Sophomores Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin, as well as junior reliever Matt Cronin were named among 55 players on the 2019 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award watch list this week, an award presented to the top amateur player in the country.
All three Razorbacks were recently named to the Preseason All-SEC First Team and have each been named to numerous preseason All-America teams. Arkansas leads all schools on the preseason Golden Spikes watch list with three selections, while Auburn, Baylor, Elon, Florida, Florida State, NC State, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA each boast a pair of athletes represented as well.
As a conference, the SEC leads the way with 13 representatives, while the Pac-12 Conference garnered 10 selections, the Atlantic Coast Conference claims nine and the Big 12 Conference has five.
Just four years ago, former Razorback Andrew Benintendi won the 38th Golden Spikes Award, joining Philip Stidham as the second Razorback to ever be named a finalist for the prestigious award.
After winning the 2018 SEC Freshman of the Year award, Kjerstad comes into his sophomore season as one of the most highly touted players in the nation. Kjerstad was named a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA, while also making the All-SEC Second Team and the SEC All-Freshman Team.
The Amarillo, Texas native started all 69 games for the Hogs in left field and finished second on the team with a .332 batting average, while leading with 87 hits, 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. His hit total, home runs and RBIs were all Arkansas freshman records.
As for Martin, he practically matched Kjerstad’s numbers as he led the team with a .345 average, an average that also led all freshmen in the SEC. He was named to the All-SEC Second Team and SEC All-Freshman Team at the end of the regular season and was tabbed a freshman All-American by the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as well.
Martin was a key part in Arkansas’ run to their ninth College World Series appearance last year as he led all Razorbacks with a .352 batting average in the NCAA Tournament, including a .357 clip in the CWS. He totaled 10 of his 19 postseason hits in Omaha and made the CWS All-Tournament Team.
On the mound, Cronin returns as one of the top relievers in the nation after setting a UA single-season record with 14 saves. The save total tied for the second-most in the SEC and was the 14th most in the nation. Over his 48.1 innings, Cronin struck out 59 batters, which was the sixth-most on the staff and he held opponents to a .154 batting average, which was the lowest on the team for the second-consecutive season.
USA Baseball will announce the finalists on May 29 and fan voting will open at GoldenSpikesAward.com concurrently and will remain open through June 10. The winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be named on June 14.
Arkansas will open the 2019 season against Eastern Illinois on Feb. 15 at Baum Stadium. Tickets are now on sale through the Razorback Ticket Office