single day.
"I think a lot of the guys have been really, really influenced by him -- not just by his baseball expertise, but his passion for the game and his routines before the game."
Ezell, who is working on a master's degree in operations management, said he'll welcome the chance to play professionally, but for now he's focused on the Fayetteville Regional.
"It's been well worth it," Ezell said of transferring to Arkansas. "It wasn't the journey I might have planned out of high school, but I enjoyed my four years at Southeast Missouri State, and to be able to top off my college career here is awesome."
Sports on 05/31/2019
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