Arkansas’ Top Freshman Pitcher Three Days Out From Big Test + Injury Updates

Peyton Stovall, Hunter Deitz, Arkansas baseball
photo credit: Baumology / Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — There’s no guarantee he’ll actually be used, but Dylan Carter is available to pitch for Arkansas on Tuesday.

If the right-hander does get on the mound, it would be exactly 10 months since he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL that cut his 2023 season short and complete what has been a remarkably quick recovery.

The recovery timeline for such an injury is usually at least a full year and even then, pitchers aren’t typically back to full strength for another few months. In fact, Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn admitted to initially thinking Carter wouldn’t pitch at all this season because of the timing of the injury last year.

Instead, the Bentonville West product is throwing the ball harder now than before he got hurt, Van Horn told the crowd at the monthly Swatter’s Club meeting on Monday.

“It’s been amazing watching him rehab from Tommy John surgery,” Van Horn said. “Dylan last year was pitching 90-92, 93 (mph) with a good slider and got hurt. Dylan is up to about 95 (mph) right now. Incredible how hard he’s worked.”

The Razorbacks are set to start freshman left-hander Colin Fisher against Central Arkansas at 3 p.m. CT, but he’ll be on a pitch count similar to that of the weekend starters. That means there will be a few innings to fill on the back end of the game and Carter is a candidate to take one of those innings.

“Obviously we want it to feel right and maybe not put him in a super leverage type position,” Van Horn said. “More like he would start an inning and kind of go from there.”

Prior to going down with the injury, Carter was one of the best stories on last year’s team. A junior college transfer who redshirted his first year on campus, he seemingly faced an uphill battle to get on the mound as part of a loaded pitching staff, but he emerged as one of Arkansas’ go-to relievers.

As several pitchers went down with injuries, Carter stepped up and went 6-0 with two saves and a 3.65 ERA in 37 innings across 16 appearances.

Other Arkansas Baseball Injury Updates

He isn’t the only key player nearing a return for the Razorbacks.

After missing the start of the season with a broken foot, projected starting second baseman and leadoff man Peyton Stovall could be back in the lineup as soon as the midweek game against Oral Roberts on March 12, but Dave Van Horn said the coaching staff believes he’ll at least be back for that weekend’s SEC-opening series against Missouri.

The junior is no longer wearing the boot and even took pregame batting practice with the team the last two days of the Murray State series. The only things he hasn’t been cleared to do is sprint and cut. Stovall is slated to have another X-ray on Monday to ensure the bone has healed properly.

“I was hoping that he could get back for Oral Roberts, but I don’t know if he’s going to be ready yet,” Van Horn said. “We’ll just wait and see. We just don’t want to rush him. Once he gets back in the lineup, he’ll be in the lineup and will be playing all the time, every day.”

The Razorbacks have already used 14 different pitchers, but — including Dylan Carter — they could get three more back in the fold sooner rather than later.

Right-hander Ben Bybee, though not quite as close to returning as Carter, is hopefully about 10 days out from being available to pitch. He missed the start of the season because he’s had mono.

Once in contention to be Arkansas’ fourth starter, the sophomore was cleared to throw a bullpen Sunday and has one more check up before being completely released to gear up for a real game.

Freshman Hunter Dietz is on track to pitch in early April after undergoing a minor procedure on his elbow after fall ball. He recently threw a bullpen at 75% effort and will throw one at 90% on Thursday.

A left-hander from Florida, he was ranked as the No. 57 overall recruit in the 2023 class by Perfect Game. Van Horn said Dietz’s arsenal includes a 95-98 mph fastball, as well as a plus-slider and plus-changeup.

“I’m pretty excited about him, I can tell you that,” Van Horn said. “We didn’t hit him in the fall and he throws strikes and he’s left-handed. … This is a pitcher who could really help us deep in a game.”

One not-so-encouraging update on the injury front involved Adam Hachman, the hard-throwing left-hander who also had elbow surgery — albeit not Tommy John — last year. Van Horn said he’s “not ready yet” and that they’re taking things slow, as he is also a heralded freshman, checking in at No. 58 on Perfect Game’s list of the top recruits in the 2023 class.

