UA Baseball: "Looking Ahead To 2006"

FAYETTEVILLE -- Now that the dust has settled on Arkansas' 2005 baseball season, it's time to look ahead to 2006.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and his staff have been on the phones since Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft ended a week ago in an effort to find leads on any hidden gems that were missed. They're currently in the process of evaluating several unsigned prospects, mostly pitchers.

No matter who else comes in, the coaches believe they've signed a strong class that will blend smoothly with a young, but experienced lineup next spring.

Next year's pitching staff should have more depth than this year, but maybe not as much as the coaching staff ideally would like.

If none transfer, the returners this fall will include Charley Boyce, Nick Schmidt, Shaun Seibert, Josh Smith, Trey Holloway, Justin White, Daryl Maday, James Gilbert and Lee Land.

Schmidt and Seibert were both named to Louisville Slugger's Freshman All-American Team.

"We feel like we recruited well this year," Van Horn said. "Naturally, we would like to be seven quality pitchers deep where we had three starters, a couple of middle guys and a closer. We feel good about some of the young pitchers coming in. We think they're going to be ready and the reason we think they're going to be ready is their mentality.

"They're not intimidated."

Fayetteville's Chad Coldiron, a 6-foot, 165-pound left-hander, sounds like the least intimidated as the coaching staff raves about his competitiveness. Still, he needs to improve his breaking pitch before he's ready to face the best the Southeastern Conference has to offer.

Coldiron does sport an 89-mph fastball which helped him post a 9-1 record, a 1.78 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 59 innings as a senior.

"He's got enough deception with his delivery that we've got some pretty big plans for him coming in next year," said Razorbacks pitching coach Dave Jorn. "Because of Arkansas high school baseball, he may be a little behind in some areas, but he's got good enough stuff and with his makeup, he's going to be a definite contributing factor."

Arkansas did sign two pitchers, Bryant's Travis Wood and Rowlett, Texas, Kyle Hancock, who were drafted in the top three rounds. Wood did sign with Cincinnati Reds while Hancock still is in negotiations with the Colorado Rockies.

Other than those two, the pitcher with the most accolades coming in is Claremore, Okla., right-hander Brett Bollman (5-10, 150). He locates a 90-mph fastball with a hard slider and a moving changeup.

Bollman was named Tulsa World's Player of the Year after leading Claremore to the state championship and becoming the school's all-time winningest pitcher with a 35-4 career record. He was 12-1 with a 1.03 ERA while striking out 95 in 58 innings this spring.

"Bollman can really pitch," Jorn said. "He's a good competitor and we're definitely planning on him getting some innings next year, but in what role, I don't know. But he's a guy that can locate and change speeds and pitch a little bit."

Rockwall, Texas, left-hander James Leverton (6-3, 170) is another that fits the true pitcher mold and the coaches first noticed him at their Stars of Tomorrow Camp last summer. He throws a fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s and was 9-2 with a 1.31 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 64 innings as a senior. He also can play in the outfield and hit .366 with 12 doubles, six homers and 44 RBIs.

"He's a little bit of a sleeper maybe," Jorn said. "He has a good body and is an athletic lefty that has had a real, real good year on the mound. He's hitting the ball as well, so we're counting on him to be able to contribute somewhere."

The real sleeper out of the pitchers may be Dallas Jesuit's Michael Wild, a crafty 6-2, 195-pound right-hander who throws in the mid-80s. He learned his style from former Razorbacks pitcher Tim Peters and used it to throw two no-hitters this season while putting up a 9-2 record with a 1.40 ERA.

"He's just the opposite of his name," Jorn said. "He's not wild at all and he throws side-armed or kind of three-quarters which gives him good movement and he can really spot it up.

"He doesn't throw the ball real hard, but he will be similar to the same type of pitcher that Boyce is because of his feel for the strike zone and his pitches."

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