Arkansas Baseball Program Finally Wins the Kind of National Championship Awarded in Autumn

Dave Van Horn, Arkansas baseball
photo credit: Baumology / Arkansas Athletics / Baumology

Most Arkansas baseball fans believe that the top milestone left for their program to achieve is an NCAA national championship. There is no shortage of teeth knashing when recalling a certain dropped foul ball vs Oregon State in the 2018 College World Series or, to a lesser extent, the “what ifs” that fill memories of the other six College World Series appearances during the Dave Van Horn era.

Although the biggest prize remains that elusive NCAA title, fewer fans realize that until this week, there was another national “championship” that the program had not yet obtained. While plenty of highly ranked national recruiting classes had recently found a home in Fayetteville, including Perfect Game’s No. 2 classes in 2014 and 2018, Arkansas had not yet finished with a No. 1 overall recruiting class when all the dust had settled come fall after the MLB Draft and the new players made it to campus.

That changed on Tuesday when Arkansas won Collegiate Baseball’s national recruiting championship. The Hogs are one of an astounding eight current SEC members in the publication’s top 10, and one of nine when considering Texas will be a member come 2024:

  1. Arkansas                     
  2. UCLA                                                           
  3. Tennessee                           
  4. Florida                        
  5. Louisiana St.                   
  6. Vanderbilt                                                                   
  7. Georgia                       
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Texas                 
  10. Mississippi St.

As our own Andrew Hutchinson wrote in the summer, the 2023 class was shaping up to be No. 1 overall before the 2023 MLB Draft hit because of the record-setting number of Top 100 signees. But the draft hit the Hogs harder than most, causing Arkansas to finish at No. 2 just behind UCLA in Perfect Game’s national ranking of top classes for 2023.

What appears to have saved the day in the Collegiate Baseball rankings, however, is the elite transfer class that Arkansas has coming in.

Collegiate Baseball, unlike Perfect Game, factors in the quality of transfers into its analysis of each class because, just like in college football and basketball, transfers are playing an increasingly bigger role on the success of college baseball teams’ fortunes.

Arkansas’ 2023 class features 24 newcomers in all. That’s 14 freshmen, nine 4-year transfers and one junior college transfer. In terms of transfer class per se, Arkansas ranks No. 2 nationally according to Sixty-Four Analytics. On top of that, Arkansas and Tennessee are the only schools with multiple players in the top 10 when it comes to D1baseball’s “Top Impact Transfers” for 2024. It places Mason Molina at No. 10 and Wehiwa Aloy at No. 9.

Wehiwa Aloy is from Hawaii, which the Razorbacks are no stranger to because of Rick Nomura (second baseman from 2015-16) and Nolan Souza (2023 signee). Playing at Sacramento State this past season, he was named the WAC Freshman of the Year and selected as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

As Hutchinson reported from Arkansas baseball fall ball a few weeks ago, Aloy as a sophomore is probably the frontrunner to start at shortstop. Another possibility is freshman Nolan Souza, a top-100 recruit who was personally recommended to Dave Van Horn by Nomura.

“Even though he committed 17 errors and had a .928 fielding percentage as a freshman, Aloy’s defense was praised by Van Horn” in fall ball, Hutchinson wrote. “The veteran coach said he has a very accurate arm and is actually stronger than Jalen Battles was at this point in his career.”

Big Picture Takeaway for Arkansas Baseball

Winning a national recruiting “championship” doesn’t guarantee the one that people really care about will follow, of course. Still, history shows us the chances of it happening are better for SEC schools than non-SEC schools, according to the lists below.

Here you can see all the former programs to finish No. 1 in the national recruiting rankings according to Collegiate Baseball. I have boldfaced the teams in which a national championship followed within five years (allowing for the possibility of a redshirt season).

Since 2004, when the SEC’s domination of SEC baseball truly began, LSU, South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt have all followed up No. 1 recruiting finishes with national championships. Indeed, in the 21st century, every SEC program that has finished No. 1 in this ranking eventually won a national title even if it didn’t happen within five years of the achievement.

