Uh oh: Bad news for the Arkansas baseball team
SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question of the Day: Tuesday, May 15, 2018
The good news for the Arkansas baseball team is catcher Grant Koch does not have an Achilles injury. When he went down in the late innings of Arkansas’ win over Texas A&M on Sunday, it looked bad. He immediately grabbed the area of his Achilles after he slipped.
Turns out, Koch, a junior from Fayetteville and preseason All-SEC catcher, just has a badly turned right ankle. Weird to write “just,” though, because the injury could keep him out for an extended time. Arkansas center Frank Ragnow had one bad enough during football season that he missed the rest of the season and needed surgery. The extent of Koch’s injury is unclear. Coach Dave Van Horn said he could return by Game 3 Sunday against Georgia and should be ready for the SEC Tournament. Could.
Most of the starts behind the plate should belong to Casey Opitz. He is a freshman who has seen most of his playing time this year in nonconference play. Opitz has some upside. He was a highly touted prospect who can play second base and the outfield, too (think Carson Shaddy redux). Two of his brothers play professional ball, too.
But Opitz isn’t Koch. Even though Koch has had a down year — he’s batting just .244 in SEC play — he still entered the season as the best catcher in the SEC when it comes to a combination of hitting/fielding. Losing him, and being forced to replace him with an inexperienced freshman, will be a blow.
However, there is a potential upside, as long as the injury doesn’t force Koch out for the next month. The break from baseball could be good for him. He has logged so many innings behind the plate that exhaustion probably has a bit to do with his lower-than-expected hitting numbers. As long as Arkansas wins one game in Georgia, the Razorbacks should be in line for a top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, no matter what happens in the SEC Tournament. Let Koch rest through the series against the Bulldogs and the conference tourney. That way, when NCAAs roll around, he’ll be fresh and healthy.
That’s a positive spin, though. Reality is, as long as he’s out, Arkansas isn’t quite as good.
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