FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Razorbacks junior right-handed pitcher Blaine Knight of Bryant was named first-team Wednesday to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-America team.
Knight, 12-0 with a 2.84 earned run average run 16 starts including victories over Oral Roberts at the Fayetteville Regional and over South Carolina at the Super Regional advancing Arkansas to the College World Series in Omaha, is expected to start the Razorbacks’ first round CWS game against the Texas Longhorns at 2 p.m. Sunday at Ameritrade Stadium.
Knight, a recent third round draft choice of the Baltimore Orioles, becomes the Razorbacks’ 23rd baseball All-American starting with eventual Major League pitcher Tim Lollar as a designated hitter in 1978 through Andrew Benintendi, the 2015 Golden Spikes winner and current Boston Red Sox outfielder.
Razorbacks freshman third baseman Casey Martin of Lonoke and freshman left fielder Heston Kjerstad of Amarillo, Texas both were named Wednesday to the NCBWA’s Freshman All-American team.
As the Longhorns, beaten 13-4 and 7-5 by Arkansas back on March 13-14 at Baum Stadium, prepare their Arkansas scouting reports don’t be surprised if Texas Coach David Pierce spends the most time game-planning against a Razorback not included among top three hitters Martin, a team-leading .344 batting average , 13 home runs and 46 RBI; senior second baseman Carson Shaddy of Fayetteville, Kjerstad, .340, 1 15 home runs and 52 RB; and Kjerstad .340, 14 home runs and 54 RBI.
Junior switch-hitting right fielder Eric Cole hits just a little below them, .329, but above them in the order as the leadoff hitter with pop, 14 home runs and 50 RBI.
“As Cole goes, we go,” describes this Arkansas attack for its last two games even taking none of the aforementioned three leading hitters plus the big at times postseason bats swung by designated hitter Luke Bonfield, first baseman Jared Gates, shortstop Jax Biggers and center fielder Dominic Fletcher.
Arkansas never led off with a man reaching base in Sunday afternoon’s 8-5 Game Two Super Regional loss to South Carolina after beating the Gamecocks 9-3 Saturday night.
Cole batting five times and scoring five runs, set the table for Monday night’s advancing to Omaha, 14-4 gashing of the Gamecocks in the best 2 of 3 finale. He walked leading off the 5-run first, singled leading off a 2-run second, and doubled leading off to score Arkansas’ run in the fourth. He worked a bases-loaded RBI walk with nobody out in the 5-run fifth and clouted a solo home run with one out in the seventh.
“Eric Cole was locked in tonight and he got us rolling,” Van Horn said.
The Longhorns have already experienced Cole on a roll rolling them over.
A Texas native and alum of Southlake Carroll High, Cole turned on Texas pitching during SEC West co-champion Arkansas’ 13-4 and 7-5 nonconference victories over the Longhorns and on Marc 13-14 at Baum Stadium.
Then batting in the No. 2 hole, Cole went 3 for 5 with two doubles and three RBI triggering the 13-4 lashing of the Longhorns.
He only went 1 for 5 in the next day’s rematch but off that one, a seventh-inning double, Cole scored the sixth and ultimately put the game away run on Jordan McFarland’s double.