Not only has the Arkansas baseball past and present been successful, but the future also looks bright.
Baseball America and Perfect Game have both tabbed the Razorbacks’ 2023 recruiting class No. 1 in the country – the first time the program has achieved that spot in either rankings, which first came along in 2011.
The haul includes 23 standouts that began signing their national letters of intent on Wednesday, with Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn lauding assistants Nate Thompson and Matt Hobbs.
“We knew we had a great class,” Van Horn said. “I think Coach Thompson heads that up and Coach Hobbs is right behind him. They rounded them up and evaluated them. Our whole staff got involved in the process and obviously we are really excited about it.”
Arkansas’ previous top class in the Perfect Game ratings was No. 2 in 2014.
“I think the good players want to play with good players,” Van Horn said. “They want to feel like they’re going to a program that has a chance to win and win big, and it’s kind of what happened there. We’ve had some good years.
“Guys saw where some guys were coming to play here, and they wanted to jump in and we got in the middle of it, got them on campus and with the facilities we have and all that we have to offer here — fan base, support — I think it added up to be the right choice for a lot of them.”
The recruiting class has a dozen Top 100 prospects nationally according to Perfect Game.
Those include five pitchers – right-handed pitchers Dylan Questad of Waterford, Wisc.,, Barrett Kent of Pottsboro, Texas and Gabe Gaeckle of Aptos, Calif. and left-handers Adam Hachman of Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland and Tucker Holland of Burlington, Calif..
There’s a trio of shortstops in Nolan Souza of Honolulu (HI) Punahou, Hawaii, Trinity (Fla.) Mitchell Aidan Miller and Walker Martin of Easton, Calif, ; a couple of catchers in Texarkana’s Ty Waid and Ryder Helfrick of Discovery Bay (Calif.) Clayton Valley, Calif., Florissant (Mo.) Christian Brothers third baseman Nazzan Zanetello and Humble (Texas) Atascocita outfielder Kendall George.
Waid is of eight in-state signees along with Camden Fairview outfield Martavius Thomas, Harding Academy third baseman Kade Smith and Conway pitcher right-handed pitcher Kyle Spencer.
Just as with any baseball class, Arkansas will likely lose some to the Major League Draft.
“The future is bright,” Van Horn said. “We know we’re going to lose some of these guys, but you know, you can’t get them if you don’t (sign) them. You’ve got to try to get them and see what they do. And if they get here, it could be really special.”
Van Horn noted that having the JB and Johnelle Hunt Development Center is a huge factor in recruiting.
“You bring them down here and I show them the athletic side of it and the development side of it at the Hunt Center — it’s second to none,” Van Horn said. “Playing for highly motivated coaches and playing with highly motivated teammates, I think that a lot of them realize this is a good fit for them. Not everybody fits this program.
“We want guys that are really serious and want to get better and want to develop, because we work extremely hard. We don’t hide that and we talk about it, and it scares some guys off.
“But the ones that get here, I would say just about every one of them, they’re glad they’re here. Obviously they have to work hard and stuff to get in the lineup as a young player, but it’s that way at about 20 schools in the country, and we’re one of them.”
Arkansas 2023 baseball commits
• Jaewoo Cho, RHP, 6-3, 195, Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
• Jonah Conradt, RHP, 6-3, 173, Greenville (WI) P27 Academy
• Nate Franco, C, 6-0, 170, Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake
• Gabe Gaeckle, RHP, 5-11, 185, Aptos, Calif.
• Kendall George, OF, 5-11, 165, Humble (Texas) Atascocita
• Adam Hachman, LHP, 6-5, 210, Wentzville (MO.) Timberland
• Tine Hampshire, SS, 6-3, 187, Lumberton, Texas
• Ryder Helfrick, C, 6-1, 200, Discovery Bay (Calif) Clayton Valley
• Tucker Holland, LHP, 6-5, 240, Burlington, N.C.
• Barrett Kent, RHP, 6-4, 200, Pottsboro, Texas
• Walker Martin, SS, 6-2, 185, Easton, Colo.
• Tate McGuire, RHP, 6-3, 205, Kansas City (Mo.) Liberty North
• Aidan Miller, SS, 6-2, 205, Trinity (Fla.) Mitchell
• Dylan Questad, RHP, 6-0, 200, Waterford, Wis.
• Diego Ramos, RHP, 6-3, 180, Vian, Okla.
• Jack Smith, LHP, 6-3, 215, Moulton (Ala.) Hartselle)
• Kade Smith, 3B, 6-0, 200, Harding Academy
• Nolan Souza, SS, 6-2, 205, Honolulu (HI) Punahou
• Kyler Spencer, RHP, 6-5, 225, Conway
• Hayden Thomas, LHP, 6-0, 190, Lexington (SC) Cayce
• Martavius Thomas, OF, 5-8, 155, Camden Fairview
• Ty Waid, C, 6-1, 210, Texarkana
• Nazzan Zanetello, 3B, 6-2, 180, Florissant (Mo.) Christian Brothers