State of the Hogs:

Boyce expected Kopps comparisons

By: Clay Henry
Published: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Arkansas pitcher Charley Boyce throws against Wichita State in the NCAA regional baseball tournament in Fayetteville, Ark. Friday, June 5, 2004. Boyce threw 14 1/3 innings and 203 pitches in two days. (AP Photo/Neemah Aaron)
Arkansas pitcher Charley Boyce throws against Wichita State in the NCAA regional baseball tournament in Fayetteville, Ark. Friday, June 5, 2004. Boyce threw 14 1/3 innings and 203 pitches in two days. (AP Photo/Neemah Aaron)

Kevin Kopps piled up a lot of pitches in leading Arkansas to the championship of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional. But he didn’t eclipse Charley Boyce’s numbers from 2004.

Kopps got close enough with three outstanding games — all Arkansas victories — in sending the Razorbacks to another super regional that Boyce’s name came up in the postgame discussion.

“It always seems to come up,” Boyce said Tuesday. “I know it’s going to happen again.”

Most remember that 2004 regional two ways.

First, it included the grand slam hit by Brady Toops to lift the Hogs past Wichita State in an elimination game. But it was Boyce throwing inning after inning in two games that others recall just as vividly.

Some of the details are beginning to blur for Boyce. He threw 14 1/3 innings and 203 pitches over two games.

Kopps threw 24 pitches Friday, 71 Saturday and a career-high 90 Monday. His is 185 total pitches fell short of the Boyce numbers, but it was still close enough that Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was aware of the comparison.

Van Horn said some still give him "crap" for putting that heavy of a load on Boyce.

The Arkansas coach has compared Boyce and Kopps before. He assigned Kopps the No. 45 worn by Boyce, because of their similar work ethic and academic successes.

That Kopps wears No. 45 makes Boyce beam.

"I love that he wears 45!" Boyce said. "He's definitely taking it to new heights.

"I think that number represents the blue collar guy that competes his butt off and refuses to give in -- the underdog that Arkansas really gets behind. He wears it well!"

As far as Van Horn's thoughts on his contribution to the 2004 regional championship, Boyce continues to express thanks to his coach for giving him a chance to do it. Quit worrying, Boyce said.

“I know he still has concern for me,” Boyce said. “It’s OK. I had a great career. I had a great time in that regional. Nothing could have been better, but I know it’s always going to come back up.”

It comes up in his daily work duties. Boyce is owner and operator of one of the top companies in Northwest Arkansas, Paschal Air Plumbing and Electric. Their reach is to Fort Smith and Southwest Missouri. Many of his employees are former Arkansas baseball players.

Boyce is fascinated watching Kopps. He and his co-workers have fun debating whether the Kopps out pitch is a slider or a cutter.

“Kevin calls it a cutter,” Boyce said. “But it’s almost like a slider. It moves like a true hard slider, but more depth like a cutter. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s un-hittable.

“He’s got a fastball in the low 90s, a curveball and then he’s got that cutter that’s 87. He can get quick innings with that or throw it for swing and misses — either one."

Boyce said Kopps' ability to throw the cutter on a 2-0 count is important.

“Hitters look fastball on that count and it looks like a fastball, but they can’t touch it," Boyce said. "He can drop that pitch in for a strike anytime he wants or he can bury it (in the ground). It’s pretty nasty.

“Yeah, we talk about it. I’ve got Nick Schmidt, Casey Rowlett, Brian McLelland and Trey Holloway from baseball working with us, and Autumn Storm (from UA softball) just started.”

Boyce didn’t have much of a swing-and-miss pitch. He said he pitched to contact.

“I was 60 to 70% sinker,” he said. “I got a lot of ground balls. I kept the defense engaged. I wasn’t going to overpower anyone.

“I wasn’t a highly touted recruit and was not going to be a draft pick.”

That’s why there were no hard feelings when Van Horn let him keep throwing pitches in the regional.

“I liked it,” he said. “And, the longer you pitch, the better feel you are going to get.

“I see that with Kevin. If I was going to struggle, it was going to be early. He is typical in that he gets better as the game goes along.

“As far as him going a lot of innings, he’s probably like me, not going to take himself out. I was never going to do that."

It’s fun to watch.

“I’m out there as much as I can be,” Boyce said. “And if I can’t get to the ballpark, I’m going to watch (on TV). That’s what I was doing (Monday night).”

All the time, Boyce was thinking his name was probably going to come up — again.

The legend of Charley Boyce lives on, just like the legend of Kevin Kopps builds pitch by pitch and inning by inning.

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