Fayetteville, Ark. – The 2012 Arkansas Razorbacks (46-22) exceeded expectations placed upon them by the fans, media, and perhaps beyond what they thought they could achieve as a team especially after a rough patch of games in the middle of their SEC schedule.
Friday night’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to No. 2 South Carolina may have not only ended a dramatic run through the 2012 College World Series one game shy of the NCAA Championship Series for Arkansas but may have been the end to the college careers of a few Razorback players.
Arkansas’ 2012 college baseball season began with spring practices on Jan. 26 at Baum Stadium. The Hogs finished the 2011 season 40-22, ranked No. 14, and winners of the SEC West Division. Coupled with the previous season’s success and top returning talent the Razorbacks were voted preseason No. 4 by Baseball America.
Aiding to the Hogs preseason No. 4 ranking were three Arkansas players listed on College Baseball Daily’s Top 100- right-handed junior pitcher DJ Baxendale was ranked No. 25, RHP sophomore pitcher Ryne Stanek No. 57 and 1B sophomore slugger Dominic Ficociello rated No. 75.
As the season progressed additional Razorback players would add to their college baseball resume while catching the eye of Major League Baseball scouts and ensure the preseason No. 4 ranking was well deserved. The immediate results were most notably found with junior 3B Matt Reynolds and sophomore relief pitcher Nolan Sanburn.
Reynolds was a 2012 MLB second round draft pick of the New York Mets earlier this month, No. 71 overall, and Sanburn was also a second round draft pick taken by the Oakland A’s as the 74th overall pick.
Reynolds finished his 2012 season leading Arkansas in batting average (.323), runs (48), doubles (20), homeruns (7), RBI (45), and total bases (117). For his efforts Reynolds was named All-SEC and third team All-American.
Sanburn’s live arm made pro teams and scouts covet the high ‘90’s fastball he posses and opposing SEC coaches could not be happier with the thought of him gone.
Sanburn made 22 appearances in 2012 posting a 4-1 record with a 2.43 ERA including four saves. In 40.2 innings pitched he struck out 49 batters and only allowed six extra base hits throughout the season, all doubles.
D.J. Baxendale, the preseason SEC pitcher of the year, was taken in the 10th round of this year’s draft by the Minnesota Twins.
Baxendale (8-5, 3.11 ERA) finished his season leading Arkansas in starts (20), innings pitched (107), and strike outs thrown (96). College Baseball Daily named Baxendale second team All-American.
After Arkansas’ dramatic defeat on Friday the Razorback players began giving their goodbyes to Razorback Nation on Twitter.
A Twitter campaign began on Saturday for left fielder Derrick Bleeker, a pick of the Baltimore Orioles, to stay at Arkansas. How serious the campaign really was we will never know but there was one none the less:
S/O to the best roommate
@BerrickDleeker Everyone follow this man! He has a bright future!
The Orioles couldn’t get me the $10 million I wanted so guess what hog fans…. IM COMING BACK!!!!!!
MLB teams have until mid-July to sign their 2012 draft picks. Until those contracts are signed all players with remaining college eligibility can return to their respective teams.
The Hogs finished the season in the top four of college baseball’s elite teams by season’s end and just one game away from playing University of Arizona for the national championship proving that their preseason ranking was not a fluke but a well deserved ranking for a young and gritty group of talent college players.
Good luck to those Arkansas Razorback players that may bypass their remaining college eligibility or have used up their remaining eligibility for a shot at following their respective dreams of playing Major League Baseball one day.