Unlikely Path to Arkansas for Likely First Player in NCAA History to Achieve This Feat

Craig Yoho, Arkansas baseball, Indiana baseball, MLB Draft
photo credit: Twitter/YohoCraig

It’s impossible to know for sure, but Indiana right-hander Craig Yoho was likely the first athlete in NCAA history — regardless of sport — to earn Freshman All-America honors in his fifth year of college.

Yes, you read that correctly.

After two Tommy John surgeries, a dislocated kneecap and a pandemic, the infielder-turned-pitcher finally played a full season in 2023 and became one of the best relievers in the Big Ten.

Now, still with three years of eligibility, Yoho has committed to Arkansas baseball and must weigh playing for one of the top programs in the country against beginning a professional career — all of which was made possible by his success this season after going nearly three years between games.

“It was definitely a long time coming,” Yoho said. “Being on the sideline for basically four years was tough, especially coming out of high school when you play every single day. I still got it, I know it, I just have to show other people I still got it. That self-belief is what kept me going.”

Sure, it led to some jokes from his friends, but Collegiate Baseball recognizing him as a Freshman All-American despite being listed as a redshirt senior on the Indiana baseball roster was just part of the unlikely and uncommon career that made Yoho one of the most intriguing players in the transfer portal this offseason.

Craig Yoho Overcomes Adversity

A standout shortstop coming out of Fishers, Ind., in the Class of 2018, Craig Yoho always knew he wanted to head south for college. He was tired of playing in the snow and sleet he had grown accustomed to in high school.

Houston, which was considered a top-25 program at the time after hosting a regional in two of the previous three seasons, gave him that opportunity.

Recruited as an infielder, Yoho got reps at second and third base in addition to his natural shortstop position in practice, but it was his bat that helped him crack the lineup as a true freshman in 2019.

The Cougars’ corner outfield spots that year were essentially reserved for whomever was swinging it the best and Yoho ended up starting some in left field after putting together some quality at bats. He also spent time as their designated hitter, ultimately starting three games and appearing in five others during the first month of the season.

However, his career took quite the turn when he and some teammates decided to goof off with a radar gun after practice one day. Yoho and some fellow infielders took turns pitching into a net to see how hard they threw and, much to everyone’s surprise, he consistently threw it 94-95 mph.

Just like that, Yoho became a two-way player. The Houston coaches had him do a bullpen session under their supervision, but he never stepped on the mound in a real game because soon after that bullpen, he found out he tore his UCL.

That required Tommy John surgery, which led to the first of his three medical redshirts.

Before he had even been fully cleared medically, he actually pinch hit and played one inning in left field in a game the following season. That was March 6, 2020. It wouldn’t be until Feb. 21 this year that Yoho got into another game — a span of 1,082 games.

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the rest of the 2020 season and derailed his recovery, as everything shut down about the time he was set to really start throwing again.

Yoho said that is what led to him hurting his arm again. He underwent his second Tommy John surgery in March 2021, resulting in his second medical redshirt.

At that point, he was at Indiana, transferring back to his home state in 2020. The Hoosiers recruited as a true utility player, telling him they wanted him to play any position on the field except center field.

With his pitching on hold as his arm recovered, Yoho focused on finding a position in the field and hitting. Unfortunately, a freak injury prevented him from even doing that.

In a scrimmage that fall, he came around to score from second and dislocated his knee as he stepped on home plate. It wasn’t as severe of a surgery as Tommy John, but it wiped out his 2022 season and led to his third medical redshirt.

That kind of bad luck would be enough to discourage a lot of players, but Yoho said he really leaned on his faith in God to get through all of the setbacks. It also helped that his wife, the former Sydni Dusek, was a soccer player at Houston who went through four major knee surgeries, so he knew he couldn’t feel sorry for himself.

She moved to Indiana with him and helped him through three injuries. They got married last summer and it’s been uphill ever since. It was around that time that Yoho also decided to hang up the bat and focus on his pitching.

“The head coach really liked my fastball when he saw me throw a couple of times and he was like ‘Dude, you’ve got to give pitching a real chance,'” Yoho said. “When I got hurt last year, it was like alright, if this is really where my potential is, I’ve got to give it a real shot and give up hitting.”

It proved to be the best decision he could have made.

Finally healthy, Yoho threw two scoreless innings of relief against Miami (Ohio) in his collegiate pitching debut on Feb. 21. That was the first of 18 appearances in which he posted a 3.41 ERA with 63 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 37 innings.

Arkansas Baseball and the MLB Draft

Having spent three years at Indiana, Craig Yoho and his wife decided they’d like to move somewhere closer to her family — plus he still had the desire to play somewhere warm — so he decided to enter the transfer portal again, this time as a graduate transfer.

Considering his success in 2023, he was immediately a coveted target across the country. Yoho said pretty much every Power Five school reached out, but he told many of them that he wasn’t interested because geography was important for him and he didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

Schools like LSU, Oklahoma and TCU emerged as possibilities, but Yoho found the perfect landing spot with Arkansas baseball.

The coaches did a great job of selling him on their vision and plan for him, plus he was impressed by the facilities during his visit on June 20 and, perhaps most importantly, Fayetteville was almost a perfect halfway point between his wife’s family in New Braunfels, Texas, and his family in Fishers, Ind. — about 8.5-9 hours each way.

