Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics
Arkansas baseball remains No. 2 in the D1Baseball Poll after going 2-1 against defending national champions Mississippi State over the weekend.
The Razorbacks defeated the Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday, but fell short of the sweep as they lost in 12 innings on Sunday. A large reason for the early-season success has been the efforts of two true freshmen on the mound.
Left-handed pitcher Hagen Smith has found a starting role and has helped the team to five wins. Out of the bullpen, right-hander Brady Tygart has been lights out as the team’s closer thus far.
After losing Peyton Pallette to Tommy John surgery, Smith was tabbed as the Saturday starter. He has been downright dominant so far this season. His five wins lead the team, while Connor Noland and Jaxon Wiggins each have four.
Saturday started off a little rocky for Smith, but was able to settle in by the second inning. Smith credited his success to his focus on the fastball and slider.
He ended the day with seven strikeouts in six innings, with three hits and three runs allowed in the 12-5 victory. Smith has a 3.62 ERA across seven games and 37 innings pitched. He has tallied 44 strikeouts, while giving up 15 runs.
The freshman has proved himself to be consistent and trustworthy on the mound. In high school, Smith was the top left-handed pitcher in Texas and fifth-best in the country, according to Prep Baseball Report. As a high school senior last season, he posted an incredible 0.19 ERA and 11-0 record.
Tygart is another true freshman who has really made a name for himself on the mound. At the end of games, Tygart has shut the door on opponents whenever called upon. He was named Arkansas baseball’s Freshman of the Week after striking out seven batters, a career-high, in Sunday’s 5-3 loss.
The freshman made his presence felt by striking out the first six Bulldogs that he faced. With an incredible breaking ball, Tygart had a great outing against Missouri in a 7-5 win on March 25 in Columbia. He struck out five of the eight Mizzou batters he faced in that game.
So far this season, he has 15 strikeouts and has yielded just two runs in 11.1 innings. The Mississippi native had a Perfect Game rating of 10 coming out of high school. As a high school senior, his fastball topped out at 99 miles per hour, complimenting a splendid 0.31 ERA.
Both of these freshmen are expected to improve even more throughout the season. With big series coming up against Florida and LSU, it should be exciting to watch.