Pac-12 movement helped lead freshman Gaeckle to Arkansas

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Monday, August 7, 2023
Gabe Gaeckle, shown pitching for Team USA, was one of Arkansas' top-rated pitchers in the class of 2023. (Photo courtesy USA Baseball)
Gabe Gaeckle, shown pitching for Team USA, was one of Arkansas' top-rated pitchers in the class of 2023. (Photo courtesy USA Baseball)

FAYETTEVILLE — Thank conference realignment, in part, for helping Arkansas’ baseball team land a prominent arm in the high school class of 2023. 

Right-hander Gabe Gaeckle was committed to UCLA last summer when seemingly out of nowhere the Bruins and their cross-town rival Southern Cal announced they would depart the Pac-12 together for the Big Ten by 2024. 

Less than two months later, Gaeckle had rethought his commitment and announced he would play for the Razorbacks in the SEC. 

“The big thing that kind of drew me away from UCLA was their switch of conferences in 2024,” Gaeckle said. “Deep down, I kind of always wanted to go here. I’m excited to be here.” 

Los Angeles is much closer to Gaeckle’s hometown of Aptos, Calif., in the Bay Area than the cross-country trip to Arkansas. He indicated he strongly considered the Razorbacks before he pulled the trigger on committing to the Bruins during the fall of 2021. 

“I think I was just maybe a little hesitant to make the jump to commit somewhere this far away,” Gaeckle said. “I committed there. As the summer went on, I realized I wanted to be in the SEC and Arkansas was the only other school I wanted to go to."

Arkansas had to hold off one more team, the Cincinnati Reds, to get Gaeckle on campus in July. The Reds drafted Gaeckle in the 20th and final round of the MLB Draft, but by that time Gaeckle’s advisor had informed professional teams he wanted to play college baseball. It would have taken a significant amount of money to buy him out of that opportunity. 

“I think it was good for me to gain knowledge of how the whole process worked,” Gaeckle said while wearing a Cincinnati hat — a nod of appreciation to the Reds for the draft pick. “Hopefully in three years I’ll be back in the same spot.” 

Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs said he was pleasantly surprised Gaeckle and left-hander Hunter Dietz made it to campus. Both were All-Americans as high school seniors and had been projected among the top prospects for the draft. 

“He’s got some of the most explosive stuff that I have ever recruited,” Hobbs said of Gaeckle. “He’s got what the MLB is looking for in terms of pitch metrics and stuff. He’s been into the mid-90s [with his fastball] and he’s got a high spin rate, close to 3,000 rpm curveball. 

"I don’t scout every player in the country, but it’s the best curveball that I saw in terms of the amateur side on the recruiting circuit. We're at every big event, so I think I saw the majority of the good ones.”

The 6-foot, 190-pound Gaeckle went 8-0 with a 0.59 earned run average, 117 strikeouts and 9 walks in 59 1/3 innings as a senior at Aptos High School. He said his fastball has been clocked as high as 97 mph and he also throws a slider and changeup that run into the mid-80s. 

“I’m a very aggressive pitcher,” Gaeckle said. “I like to go after hitters and try to get ahead in the count early….I’m pretty good with my fastball, and my curveball is pretty good. Those two pitches have been very successful for me. Whatever the situation is, I kind of adapt to it and like to get after it." 

Gaeckle was one of 13 players ranked in the Perfect Game top 100 who committed to the Razorbacks. Six of those players were lost to pro baseball, but Arkansas will have seven on campus when fall baseball practice begins early next month.

For reference, before this year the highest number of top-100 signees in one class was nine, and that was before the draft. 

“I think it’s pretty special to be a part of a class like this,” Gaeckle said. “You don’t see it very often. It’s an unreal class.”

Gaeckle said he knows many of his new classmates because they played with or against one another on the travel-ball circuit. They didn't necessarily plan to sign with the same team, but he is happy they did.

“You want to surround yourself with great talent,” Gaeckle said. “That was a big thing for me. I want to surround myself with the best players because it's going to make me work even harder to earn a spot. 

“They’re going to make me work my butt off to earn a role.”


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