Despite pandemic, baseball Hogs finding games

By: Seth Campbell
Published: Friday, July 3, 2020
Christian Franklin plays during a Perfect Timing College Baseball game Monday June 8, 2020 at Tyson Park in Springdale.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Christian Franklin plays during a Perfect Timing College Baseball game Monday June 8, 2020 at Tyson Park in Springdale.

FAYETTEVILLE — As the calendar flips to the second half of the year, this is normally the time college baseball players are out traveling the United States getting in extra reps for a collegiate summer team.

But like with so many other things, the covid-19 pandemic has altered some Razorbacks players' summer plans.

"It's been a mess," Arkansas assistant baseball coach Nate Thompson said. "You think you've got something set up, and then you realize you don't really have anything. So you just move the pieces around and you just keep them moving."

Arkansas had 25 players on the 2020 roster who were originally scheduled to play summer baseball, ranging from locations in the cape of Massachusetts to Alaska. Of those 25 players, only six kept their original summer plans.

Razorbacks in summer baseball

Zack Gregory - NTXBC Dirtbags

Cullen Smith - Perfect Timing

Jacob Nesbit - Perfect Timing

Matt Goodheart - Perfect Timing, Martinsville Mustangs

Cason Tollett - Palm Beach Xtreme

Bryce Matthews - Perfect Timing, Rochester Honkers

Christian Franklin - Perfect Timing, Santa Barbara Foresters

Blake Adams - Santa Barbara Foresters

Braydon Webb - Perfect Timing

Brady Slavens - Perfect Timing, Martinsville Mustangs

Michael Brooks - Palm Beach Diamond Ducks

Robert Moore - Perfect Timing, Sarasota Tigers

Elijah Trest - Santa Barbara Foresters

Zack Morris - Delray Beach Lightning

Kevin Heinrich - Martinsville Mustangs

Peyton Pallette - Perfect Timing, Martinsville Mustangs

Caden Monke - Perfect Timing

Mark Adamiak - Delray Beach Lightning

Corey Spain - Martinsville Mustangs

Will McEntire - Perfect Timing

Evan Taylor - Kalamazoo Growlers

Nathan Rintz - Rochester Honkers

Evan Gray - Healdsburg Prune Packers

Kevin Kopps - Perfect Timing, Martinsville Mustangs

Five of the 19 players remaining, all of them pitchers, decided to not play at all this summer. That leaves 14 players from the 2020 roster who changed their summer baseball plans this offseason.

"I think we had about nine guys that were slated to go to the Cape (Cod League)," Thompson said. "About nine or so guys were slated to go to California. Most of them aren't able to go now.

"We kind of knew this was going to happen, so it's kind of hard to put guys where they needed to be because you just weren't sure where it was all going to land. And for the most part, we feel like it's pretty much taken care of now. One way or another, they're getting reps."

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said it has been challenging to find summer spots for his players, but he wants hitters to get at-bats.

"It’s been very difficult because we really would like the young hitters to go hit," Van Horn said. "The young pitchers, we really try to keep an eye on those arms - really limit them. It’s nice to have some of our returners, especially the offensive guys, out swinging the bats a little bit."

One player who had to adjust due to the coronavirus was infielder Jacob Nesbit, who was originally planning to play for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod league. Instead, he found himself in a league just 15 minutes north of Baum-Walker Stadium.

"It's been good to get back out there," Nesbit said. "We have a bunch of Razorbacks in the league with me, playing against and with (me). It feels right to be on a field with those guys."

Nesbit is participating in the Perfect Timing Collegiate League season in Springdale. There are currently four Razorbacks on a Perfect Timing roster, but earlier this summer there were 12 Arkansas players who will be on the 2021 roster taking part in the league.

"This league around here has been a really positive thing," Thompson said. "It's been a good league and something that has benefitted (the players) so far."

While Nesbit has stuck around Northwest Arkansas, other Razorbacks like infielder/designated hitter Matt Goodheart have ventured away from the Natural State. Goodheart was originally planning to play for the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League, but he began the summer in Springdale.

After about a month in the Perfect Timing league, he moved to Martinsville, Va., to play in the Coastal Plain League. In his first at-bat with the Martinsville Mustangs, Goodheart launched a ball over the right-center field fence.

Joining Goodheart in Martinsville are four other Razorbacks: Brady Slavens, Kevin Kopps, Corey Spain and Kevin Heinrich. Goodheart and Slavens both started in the Mustangs' 6-5 loss to the High Point-Thomasville HiToms on Wednesday. Goodheart went 2-for-4 with two doubles and scored the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning following a Slavens single.

On the mound, Kevin Kopps threw two innings, gave up three hits, two runs and struck out four. Freshman left-handed pitcher Corey Spain, who has yet to play for the Razorbacks, pitched two scoreless innings and recorded a strikeout. He did not issue a walk.

Goodheart, Slavens and Spain drew praise from D1baseball.com writer Aaron Fitt on Twitter.

Outfielder Christian Franklin is joined by pitchers Blake Adams, Peyton Pallette and Elijah Trest in California. All four are playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters in the California Collegiate League. Despite the CCL announcing that there would not be a 2020 season, the Foresters have put together a schedule independent of the league.

The team will play a 30-game schedule, all at home, with no fans in attendance. 

“This roster we’ve put together is probably the best roster we’ve ever had with the Foresters,” Bill Pintard, manager of the Foresters, said to Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal.

In the team's first game, Franklin hit a home run and Pallette pitched. No pitching stats were made available.

Pintard spoke highly of Franklin before the season, stating, “He’s a top-50 (draft) pick."

When the Razorbacks return to campus, Van Horn's plan is to play as many scrimmages as the roster can manage.

"We’ll try to make up for some lost time by getting as many live at-bats in fall baseball as we can," Van Horn said. "I see it right now with the pitchers that we have, they should be able to scrimmage a lot. Like, almost every day that we practice.

"It’ll be interesting."

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