No. 1 Recruiting Classes by Collegiate Baseball

2022: Louisiana St.
2021: UCLA
2020: Miami (Fla.)
2019: Vanderbilt (national runner up in 2021)
2018: Louisiana St.***
2017: Vanderbilt (national runner up in 2021)
2016: Arizona St.
2015: Florida
2014: Louisiana St. (national runner up in 2018)
2013: Florida
2012: Vanderbilt
2011: South Carolina (national runner up in 2012)
2010: Louisiana St.
2009: Florida
2008: Arizona St.
2007: Louisiana St.
2006: South Carolina**
2005: South Carolina**
2004: Louisiana St.*
2003: North Carolina (national runner up in 2006 and 2007)
& South Carolina
2002: Georgia Tech
2001: Southern California
2000: Cal. St. Fullerton
1999: Southern California
1998: Georgia Tech.
1997: UCLA
1996: Texas A&M
1995: Arizona St. (national runner up in 1998)
1994: Mississippi St.
1993: Miami (Fla.) (national runner up in 1996)
1992: Florida St.
1991: Miami (Fla.) (national runner up in 1996)
1990: Arizona
1989: Florida St.
1988: Miami (Fla.)
1987: Stanford
1986: Stanford
1985: Hawaii
1984: Florida St. (national runner up in 1986)
1983: Arizona St. (national runner up in 1988)

*LSU won national title in 2009

**South Carolina won back to back national titles in 2010 and 2011

*** LSU won national title in 2023

Perfect Game Top Recruiting Classes

In the 2023 recruiting cycle, UCLA finished No. 1 and Arkansas baseball No. 2, but the Hogs were actually No. 1 on signing day. They fell behind UCLA after Perfect Game adjusted its ranking to account for guys who signed with pro teams. Arkansas still set the record for top-100 recruits who made it to campus, but UCLA’s recruits outside the top 100 were ranked higher than Arkansas’ players ranked outside the top 100.

In the list below, you can see the same pattern repeating of SEC teams that finish No. 1 here also winning a national title, with the exception of Georgia in 2012 and South Carolina in 2011 (though South Carolina had won a couple of national titles in 2010 and 2011).

2022: Louisiana State (Arkansas at No. 11)
2021: Florida (Arkansas at No. 9)
2020: Vanderbilt (Arkansas at No. 5)
2019: Vanderbilt* (Arkansas at No. 3)
2018: UCLA (Arkansas at No. 2)
2017: Vanderbilt (Arkansas at No. 3)
2016: North Carolina (Arkansas at No. 12)
2015: Vanderbilt (Arkansas at No. 43)
2014: Miami (Arkansas at No. 2)
2013: Florida (Arkansas at No. 10)
2012: Georgia (Arkansas at No. 18)
2011: South Carolina (Arkansas at No. 17)

*Ole Miss, the 2022 NCAA champion, finished No. 2 behind Vanderbilt in this recruiting cycle.

