In a surprising development, Zack Morris has opted to leave the Arkansas baseball team and enter the transfer portal.
News of the left-hander’s decision to pursue other opportunities for his final season of college baseball was first reported by D1Baseball on Friday and confirmed to Best of Arkansas Sports by a UA spokesperson.
The deadline for players to submit paperwork to enter the portal was Thursday. There can be a lag between submission and actually appearing in the portal, so he likely got it filed before that cutoff. Still, it doesn’t matter for graduate transfers like Morris who can enter outside of the portal windows designated by the NCAA.
Arkansas has now seen five players enter the transfer portal this cycle. Isaac Webb, a JUCO transfer who redshirted this season, was first to do so and has since been followed by Harold Coll, Mason Neville, Sean Fitzpatrick and now Morris. The only one of them known to have found a new school so far is Coll, who landed at Houston.
Assuming he doesn’t return to Arkansas, Morris’ departure drops the Razorbacks’ 2024 roster to 47 players, according to Best of Arkansas Sports’ unofficial projection found below. The roster limit next season is 40, as the NCAA recently expanded it from the usual 35.
Zack Morris with Arkansas Baseball
A talented in-state prospect coming out of Cabot High School in the Class of 2019, Zack Morris checked in as the No. 216 overall recruit in the country on Perfect Game. That made him the second-best player in the Natural State for his class, behind only fellow Arkansas signee Blake Adams.
It looked like he was going to be a big part of the staff from the jump with the Razorbacks, as the southpaw made five appearances in their first 16 games during his freshman season. The last of those was 2 1/3 scoreless innings against Grand Canyon, earning him a win in what proved to be the final game of 2020 before the season was shut down because of the pandemic.
Morris’ role expanded from there. He was mostly a situational or one-inning guy in 2021, throwing 15 innings in 16 appearances, and then became a key middle reliever as a junior the following year.
During Arkansas’ run to the College World Series semifinals in 2022, Morris posted a 2.31 ERA in 35 innings across 22 outings and pitched in some of the biggest moments of the year.
His first career start came in his 40th career appearance and was in a big spot – the 2022 Stillwater Regional final against Oklahoma State. Despite throwing 49 pitches in three solid innings of relief two days earlier, Morris delivered with 3 1/3 scoreless innings to help send the Razorbacks to the super regionals.
What Arkansas baseball fans will always remember him for, though, was what he did in Omaha that year. Just a couple days after failing to get out of the first inning against Ole Miss, Morris was called upon in a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the bottom of the ninth against the same team and got out of it to earn his first career save and move the Razorbacks within a game of the championship series.
Considering he owned a career 3.07 ERA in 55 2/3 innings over his first three seasons, Morris figured to be a key arm this past season when he went undrafted and didn’t sign a free agent deal last summer.
Unfortunately for him and the Razorbacks, though, his struggles in the fall carried over into the season and he had a mostly rough season. He entered May with a 10.80 ERA, but the coaches never gave up on him and he ended the regular season on a high note.
In fact, in appearances against Lipscomb, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, Morris threw a combined eight scoreless and hitless innings. He followed that up with five strong innings of relief against Texas A&M at the SEC Tournament in which he gave up just one earned run.
However, there would be no postseason magic this year. Like most of the staff, Morris got hit hard against TCU. In two appearances in the Fayetteville Regional, he gave up five earned runs on five hits and two walks in just 1 2/3 combined innings – raising his season ERA to 7.64 in 33 innings.
Even with the bad year, Morris’ career numbers aren’t terrible. He was never an overpowering guy, as evidenced by his 85 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings. Still, Morris managed a career 4.77 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 61 appearances.
What it Means for the Razorbacks
Although he was listed as a senior last season, Zack Morris still has another year to play because of the blanket eligibility relief granted by the NCAA to all players active in 2020.
When asked about the left-hander’s future last month, Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn told reporters that he expected him to use that extra year to pitch for the Razorbacks again.
“I think it is up to whether somebody signs him,” Van Horn said. “Zack indicated to us that if he doesn’t sign a professional contract, that he is not ready to stop playing baseball or not play at Arkansas. I would say unless something changes from my conversation with him – and Coach Hobbs has had a couple of conversations with him – that he is going to be playing baseball, whether it is professional or here next year.”
