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.
South Carolina pitcher commits to Razorbacks
An Arkansas hat and glove sit in the dugout prior to a game against Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas received a commitment Thursday from a left-handed pitcher in South Carolina.
Hayden Thomas (6-0, 170 pounds) became the third player to commit to the Razorbacks’ 2023 class. Thomas is from Lexington, S.C., and plays for the Canes Baseball travel team.
Thomas visited Fayetteville for the Razorbacks’ game against Eastern Illinois on Feb. 15. He said he came away impressed with the coaches, atmosphere and facilities, including the proposed $27 million Hunt Family Baseball Performance Center that will open next year.
“That has a lot to do with it,” Thomas said. “There is no better place to develop.
“Being there with the coaches, it was fun. I felt comfortable.”
Thomas elevated his recruiting profile last October with impressive performances against older competition.
“He became the ace of our staff,” said Dan Gitzen, who coached Thomas on the Canes. “He was the guy we gave the ball to in all the big games that you needed to win. He just kept throwing in these tournaments…and his crowds kept getting a little bigger and a little bigger.”
Thomas pitched for the Canes’ 16-year-old national team at the Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., last October and threw a complete game against a 17-year-old team.
“He had a perfect game going through five innings,” Gitzen said. “He followed that the next weekend at the Freshman World Championships and threw against a really, really strong team out of Texas called USA Prime. I think he walked two guys and it pissed him off, so he was like 86-88 (mph) the next four or five innings and struck out like 10 or 11.
“I think that was really his breakout moment with everybody waiting for him to tick up a little bit in velocity and pitch a little bit angrier with a little bit of emotion, and that’s kind of what happened. After that it was everybody in the SEC and everybody in the ACC, everybody wanting to get that kid on campus and offer.”
Thomas throws a fastball, changeup and slider. Gitzen said he likely projects to grow to around 6-3 or 6-4.
“It’s very rare for a kid his age to throw a ball with deception and with late life on his fastball with that level of velocity,” Gitzen said. “He’s got a really long wingspan, high hips, long arms.
“The kid’s a bulldog. He’s in the zone all the time. When he misses, he misses with purpose. When you tell him to throw six inches off the plate, he’s not only going to throw it six inches off the plate, but he’s going to make it look like it’s on the corner, and then it’s going to end up six inches off the plate. He has a high level of pitch-ability for a 15-year-old kid.”
Thomas joins Conway right hander Kyler Spencer and Southlake (Texas) Carroll right hander Jared White in the Razorbacks’ 2023 recruiting class.
Verbal commitments are not binding.
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