How the Pitching Staff Stacks Up Nationally

Getting as many as three arms back who could legitimately help Arkansas’ pitching staff would be a classic case of the rich getting richer because it is already one of the best in the country.

In fact, the Razorbacks rank inside the top 10 nationally in all six major pitching categories tracked by the NCAA. That includes having the country’s top marks in WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio:

  • ERA: 2.45 (No. 5 — No. 1: Texas A&M, 1.45)
  • WHIP: 0.906 (No. 1 — No. 2: Texas A&M, 0.914)
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 14.8 (No. 1 — No. 2: Florida State, 14.0)
  • Walks/9 innings: 2.63 (No. 10 — No. 1: Old Dominion, 2.30)
  • Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 5.62 (No. 1 nationally — No. 2: Texas A&M, 4.96)
  • Hits allowed/9 innings: 5.53 (No. 2 nationally. — No. 1: Louisiana Tech, 5.14)

Van Horn Still Confident in Scuffling Offense

It’s a good thing Arkansas’ pitching has been dominant because its bats have been relatively quiet to start the year. While Dave Van Horn gave his pitching an ‘A’ grade, he dished out a ‘C+’ to his offense.

The Razorbacks are still slashing .289/.412/.438, though, which isn’t terrible. In fact, that batting average and on-base percentage ranks in the top third of Division I through the first three weeks of the season.

That said, Van Horn reiterated numerous times throughout his 54-minute talk at the Swatter’s Club that he believed the offense would improve.

“The numbers are okay and I just feel like we’re going to be a lot better,” Van Horn said. “I really do. I think we have a lot of kids that are frustrated right now, but offense is scoring runs, not just hitting.”

In addition to getting Peyton Stovall back in the lineup, two key players to Arkansas turning things around at the plate are shortstop Wehiwa Aloy and catcher Hudson White.

Despite starting every game, Aloy is hitting just .200 and has yet to hit a home run after leading the team in that category throughout the fall and preseason. Aloy came close to ending that drought Sunday, but the wind kept the ball he crushed to left in the ballpark for a fly out.

“He just kind of can’t catch a break, but he’s getting himself out, swinging at bad pitches. Yesterday, I liked what I saw. He took a lot of pitches, still went out of the zone a little bit, but he also hit two balls right on the nose.”

A heralded transfer from Sacramento State, Aloy is probably pressing more than anybody at the plate, Van Horn said, but he added that the Hawaii native has a laid back, no worries attitude and that could help him get through this rough stretch.

“Inside, I’m sure it’s bothering him a lot,” Van Horn said. “He’s not really showing it. He’s not a bat thrower or glove thrower or screamer. He hasn’t let it bother him in the field. He’s fielded the ball pretty good. I like his demeanor. He’s got some fire in him, too, and he’s a tough kid. He might have the perfect makeup for this game, because it can be so frustrating. I think he’s getting real close.”

White, meanwhile, has proven he can hit at a high level because he hit .296 with a .947 OPS as a sophomore at Texas Tech last year, but that hasn’t been the case through three weeks at Arkansas.

Since a strong opening weekend in which he went 5 for 14 with an extra-base hit in all four games, White is just 2 for 20 with no extra-base hits. That has dropped his batting average to .206.

Van Horn mentioned a few other players who could also step up offensively moving forward and maintained an optimistic outlook throughout the meeting.

“I hope we’re talking next time that I’m standing up here that our offense really kicked it into gear,” Van Horn said. “It’s time for those hitters to (do) just a little bit more. There’s more in there and I really feel like it’s coming.”

Arkansas Baseball in the Polls

It’s still early in the season, but the NCAA has already begun releasing regular RPI updates and after the sweep of Murray State, Arkansas baseball checks in at No. 2 behind only Clemson.

The closest SEC team is Alabama at No. 7, but the Crimson Tide are quickly followed by Texas A&M (No. 8), Georgia (No. 9), Kentucky (No. 10) and Florida (No. 12).

“Our schedule does not get any easier, so I don’t think — if we win enough games, we’re not going to move much,” Van Horn said. “We should be able to hang around there.”

The major college baseball polls all came out Monday and Arkansas is a consensus top-4 team with a 9-2 record. Here’s where the Razorbacks are in each ranking:

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Watch Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn’s full interview with reporters following the monthly Swatter’s Club meeting: 

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More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…

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