After a dominant sophomore campaign with Arkansas baseball, Hagen Smith will now represent his country as a member of Team USA.
The heralded left-hander was one of 31 players selected to the College National Team, USA Baseball announced Thursday. That roster was whittled down from 58 players who descended upon Cary, N.C., last week for a four-game intrasquad series that served as training camp.
Five-game series against Chinese Taipei and Japan are on the schedule for this summer, with all 10 games set to be played in the Carolinas between June 30 and July 12.
Smith is the 22nd Arkansas baseball player chosen to play for the Collegiate National Team since 1979, with the most recent being Jaxon Wiggins and Robert Moore in 2021. Others who have done so include Casey Opitz and Heston Kjerstad in 2019, Ryne Stanek in 2011 and 2012, Nick Schmidt in 2006 and Jeff King in 1985.
The Collegiate National Team is made up of non-draft eligible college players who have completed their freshman or sophomore years from across the country.
In the case of Smith, who also went to the training camp last year but didn’t make the team, he completed a stellar sophomore season earlier this month.
Pitching both as a starter and closer for the Razorbacks, he posted a 3.64 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .217 batting average. Not only was he a first-team All-SEC selection, but Smith also earned All-America accolades from seven different outlets — including first-team nods from Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA.
Smith made the Collegiate National Team despite struggling with his command during his lone outing in the Stars vs Stripes intrasquad series this week.
Getting the nod for the Stripes in Game 1, the Bullard, Texas, native gave up two earned runs on three hits and six walks while striking out three in 2 1/3 innings. However, his track record in the SEC and his raw stuff likely helped him still make the cut.
Brady Tygart Declines Team USA Invitation
Just as he was last year, Brady Tygart was also invited to the Collegiate National Team Training camp. However, the right-hander turned down the opportunity.in order to rest and focus on his health this summer.
Tygart missed about two months of the 2023 season with a UCL strain and then was gradually built up from a pitch count standpoint. It wasn’t until the Fayetteville Regional that the Razorbacks completely turned him loose, though.
“We were really trying to take it easy with him there at the end of the season for the most part, keeping an eye on him,” Van Horn said. “Just don’t want to aggravate anything. Just want him to heal up and be ready to go in the fall.”
For the season, Tygart posted a 3.20 ERA with 31 strikeouts to only eight walks in 25 1/3 innings across 10 outings.
After moving into the starting rotation, though, he was even better. In six starts, he allowed just five earned runs on nine hits and seven walks while striking out 21 in 19 innings. That works out to a 2.37 ERA and 0.84 WHIP.
Potential Timeline for Dylan Carter
Speaking of injuries to the ulnar collateral ligament, right-hander Dylan Carter tore his just about the time Brady Tygart returned to action and underwent Tommy John surgery on May 5.
The timing of the injury, which usually takes at least a full year to recover from, at the time made it seem extremely unlikely that Dylan Carter would even be able to pitch in 2024. However, that might not be the case.
His mother, Carmen Carter, shared an encouraging update on his recovery process earlier this month. The Bentonville native had his brace removed on June 15 and she said it was “time to work to be back in the pen next year.”
When asked about the possibility of that on Tuesday, Dave Van Horn didn’t completely rule it out. He said it’d come down to how he feels physically and that the NCAA’s decision to expand rosters from 35 to 40 players would help.
“I don’t think anybody can outwork him and he’s tough as can be,” Van Horn said. “I think if he does pitch, it would be late in the season. We’ll just try to evaluate that as best we can through late fall, January.”
Listed as a redshirt sophomore on the 2023 roster, Carter was actually in his fourth year of college baseball and should have actually been considered a redshirt junior. However, one of his two years at Crowder C.C. was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, which doesn’t count toward eligibility.
He also took a traditional redshirt year in 2022. If he’s unable to pitch next season, Carter would receive a medical redshirt and he’d technically be eligible to play in 2025 and 2026 — when he’d be a sixth- and seventh-year super senior, respectively.
Getting him back, whenever that may be, would be a boost to Arkansas’ bullpen. After entering the season as sort of a wildcard, Carter emerged as arguably the Razorbacks’ most dependable healthy reliever, posting a 3.65 ERA in 37 innings across 16 appearances before getting hurt.
Other Arkansas Baseball Injury Updates
Two other Razorbacks recovering from season-ending surgeries who are expected back next year are right-hander Koty Frank and second baseman Peyton Stovall.
Frank, a transfer from Nebraska, was expected to be Arkansas’ top middle reliever in 2023 and was off to a solid start with a 3.09 ERA in 11 2/3 innings before tearing his lat muscle on March 5.
Stovall played through pain for several weeks before discovering he had a torn labrum and shutting things down following the Texas A&M series in late April.
“Both of those guys are back in town now, working out and helping out with camps, doing some things, rehabbing,” Van Horn said. “(They’re) coming along good as far as we know.
“Corey Wood, our trainer — and I said he was the busiest trainer in the country last year — he’s working hard this summer helping those guys. We just appreciate the effort that they’re putting in to get back.”
The plan all along has been for Frank to come back and pitch next year. He stuck around the team the rest of the season, serving as a coach of sorts, and will be a sixth-year super senior in 2024.
Stovall will be a junior, but the nature of his injury has led to some uncertainty about where he’ll end up playing in the field next season.
Although Van Horn is confident he’ll make a full recovery and return to his usual second base position, Trevor Ezell was a second baseman who had a similar surgery a few years ago and ended up having to play first base because his arm was never the same.
The reason for Van Horn’s optimism has to do with the severity of his injury and the fact that Stovall is capable of throwing with multiple different arm slots.
“I feel like it’ll be fine,” Van Horn said. “Just kind of the way it turned out. They got in there, looked at it, fixed it. Just things I’ve heard. I know he’s going to work extremely hard to get back. I just feel good about it.”
Watch the full Dave Van Horn press conference below:
Six players have committed to Arkansas baseball out of the transfer portal so far this offseason. Here’s how we see each of them fitting on next year’s team:
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