The time is now for Connor Noland and Arkansas baseball and Noland is ready

·2 min read

Connor Noland arrived to Fayetteville five years ago as one of the most highly-touted local recruits in recent history.

The right-hander from Greenwood was a four-star quarterback and four-star pitcher for the Bulldogs in high school. He played both sports for the Razorbacks in his first year before concentrating solely on baseball.

Injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic have altered his career on the hill but he’s remained steadfast. Now, in his fifth year, Noland is ready to lead the Diamond Hogs’ charge. He will get the ball in Arkansas’ first game of the College World Series on Saturday against Stanford.

Noland has been the team’s No. 1 starter all year and has looked like it. Save a couple starts down the stretch when both he and the team struggled, both have been aces since the SEC Tournament.

“I think I knew we were tough the whole year,” Noland said. “Just sometimes you have to wait for an opportunity to prove it. And I think that the last two weeks have given us an opportunity to prove it.”

After Noland goes on Saturday, it’s unclear who will get the call in the next game. Arkansas had gone with Noland, Hagen Smith and Jaxon Wiggins during a bulk of the weekends in the regular season, but Smith has largely been moved to the bullpen in the postseason where he’s served as the Diamond Hogs’ de facto closer.

It’s been that way for a couple weeks and it’s something coach Dave Van Horn isn’t used to, the uncertainty.

“No, I don’t think I’ve really done this before,” Van Horn said. “We had to do something. And we had to make a change. And I’m sure if it wouldn’t have worked, at least we said we tried. I’d hate to look back and say we should have done this or done that.”

At any rate, it’s been working. Van Horn knows what to expect from Noland, anyway, and given the way the Razorbacks have played the last two weeks, no one would be surprised if it continues working.