Not surprisingly, Morris did not get selected in the 20-round MLB Draft and also apparently hasn’t signed as a free agent deal. That led to the assumption he’d be back in 2024 and made Friday’s news a bit surprising.
Further examination, however, makes it more understandable.
Getting a player like Morris back for another year would have been invaluable from a leadership perspective, especially considering he was a team captain last season and there will be quite a few young pitchers on next year’s team.
Those young pitchers, though, would likely make innings pretty tough to come by for Morris. It’s a very talented group that the Razorbacks were lucky to get to campus as intact as it is.
They did lose a couple pitchers – Dylan Questad and Barrett Kent – to the MLB Draft, but many more were viewed as draft risks and will come to Arkansas instead. Several of the incoming freshmen are lefties, as well – Adam Hachman (expected to miss 2024), Hunter Dietz, Tucker Holland, Colin Fisher and Jack Smith.
In addition to those guys, the Razorbacks also landed left-hander Stone Hewlett from Kansas via the transfer portal. Parker Coil will be back as a sophomore, as well. He has a 2.76 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 16 1/3 innings this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, and even that is skewed by one bad outing out of six appearances.
Throw in Hagen Smith, who is a projected weekend starter, and if Nick Griffin and Jordan Huskey stick around, that would give Arkansas 10 left-handed pitchers on its roster in 2024. Since 2008, which is as far back as we have records, the most lefties the Razorbacks have had is nine in 2010.
2024 Arkansas Baseball Roster Tracker
Total Players: 47
Returning Players (25)
- RHP Ben Bybee – sophomore
- RHP Dylan Carter – fifth-year senior
- LHP Parker Coil – sophomore
- OF Kendall Diggs – junior
- RHP Cooper Dossett – sophomore
- RHP Jake Faherty – redshirt sophomore
- RHP Christian Foutch – sophomore
- RHP Koty Frank – sixth-year super senior
- LHP Nick Griffin – redshirt junior
- OF Hunter Grimes – sixth-year super senior
- INF Peyton Holt – super senior
- LHP Jordan Huskey – redshirt freshman
- RHP Josh Hyneman – redshirt freshman
- INF Jayson Jones – sophomore
- C Cal Kilgore – redshirt sophomore
- RHP Austin Ledbetter – junior
- RHP Will McEntire – fifth-year senior
- INF Ben McLaughlin – senior
- C Hudson Polk – senior
- INF Reese Robinett – sophomore
- C Parker Rowland – senior
- LHP Hagen Smith – junior
- INF Peyton Stovall – junior
- RHP Brady Tygart – junior
- RHP Gage Wood – sophomore
Incoming Freshmen (15)
- RHP Jaewoo Choo
- RHP Jonah Conradt
- LHP Hunter Dietz
- LHP Colin Fisher
- C/UTL Nate Franco
- RHP Gabe Gaeckle (drafted, but said he’s coming to school)
- LHP Adam Hachman
- C Ryder Helfrick
- LHP Tucker Holland
- RHP Tate McGuire
- INF/RHP Diego Ramos
- LHP Jack Smith
- INF/RHP Kade Smith
- INF Nolan Souza
- C/INF Ty Waid
Incoming Transfers (7)
- 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)
- OF Ross Lovich (Missouri)
Exhausted Eligibility (3)
- John Bolton
- Brady Slavens
- Jared Wegner (also selected in MLB Draft)
Selected in MLB Draft, Not Likely to Return (13)
- RHP Cody Adcock
- OF Jace Bohrofen
- INF Caleb Cali
- OF Kendall George (signee)
- LHP Hunter Hollan
- OF Tavian Josenberger
- RHP Barrett Kent (signee)
- INF Walker Martin (signee)
- INF Aidan Miller (signee)
- RHP Dylan Questad (signee)
- RHP Jaxon Wiggins
- RHP Craig Yoho (Indiana transfer)
- INF Nazzan Zanetello (signee)
Outgoing Transfers (5)
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…