The Razorbacks also got an assist from a former player. Lael Lockhart Jr. actually hosted Yoho on his official visit to Houston and have been close ever since. They played together for two seasons and both ended up being two-way players for the Cougars before each transferring out in 2020.

When he first talked to pitching coach Matt Hobbs on the phone, Yoho mentioned that friendship and by the time he hung up, he had a text from Lockhart that simply said, “Woo pig.” His positive review of the program made it a no-brainer for Yoho.

“He had a ton of great things to say about the program, the fans, the Northwest Arkansas area, the coaching staff,” Yoho said. “I trust him. We had kind of had somewhat of a similar experience at Houston. We had a similar idea of what we wanted out of a program when we were transferring.”

Of course, beating out regional rivals was just half the battle for Arkansas baseball.

Unlike the Razorbacks’ other transfer portal additions, who are either not eligible for the draft or not generating much draft buzz, Craig Yoho said he’s received quite a bit of interest from pro scouts.

It’s easy to see why. His stuff can best be described as “nasty.” On top of a four-seam fastball that sits 92-96 mph, Yoho also has a changeup in the upper-70s to low-80s range and a pitch he calls a slider, but probably profiles more as a curveball. He said it has more than 20 inches of movement both horizontally and vertically.

That combination of velocity and movement could be enough for a team to take a chance on him in the 2023 MLB Draft, which is July 9-11. In fact, he checks in at No. 295 in ESPN’s latest ranking of the top 300 prospects.

If he does get picked, Yoho said he owes it to himself to weigh his options because pro ball is still his ultimate goal. Plus, he’ll lose leverage each year he remains in college and, if his prospect ranking holds true and he’s drafted in the 10th round, he’d probably be in line for a bonus in the six-figure range.

“Given my medical history and my age, my chances of playing pro ball would only get worse as the years go on if I were to keep playing college baseball,” Yoho said. “So the draft is definitely something I have to give myself the chance to consider.”

If he does make it to campus, it’s unclear exactly what role Yoho would have. He said all options are on the table and he was open to whatever helped the team. Possibilities include being a long reliever, setup man or closer, and he didn’t even rule out being a starter. He’s truly in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to that.

That’s also the case for the MLB Draft. However, even if he never suits up for the Razorbacks, Yoho said he’d still like to have a presence in Fayetteville.

“If I do end up getting drafted and that’s the way I go, I still want to try and be as involved in the program as I can be,” Yoho said. “Arkansas, the fanbase has been so welcoming basically this past week. I already feel like part of the family. It’s an awesome program.”

2024 Arkansas Baseball Roster Tracker

Exhausted Eligibility (3)

  • John Bolton
  • Brady Slavens
  • Jared Wegner

Can Return, but Eligible for MLB Draft (16)

  • Cody Adcock – senior
  • Jace Bohrofen – senior
  • Caleb Cali – fifth-year senior
  • Dylan Carter – fifth-year senior
  • Koty Frank – sixth-year super senior
  • Nick Griffin – redshirt junior
  • Hunter Grimes – sixth-year super senior
  • Hunter Hollan – senior
  • Peyton Holt – super senior
  • Tavian Josenberger – senior
  • Will McEntire – fifth-year senior
  • Ben McLaughlin – senior
  • Zack Morris – super senior
  • Hudson Polk – senior
  • Parker Rowland – senior
  • Jaxon Wiggins – senior

Can Return, but Not Draft Eligible (18)

  • Ben Bybee – sophomore
  • Parker Coil – sophomore
  • Kendall Diggs – junior
  • Cooper Dossett – sophomore
  • Jake Faherty – redshirt sophomore
  • Sean Fitzpatrick – sophomore
  • Christian Foutch – sophomore
  • Jordan Huskey – redshirt freshman
  • Josh Hyneman – redshirt freshman
  • Jayson Jones – sophomore
  • Cal Kilgore – redshirt sophomore
  • Austin Ledbetter – junior
  • Mason Neville – sophomore
  • Reese Robinett – sophomore
  • Hagen Smith – junior
  • Peyton Stovall – junior
  • Brady Tygart – junior
  • Gage Wood – sophomore

Incoming Freshmen (21)

  • RHP Jaewoo Choo
  • RHP Jonah Conradt
  • LHP Hunter Dietz
  • LHP Colin Fisher
  • C/UTL Nate Franco
  • RHP Gabe Gaeckle
  • OF Kendall George
  • LHP Adam Hachman
  • C Ryder Helfrick
  • LHP Tucker Holland
  • RHP Barrett Kent
  • INF Walker Martin
  • RHP Tate McGuire
  • INF Aidan Miller
  • RHP Dylan Questad
  • INF/RHP Diego Ramos
  • LHP Jack Smith
  • INF/RHP Kade Smith
  • INF Nolan Souza
  • C/INF Ty Waid
  • INF Nazzan Zanetello

Incoming Transfers (8)

  • OF Will Edmunson (Hutchinson C.C.)
  • C Hudson White (Texas Tech)
  • OF Ty Wilmsmeyer (Missouri)
  • UTL Jack Wagner (Tarleton State)
  • SS Wehiwa Aloy (Sacramento State)
  • LHP Stone Hewlett (Kansas)
  • RHP Craig Yoho (Indiana)
  • OF Ross Lovich (Missouri)

Outgoing Transfers (2)

  • Isaac Webb
  • Harold Coll (story)


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