Arkansas baseball notebook: Familiarity in Arlington, MLB draft buzz

Arkansas baseball players stand for the national anthem prior to a game against Texas on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (James Smith/Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — A tour guide might be optional for the Arkansas baseball team this week at Globe Life Field.

At least 23 of the 40 Razorbacks who will make the trip have played games before at the Texas Rangers’ home ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Many were there with Arkansas last season when the Razorbacks went 2-1 against Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State. 

Some of Arkansas’ newcomers also played there with their previous teams. Playing for Missouri, outfielders Ty Wilmsmeyer and Ross Lovich played in the same event, the College Baseball Showdown, as the Razorbacks played last season. Pitcher Mason Molina and catcher Hudson White of Texas Tech and pitcher Stone Hewlett of Kansas played Big 12 Tournament games there. 

Pitcher Koty Frank has pitched in the building twice, for Arkansas last season and for Nebraska in 2022. 

“Don't let the setting get too big for you. Don't let it amp you up that much,” Frank said he would advise younger players. “There's going to be a lot of people there. It's going to be pretty high competition.” 

The fourth-ranked Razorbacks (3-1) are scheduled to play three games in Arlington this weekend beginning with a 7 p.m. scheduled first pitch against seventh-ranked Oregon State (5-0) on Friday. Arkansas is scheduled to play Oklahoma State (2-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Michigan (2-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Arkansas will be playing at Globe Life Field for the third time. The Razorbacks played in the inaugural College Baseball Showdown in 2021 and swept Texas Tech, Texas and TCU. 

“It’s second-to-none,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said of playing in Arlington. “The competition is amazing. The weather is always good in [the retractable-roof stadium] and that’s what we like. We’ve made a commitment: we’ll come back whenever they ask us.” 

Jared Schrom, vice president of REV Entertainment, which organizes games in Arlington, said prior to last year’s games that Arkansas has made a commitment to come back each season through at least 2026. Arlington has become an annual stop for a Razorbacks program that has previously played in several other early-season events, including in the Texas cities of Houston, Frisco and Round Rock. 

“When you travel neutral site, for the most part it can really advance you,” Van Horn said. “Just to have an opportunity to play against this type of competition, three different teams in three days....I really enjoy going to one tournament a year early just to see how we act, how we react, and it definitely can spring you forward.” 

This week’s games will be Arkansas’ first played at Globe Life Field outside of the College Baseball Showdown, a six-team season-opening event. The stadium will host at least 21 regular-season college games this season, including four-team showcases this weekend and next. 

Oregon State and Oklahoma State both played at Globe Life Field on Wednesday. The Beavers defeated Texas Tech 10-4 and the Cowboys defeated Abilene Christian 8-4. 

Trivia

Arlington will be the fourth city in which Arkansas has played a baseball game against Oregon State. 

In which other three cities have the teams played games against each other?

Answer below. 

Scouts galore

Expect several professional teams to be represented in the stands Friday night when two first-round prospects play during the Arkansas-Oregon State game. 

Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzana is the No. 3 college prospect for this year’s draft, according to Baseball America. The publication rates Arkansas left-handed pitcher Hagen Smith the No. 13 college prospect. 

Bazzana, a native Australian, entered the season as a career .340 hitter and was the most valuable player at the Cape Cod League last summer. He is batting .450 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.610, 3 home runs and 7 RBI this year. 

Smith struggled during a 42-pitch start last week against James Madison. He allowed three runs and did not return for the second inning in cold conditions. 

Smith, who grew up a Texas Rangers fan about 130 miles east of Globe Life Field in Bullard, Texas, threw five scoreless innings during the Razorbacks’ 3-2 season-opening victory over the Texas Longhorns in Arlington last February. 

Fun fact

Aiden May, a junior right-hander who will start for Oregon State on Friday, has pitched a college baseball game at Arkansas’ Baum-Walker Stadium but has never pitched against the Razorbacks. 

May pitched last season for Arizona, which went 0-2 at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional. May started and allowed 2 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings during the Wildcats’ season-ending game, a 9-3 loss to Santa Clara last June 3. 

May went 5-3 with a 6.33 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 75 1/3 innings in his only season at Arizona. The Albuquerque, N.M., native spent the 2022 season at Pima Community College in Tucson before transferring across town to play for Arizona. 

Series history

Arkansas has all-time records of 3-3 against Oregon State and 21-26 against Oklahoma State and will play its first game ever against Michigan this weekend. 

The Razorbacks and Oklahoma State are playing for the third consecutive season. Arkansas won 2 of 3 games over the Cowboys during a thrilling NCAA regional at Oklahoma State’s O’Brate Stadium in 2022, and the Razorbacks run-ruled the Cowboys with an 18-1 victory in 7 innings at Globe Life Field last season. 

“We’ve had some great games,” Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday said. “I guess last year's wasn't so great; we got spanked pretty good. But the regional the year before that was some of the best baseball I've ever had a chance to compete inside of. Two great teams, great environment, great games, and those were high-level games.” 

Oregon State coach Mitch Canham downplayed his team playing Arkansas six years after the Beavers defeated the Razorbacks in the championship round of the College World Series. Canham replaced long-time Oregon State coach Pat Casey the following year. 

“I don't pay much attention to social media or I guess the pulse of all that stuff,” said Canham, who added, “Arkansas is a program that is at the top of the line every single year. When you’re playing the best competition, you know they’re going to be ready out the gate, too.”

Canham's connections

Oregon State coach Mitch Canham has brief ties to the state of Arkansas. 

As a player in the Kansas City Royals organization, he spent the 2012 season with the Class AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals in Springdale. 

Oregon State hired Canham in 2019 away from his managerial position for the Class AA Arkansas Travelers in North Little Rock. 

Canham, 39, played at Oregon State from 2004-07 and was on the Beavers’ back-to-back national championship teams as a junior and senior.  

Trivia answer

Arkansas and Oregon State have previously played six games — twice at the 1986 NCAA Regional in Stillwater, Okla., a regular-season game in San Jose, Calif., in 1995, and three games at the 2018 College World Series in Omaha, Neb.