2019 offers Little Rock (LR) baseball a chance to turn the page on an average 2018 season in which the team finished 28-28 and lost two of three games at the Sun Belt Tournament, as well as the opportunity to play one of the most historic regular season games in program history.
Fifth-year coach Chris Curry returns 21 players from last season’s team and added a further 12 through recruiting, including freshman infielder Miguel Soto. Soto, a native of Kissimmee, Fla., is expected to start at shortstop for the Trojans and has been a highly touted prospect, having been a 2018 Rawlings Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American.
Other incoming freshmen include in-state infielder Nathan Lyons of Bentonville and catcher Alex Langford of Millington, Tenn.
Returning players include senior infielder Christian Reyes, a stalwart for the Trojans the last three years. In 2018, Reyes batted .221 and drew 17 walks. Fellow senior and outfielder Chase Coker led the Trojans with a .297 batting average in 2018 and will likely be one of the lead Trojan bats. Senior first baseman Riley Pittman will look to build on the five home runs he hit last year and add power in the middle of the batting order. Finally, senior outfielder Troy Alexander returns. Alexander batted .291 last season and drove in 40 runs, thanks in part to seven home runs.
LR lost two critical pitchers from last season’s team and will head into the season with ace sophomore Chandler Fidel. Fidel, a native of Garland, Texas, went 6-4 for the Trojans last season and notched a 4.02 ERA while pitching 96.2 innings, the most of any Trojan. Coming out of the bullpen will be junior right-hander Donavin Buck who made 31 appearances last season, pitching 52 innings and finishing 6-1 for LR.
While there are several interesting matchups for LR this season, including home-and-home matchups with UCA as part of the Governor’s I-40 Showdown, one game rises above the others.
On April 2, LR will travel to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks for the first time in both programs’ history. The Razorbacks, runner-ups in last year’s College World Series (CWS), will prove one of the Trojans’ most difficult tests this season and give the team the chance to prove themselves against some of the best competition.
At the time of print, LR has opened play with a three-game series versus Creighton at Gary Hogan Field. Despite a high-powered offense which tallied 29 runs total, the Trojan pitching staff struggled and LR lost all three games by scores of 10-8, 13-8, and 12-10, respectively.