The University of Arkansas Golden Lion baseball team will begin the 2019 season at noon on Friday, Feb. 15, in New Orleans in the 2019 MLB Andre Dawson Classic, with games scheduled against Alabama State, Alcorn State and Florida A&M.
With the first dates of the season quickly approaching, Golden Lions head coach Carlos James is working to make sure his team is prepared.
“This past Friday was our first full team practice,” James said. “With the weather being the way it was, it worked out for us to do individual work prior to that, but this past week we got out there Saturday and Sunday to do a little work on the field as a team. We did some inter-squad scrimmaging a little bit, and I thought it went pretty well for it being the first day. Of course this time of the year it is a work in progress week in and week out. One thing is pitching is always going to be a little bit ahead of the hitting this time of the year, then defense is the thing I’ve really been honing in on with our team right now.”
“Defense is where it starts,” James continued. “You can always score some runs, but it really starts with your pitching and your defense. That is the main focus that we have had in this past week since we have been together.”
James believes he has a solid group of pitchers to help his team in the 2019 season.
“Pitching-wise right now, if I had to start a guy in a game, it would be Sergio Esparza,” James said. “That is a name people may be familiar with because the last two years he has been here he has gone from playing shortstop, to last year playing outfield, to now he is exclusively on the mound this year. He has always hit over 300, and we think he has a future at the next level as a pitcher. He is a guy that went to the North Woods League for summer baseball. It is probably the second-best league for summer baseball, and he got a 10-day contract and made a team as a pitcher. We are excited about him. He is a guy who is probably pitching in the low 90’s right now, which is remarkable for a guy who never really pitched a lot, but we are looking for a lot of good things out of him. He is working on developing a good third pitch where he can be able to become a complete starter and, hopefully, as the year goes on, he will get better and win some games and get some looks.”
The Golden Lions will have a solid group of pitchers coming in behind Esparza who should help them throughout the course of the season.
“We’ve got Peyton Burks returning from last year,” James said. “A left-handed pitcher who will be a senior this year. He was pretty solid in his first outing in the fall. I’m looking for him to make that jump this year. He has a little more zip on his fast ball. I don’t think he is throwing 90 M.P.H., but he has the ability to get people out. He showed that last year against Baylor when he pitched three scoreless innings. He did the same thing against Ole Miss, so he is seasoned and is coming back for his senior year. The third spot is probably up for grabs, but we have some talented freshmen who may vie for that spot”
There are several new additions to the Golden Lions’ roster for 2019, and James is expecting several of them to contribute to the team.
“I don’t really want to go through all of our guys because there are some I would like to save back,” James said.
“We do have a good kid named Colton Bochtler. He is a kid whose dad is the pitching coach for the San Diego Padres. We also signed his brother Cade here a couple of weeks ago. But he is a guy who has a lot of upside and a big arm. He is one of those guys that made you light up when he came back in.
“His dad came in and worked with our guys, and his personality was really good this past spring. He came out and threw with a lot of velocity and movement, and threw the ball pretty well. So, we are looking for a lot of good things out of him. We have another kid named Mark Dozier out of California who is about 6-foot-7. He is a right-handed pitcher and a big-time closer. He is a guy that some teams are already calling about already, so we are excited about these two guys in the back end already. They are some guys with some velocity who can get it done. So, I think our pitching staff has a chance of being pretty good this year.”
The 2019 schedule will put the Golden Lions on the road for the first month-and-a-half due to upgrades happening at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex. While the home games during that time will be missed, James believes playing on the road can help his team with bonding, experience and more.
“You just worry about it more from a classroom deal first,” James said. “The baseball part is the easy part when you think about it with us being a college program because all you get to do is concentrate on baseball all day. Really that is the situation that they are in. The thing that I am worried about is making sure we keep up with their assignments and make sure they get those done. From the team concept, it is actually pretty good, and it’s almost a luxury. It is like a spring training setting where it is baseball 24-7. It gives you that time to form that team bond because you are on the road and always around each other. My thing would be having those times that you can do something besides baseball so you can break the monotony of just always being together and on top of each other.”
With the season quickly approaching, several preseason rankings are beginning to come out. Earlier in the week, PerfectGame.org predicted the Golden Lions to finish third in the SWAC West.
“I thought they would put us last,” James said. “That is just cool. Every year that we have won our division we were picked third. So, I think it is pretty cool. The year we were picked first, we finished third. It also gives our kids some motivation. One thing I am pushing with these kids here is to do something we haven’t done before. We have won the division before. We won it three times in a row. We have beaten teams in the Top 25 before. We have beaten Power Five schools before. Now, it is can we do all of that, then go on to win the SWAC championship and get into a regional? That is my thing for them. Let’s go do something we haven’t done here before.”
“Being picked third, first, second, or wherever, it doesn’t really matter,” James continued. “At the end of the day, when the dust settles, where are we going to be at that point? Can we be sitting in a room when the season is over looking at the TV to see what regional we are going to? That is the thing I am looking at. That is the next expectation for UAPB baseball right now.”
2019 UAPB GOLDEN LIONS BASEBALL ROSTER
2: Brady Moorman – Freshman Infielder
3: Braelin Hence – Redshirt Freshman Infielder
4: Austin Toth – Redshirt Senior Utility Player
5: Sergio Esparza – Redshirt Senior RHP
7: Jerficur Parker – Sophomore Infielder
8: Devion White – Sophomore Outfielder
9: Jaques Palmer – Junior Infielder
10: Ryan Mallison – Senior Infielder
13: Peyton Burks – Redshirt Senior LHP
14: Mike Gerwitz – Freshman RHP
19: Ben Rotman – Freshman Catcher
20: Brandon Little – Redshirt Freshman RHP
22: Ricardo Sanchez – Redshirt Senior Catcher
23: Dalton Acosta – Junior RHP
25: Antoine Luster – Redshirt Junior RHP
28: Braxton Pennington – Freshman RHP/Infielder
30: Tim Reynolds – Senior RHP
31: Austin Krzeminski – Junior Catcher
32: Larry Sims – Junior Outfielder
33: Andrew Szalkowski – Junior Outfielder
34: Colton Bochtler – Redshirt Sophomore RHP
36: Brandon Simon – Freshman Outfielder
38: Cody Wiudman – Redshirt Senior Outfielder
41: Race Tittle – Redshirt Freshman RHP
42: Will Smith – Redshirt Freshman Utility Player/RHP
43: Carlos Benoit – Junior LHP
44: Nick Kreutzer – Redshirt Senior Infielder
45: Mark Dozier – Junior RHP
46: Jordan O’Guinn – Junior RHP
Carlos James – Head Coach
Roger Mallison – Assistant Coach/Recruiting
Cory Bonner – Assistant Coach