BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas fall baseball practice fires up at Arkansas on Friday with a strong mixture of returnees and newcomers dotting the Diamond Hogs’ 2024 roster.
The Razorbacks will have a scrimmage open to the public and media beginning at 2:35 at Baum Walker Stadium with returnee Brady Tygart and Texas Tech transfer Mason Molina slated to start on the mound.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn feels like he he has another strong squad despite taking some hits in the Major League Baseball draft.
“We do,” Van Horn said last month. “You never know how it’s going to turn out. But we feel good about the experienced kids we have coming in. We feel good about the guys that are coming back that have been in our program, that they’ve continued to develop and get better.
“And then the freshman class that’s coming in, it’s still a really good class, even though we lost some kids to professional baseball. And like I said, we knew we were. So we tried to cover all that. By going out and getting a couple of infielders and getting a few more pitchers, it really helped us.
The Razorbacks have 24 new faces with 15 freshmen, 8 portal transfers and a junior college All-American.
That includes former Molina, a likely favorite to join holdovers Hagen Smith and Tygart as weekend starters.
But Van Horn is also focused on the development of his returning pitchers, such as sophomore Parker Coil, who was 0-1 with a save, a 6.55 ERA, 19 strikeouts and 9 walks in 15 appearances (3 starts) and 22 innings of work.
Coil (6-3, 200) spent the summer playing for Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cape League.
He would go 1-1 with two saves and a 2.58 ERA while making 10 appearances, fanning 26 and only walking 5 while pitching 24 1/3 innings.
“He’s had a tremendous summer, pretty much out of the pen,” Van Horn said. “Just coming in and what he’s done, he’s thrown a lot of strikes. He’s always had a good breaking ball. Looks like he’s really confident. He’s just taken a step forward.”
His best effort arguably was getting final five outs and closing out an 8-7 win one Texas A&M on April 29.
“He can come in and challenge to be a starter, or … there’s a lot of roles for him,” Van Horn said. “We used him in some tough situations last year. Some because it was towards the end of the weekend, we had a lot of injuries, we had to go with some guys that we didn’t know if they were ready yet. And he got us out of some jams. He started some games on. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“I think he’s starting to turn the corner physically. He starting to put on a little bit more weight. I think this fall will be big for him, and he’ll be a big part of our team in the spring.”
Van Horn is also looking forward to getting a look at sophomore right hander Christian Foutch, who pitched for the Green Bay Rockers of the Northwest League this summer.
Foutch was 1-0 with an 8.76 ER in 14 games and 12 1/3 innings for Arkansas last season. He fanned 9 and walked 12, including 5 in a three-game stretch run which he failed to get an out.
“His battle is the zone,” Van Horn said. “If he finds the zone a lot, he makes the team and he pitches a lot. He had some really good days up in the Cape. He had some that didn’t go so well. And probably, the coaches up there in a couple situations left him in there where we never would have left him in.”
Foutch appeared in 9 games for the Rockers while covering 32 2/3 innings, going 1-2 with a 4.68 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 21 bases on balls.
“The numbers were skewed a little bit, but stuff’s good,” Van Horn said. “He’s got this fall to go out and do it, and hopefully he does. We’re all pulling for him.”
Fellow Razorback Cooper Dossett also pitched for the Rockers while going 2-3 with a save and a 4.83 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.
Dossett, who pitched in relief twice for Arkansas early in the season, fanned 43 and walked 18 for the Rockers.
He pitched a scoreless inning in relief against Eastern Illinois after allowing 4 runs, 2 hits and 4 walks in his college debut against TCU.
Photo by John D. James