SPRINGDALE – If what was on display at Arvest Ballpark on Saturday is any indication, the Arkansas baseball program is in good shape for the foreseeable future.
Four future Razorbacks helped lead the Arkansas Sticks Elite to a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Bullets, capping a 4-0 weekend in the second annual Chad Wolff Classic.
The main attraction was Connor Noland, a Greenwood product who is committed to Arkansas as a four-star quarterback in football and right-handed pitcher in baseball. However, it wasn’t his arm that made an impact in Saturday’s game.
Having pitched on Thursday, Noland’s bat – he’s hitting close to .400 this summer – kept him in the lineup and he started at shortstop before moving to third base.
He didn’t disappoint, going 2 for 2 with two doubles and a hit by pitch. Both of Noland’s hits proved crucial, as his first one sparked a two-run second inning that cut the Sticks’ deficit to 4-3.
“I just had to lead it off,” Noland said. “I knew we were in a hole and we had to get something started, so I went up there with the mindset of I had to get on base. Sometimes it works out.”
In the very next inning inning, Noland came up big again. His RBI double down the third base line tied the game at 4-4.
“I’m just trying to help my guys out,” Noland said. “They got in good position on the bases and our pitching has been solid, so we’ve kept the score low and let our bats work.”
Speaking of pitching, it was another future Arkansas player who settled things down for the Sticks. In the fourth inning, class of 2019 right-hander Blake Adams, who started the game in right field, relieved 2018 Ole Miss commit Kaleb Hill, who struggled with his command.
Adams got into trouble early, giving up a leadoff double and issuing a walk. However, he managed to get a ground ball and his defense threw out a runner at home to help him get out of it.
“I needed ground balls and strikeouts, so I put the ball really low in the zone here they’re either going to swing and miss it or hit a little choppy ground ball,” Adams said. “That’s what they did and we got him out at home.”
That seemed to do the trick for Adams, a Springdale Har-Ber product. He retired the next seven batters he faced and finished with three strikeouts in three scoreless innings to pick up the win.
“I located my curveball very well and my fastball had some velocity to it,” Adams said. “I was getting ahead with my fastball and then cutting the breaking ball down in the zone and they were swinging right over the top of it.”
At the plate, Adams went 1 for 3 with an RBI double.
Not to be outdone, Little Rock Christian catcher and Arkansas class of 2019 commit Cason Tollett went 2 for 2 with a pair of singles, a walk and a stolen base that set up Noland’s game-tying double in the third. He also played solid behind the plate, blocking several pitches in the dirt.
He said he enjoyed getting an opportunity to play in Northwest Arkansas, where he’ll be playing in a couple of years.
“I love it,” Tollett said. “My sister actually has a house up here (in Fayetteville) and we’ve been staying in it, so it’s kind of been a glimpse into the future.”
The other Arkansas commit to play in the game was Evan Hiatt, a class of 2018 prospect from Little Rock Catholic who went 0 for 2.
DVH and Johnson in the House
There weren’t many people at Arvest Ballpark, the home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, but included in the crowd were Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn and pitching coach Wes Johnson.
They sat several rows up behind home plate and observed their future players, who admitted to seeing them during the game.
“I did (notice them) actually,” Tollett said. “I can’t say I didn’t peak back there a couple times, but it’s cool when they come support us and watch us play.”
Adams said, “When I was on the mound, it was kind of hard to miss them because I was looking back through (the net). I like them coming to games because it gives me some more energy and a better atmosphere because I want to impress.”
In addition to Adams, Hiatt, Noland and Tollett, the Sticks have three other Arkansas commits on their roster.
Maumelle class of 2018 right-hander Connor McCullough pitched Friday and went home. He leads the Sticks with a 3-0 record and has yet to allow an earned run this summer.
Horatio class of 2018 right-hander Wade Beasley and Little Rock Catholic class of 2018 left-hander Hank Hannah were out of town. Beasley was in Fort Myers, Fla., participating in the Perfect Game National Showcase.
Watson Chapel’s Kaleb Hill, the Ole Miss commit, did not have a great day on the mound. In three innings, he allowed four earned runs on four hits and six walks while striking out three. He also had a wild pitch.
The Sticks’ roster includes class of 2018 prospect Jaden Hill from Ashdown, as well. He had several quality offers as a quarterback, but chose to commit to LSU as a right-handed pitcher.
Bentonville class of 2018 standout Kam’Ron Mays-Hunt closed out the game and earned the save with a dominant 1-2-3 seventh inning that included one strikeout. He has a couple of FCS offers as a wide receiver.