Arkansas junior starting pitcher Blaine Knight was earned All-America honors from two publications this week before leading five Razorbacks selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft on Tuesday. Knight (11-0, 2.74 ERA) was named a Second-Team All-American by Baseball America days before Arkansas (42-18) opened the Fayetteville Regional at Baum Stadium against Oral Roberts (38-20). The right-hander held the Golden Eagles to two runs off two solo home runs by catcher Riley Keizor en route to a 10-2 victory in the first round.
Collegiate Baseball also named Knight, of Bryant, a Third-Team All-American. He is the 42nd All-American in program history. Knight was selected Tuesday by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the draft. Junior switch-hitting right fielder Eric Cole, of Southlake, Texas, was taken in the fourth round by the Kansas City Royals, junior catcher Grant Koch, of Fayetteville, was picked in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, junior shortstop Jax Biggers, of Missouri City, Texas, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the eighth round and senior infielder Carson Shaddy, of Fayetteville, was selected in the 10th round by the Washington Nationals.
None of the Razorbacks are expected to negotiate with the teams that drafted them until after the Razorbacks complete their season. They clinched the Fayetteville Regional with wins of 10-2 against Southern Mississippi (44-18) on Saturday and 4-3 against Dallas Baptist (42-21) on Sunday. Arkansas will now host a super regional at Baum Stadium against Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina (36-24). The Gamecocks handed the Razorbacks, 33-3 at home this season, one of their only losses in Fayetteville on April 12.
Knight is a Second-Team All-SEC selection and has 88 strikeouts with 21 walks in 95 1/3 innings. He is the first Arkansas pitcher to be named an All-American since Keaton McKinney in 2015 and the first non-freshman All-American pitcher since Ryne Stanek in 2013.
Arkansas’ ace starter was passed over in the first two rounds for a host of other pitchers he outdueled this season, including the Detroit Tigers’ No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize (10-5, 2.95), of Auburn (42-21). Arkansas beat Auburn, 2-1, on April 6 at Baum Stadium behind 6 1/3 innings of one-run pitching from Knight.
The Royals’ No. 18 pick Brady Singer (11-1, 2.27), of Florida (45-18); the Colorado Rockies’ No. 22 pick Ryan Rolison (10-4, 3.70), of Ole Miss (48-17); the Royals’ No. 33 selection, Florida starter Jackson Kowar (9-5, 3.37); the San Francisco Giants’ second round pick of Sean Hjelle (7-5, 3.44), of Kentucky (34-22); and the Rockies’ third round pick of Mitchell Kilkenny (8-5, 3.34), of Texas A&M (40-22), each lost their team’s matchups to Knight this season.
Knight has been Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn’s ace all season. He is the only pitcher in Division I with an 11-0 record and his 11 wins are tied for third-most in school history. Cole is Van Horn’s leadoff hitter with a .338 batting average, 13 home runs and 47 RBIs. He is the first Razorback outfielder selected in the draft since Clark Eagan was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016 and first in the fourth round or higher since Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Benintendi went to the Boston Red Sox in the first round in 2015.
The Second-Team All-SEC selection has a combined .299 batting average with 165 hits, 26 doubles, 18 home runs and 79 RBIs in his three-year career at Arkansas. He has started 136 of 147 games in the outfield, including all 60 games this season. Koch is known as a stellar defender behind the plate and has a .250 batting average with seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 32 runs in 2018. He is the 18th Arkansas catcher to be drafted and the first since James McCann was taken in the second round by the Tigers in 2011.
The Fayetteville native has recorded 433 putouts with a .998 fielding percentage with just one error this season while starting 53 games. He was errorless in league play this season, earning a nod on the SEC’s All-Defensive Team. His 34 strikeouts is good for the third-least in the Razorbacks’ starting lineup.
Biggers becomes the 13th shortstop in school history to be selected and the first since Michael Bernal was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2016. Last season, Biggers hit .338, which led all Arkansas hitters and shortstops in the SEC, and it was the highest batting average by a Razorback shortstop since Scott Hode’s .309 in 2005. Biggers went on to be named to the All-SEC Second-Team and was a Brooks Wallace Award semifinalist, an honor for the country’s top shortstops.
This year, Biggers hit .281 in 53 games with nine doubles, four home runs and 22 RBI. He also sports a .388 on-base percentage thanks to 33 walks, the fourth-highest total on the team. Defensively, he has made just 17 errors in 420 chances for a .960 fielding percentage the past two years, and he has helped to turn 30 of the Razorbacks’ SEC-leading 56 double plays this year.
The selection of Biggers marks the second-straight season the Razorbacks have had four or more players drafted in the first 10 rounds and the fourth since 2000. The other three instances occurred in 2007, 2010 and 2013. Shaddy has had an impressive career at Arkansas, redshirting his true freshman year before taking over as the primary catcher at the end of the 2015 season that ended in a trip to the College World Series. He hit .337 that year while tallying 14 starts as a catcher and outfielder.
Following Tommy John surgery before the 2016 season, he moved to this base, leading the team with a .332 batting average which included 70 hits, 41 runs and a .521 slugging percentage. His hitting has improved to a .354 with career highs in home runs (11) and RBI (43) to make the All-SEC First-Team.
At the end of the regular season, Shaddy led the Razorbacks with a .354 batting average and was in the top 10 among the SEC in batting, slugging and on-base percentage. He has also made 47 starts in 50 games at second base with just eight errors in 206 chances this season. The first two rounds of the MLB Draft were held on Monday. Rounds 3-10 were held on Tuesday with rounds 11-40 to be conducted today starting at 11 a.m.
Arkansas will be back in action this weekend in the Fayetteville Super Regional against South Carolina (36-24) at Baum Stadium. The first game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2 (Resort Channel 29) with Game 2 set for 2 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN (Resort Channel 30). A third game, if necessary, is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. and would be shown on ESPN.