The Razorbacks picked up their fifth verbal commitment – and fifth pitcher – of the upcoming senior class last week from Forrest City right-hander Barrett Astin.
"I was born in Arkansas and raised an Arkansas fan," said Astin, Arkansas' third verbal commitment in less than two weeks. "A couple of other schools had something to do with it; I didn't like a couple of schools and some of the coaches were kind of arrogant. I just like what they do here.
"I've always wanted to be a Razorback so it wasn't a hard decision."
Astin went 8-2 as a junior with a 1.08 ERA and 110 strikeouts in helping the Mustangs to 15-straight wins at one point and a spot in the Class 5A playoffs.
The highlight of the season for the right-hander was needing only 62 pitches in a perfect game against Wynne and three other no-hitters.
"The first was the perfect game," Astin said. "Before the game I didn't feel very good at all. I started and the first play of the game some guy made a great play and I just went from there. After that the no-hitters were nothing."
This summer he is playing the Area Code Games for the Chicago White Sox and will travel next week to California with the team. Forrest City coach Billy Carter said that experience only helps an already "dominant" pitcher.
"He's been to Georgia, Florida, Kansas City – he's seeing some of the better hitters in the United States everywhere he's played this summer," Carter said. "He's seen some good pitchers, too. It's just a great confidence builder for him to go out and be able to play with some of the best ballplayers across the nation.
"He was pretty dominant last season. Any time he was on the mound we didn't feel we needed to score a lot of runs as compared to some of the other pitchers on our staff."
Carter said Astin is unique in that he has four pitches in his arsenal – a fastball, curveball, slider and change-up.
"His fastball is hard to catch up with for a lot of kids," Carter said of a pitch that consistently hits 87 to 89 mph. "His location is good and he's a four-pitch pitcher, too. A lot of kids aren't used to seeing that many pitches and it makes a difference. I'm sitting here looking at stats and opponents' batting average against him this year was .126. That's pretty strong."
Astin also had a scholarship offer from defending national champion LSU. While the Tigers beat Arkansas twice at the College World Series in June, Astin said the Razorbacks' future is just as bright.
"I went to Omaha when I was 13 and watched some games and then I watched Arkansas there this year," said Astin, who also has a scholarship offer from Ole Miss. "I decided Arkansas had the chance to be there every year. I want to be part of that."
Another factor going into Astin's decision is his relationship with Arkansas pitching signee and Sylvan Hills standout DJ Baxendale.
"He got to play against DJ and knows what he can do as a pitcher and he knows what he can add to the team," Carter said. "He knows what's next, too, because (Searcy pitcher and 2011 Arkansas recruit) Dillon Howard is another dominant pitcher. The Hogs could have three real dominant pitchers from in-state. I think that went into his decision also."
Before his championship aspirations begin in Fayetteville, Astin – also the starting quarterback for the Mustangs' football team – will look to bring some hardware to Forrest City and look to leave his mark next to the city's greatest athlete.
"We're proud of him but you've got to remember Don Kessinger came out of Forrest City, too," Carter said of the six-time MLB all-star and major league manager. "He hasn't reached Don Kessinger's status yet. Hopefully some day he'll be as big a hero in baseball as Don Kessinger but this is still Don's town right now."