2023 Fall Roster for Arkansas Baseball

No.PlayerPos.Yr.Ht.Wt.B/THometown / High School / Previous School
1Ty WilmsmeyerOFGrad.6-2185R/RSpringfield, Mo. / Glendale HS / Missouri
3Nolan SouzaINFFr.6-3210L/RHonolulu, Hawaii / Punahou HS
4Jack WagnerINF/OFGrad.6-0200R/RWichita, Kan. / Maize South HS / Kansas / Tarleton State
5Kendall DiggsOFJr.6-0205L/ROlathe, Kan. / Saint Thomas Aquinas HS
6Ben McLaughlinINFSr.6-3215L/RGolden, Colo. / Golden HS / Hutchinson CC
8Hudson WhiteCJr.6-1200R/RKeller, Texas / Byron Nelson HS / Texas Tech
9Wehiwa AloyINFSo.6-2200R/RWailuku, Hawaii / Baldwin HS / Sacramento State
10Peyton StovallINFJr.5-11190L/RHaughton, La. / Haughton HS
11Jaewoo ChoRHPFr.6-3200R/RSeoul, South Korea / IMG Academy
12Jared Sprague-LottINFSr.6-0190R/RPhiladelphia, Pa. / Springside Chestnut Hill HS / Richmond
13Jayson JonesINFSo.6-2220R/RSavannah, Texas / Braswell HS
14Ross LovichOFSr.6-0185L/LOverland Park, Kan. / Blue Valley West HS / Missouri
15Lincoln RileyOFGrad.5-10190R/RCedar Rapids, Iowa / Cedar Rapids Washington HS / Southeastern CC / Eastern Illinois
16Hudson PolkCSr.6-1210R/RCoppell, Texas / Coppell HS / Oklahoma
17Hunter GrimesOFR-Sr.6-1185R/RKerrville, Texas / Tivy HS / UTSA / McLennan CC
18Reese RobinettINFSo.6-3215L/RKennett, Mo. / Kennett HS
19Will EdmunsonOFJr.6-1200R/RLuther, Okla. / Homeschool / Hutchinson CC
20Gabe GaeckleRHPFr.6-0190R/RAptos, Calif. / Aptos HS
21Mason MolinaLHPJr.6-2225R/LRancho Santa Margarita, Calif. / Trabuco Hills HS / Texas Tech
22Ty WaidC/INFFr.6-2225R/RTexarkana, Ark. / Arkansas HS
24Peyton HoltINF/OFSr.5-10205R/RGreenwood, Ark. / Greenwood HS / Crowder College
25Brady TygartRHPJr.6-2215R/RHernando, Miss. / Lewisburg HS
26Tate McGuireRHPFr.6-3210R/RLiberty, Mo. / Liberty North HS
27Ryder HelfrickCFr.6-1200R/RDiscovery Bay, Calif. / Clayton Valley Charter HS
28Koty FrankRHPGrad.6-2220R/RTushka, Okla. / Tushka HS / Eastern Oklahoma State College / Nebraska
29Austin LedbetterRHPJr.6-1200R/RBryant, Ark. / Bryant HS
31Dylan CarterRHPR-Jr.6-2205R/RBentonville, Ark. / Bentonville West HS / Crowder College
32Hunter DietzLHPFr.6-6230R/LTrinity, Fla. / Calvary Christian HS
33Hagen SmithLHPJr.6-3225L/LBullard, Texas / Bullard HS
34Diego RamosRHPFr.6-3195S/LVian, Okla. / Vian HS
35Jordan HuskeyLHPR-Fr.5-11190L/LQuitman, Ark. / Greenbrier HS
36Parker CoilLHPSo.6-3190R/LEdmond, Okla. / Edmond Memorial HS
37Jake FahertyRHPJr.6-3185R/RGeorgetown, Ky. / Great Crossing HS
38Colin FisherLHPFr.6-3215L/LNoble, Okla. / Noble HS
39Tucker HollandLHPFr.6-6235R/LFayetteville, N.C. / The Burlington School
40Ben BybeeRHPSo.6-6230R/ROverland Park, Kan. / Blue Valley Southwest HS
41Will McEntireRHPR-Sr.6-4225L/RBryant, Ark. / Bryant HS
43Kade SmithINF/OF/RHPFr.6-0200R/RSearcy, Ark. / Harding Academy
44Parker RowlandCSr.6-3215S/RTulsa, Okla. / Bishop Kelley HS / Arkansas State / Eastern Oklahoma State College
45Gage WoodRHPSo.6-0205R/RBatesville, Ark. / Batesville HS
46Christian FoutchRHPSo.6-3230R/RLittleton, Colo. / Chatfield HS
48Cooper DossettRHPSo.6-0190R/RSpringdale, Ark. / Har-Ber HS
49Stone HewlettLHPSr.6-1195L/LLeawood, Kan. / Rockhurst HS / Kansas
51Jack SmithLHPFr.6-4220L/LMoulton, Ala. / Hartselle HS
52Jonah ConradtRHPFr.6-3175R/RGreenville, Wisc. / P27 Academy
55Josh HynemanRHPR-Fr.6-4245R/RJonesboro, Ark. / Jonesboro HS
61Adam HachmanLHPFr.6-5230L/LWentzville, Mo. / Timberland HS

YouTube video

More about Arkansas baseball from BoAS here:

Facebook Comments