College students, get a year of HawgBeat coverage for just $ 11.95! Request details via email from your school account (.edu) to andrewhutchinson413 (at) gmail (dot) com.
FAYETTEVILLE – Peyton Stovall suffered a finger injury prior to Saturday’s game, head coach Dave Van Horn revealed during Monday’s Swatter’s Club meeting.
The first baseman was already slated not to start against the Rebels’ left-handed starting pitcher in Game 2 of the series, which is why Van Horn told him to take infield at second base during the dismiss pregame warmups. That’s when the injury occurred.
“The second ground ball he got in pregame hopped up and hit him in his throwing finger, about took his fingernail off,” Van Horn said. “I kind of jabbed him and said, ‘Yeah, it’s a little tougher out here in the middle infield, isn’t it?’ That finger a little swelled up and we’ll try to get him right. ”
Stovall, who’s hitting just .121 against left-handers compared to .308 against righties, was not available to come off the bench in a pinch-hit situation Saturday or play at all Sunday.
There’s a chance he could play in Tuesday’s matchup with Missouri State, but Van Horn sounded like he was expecting a weekend return.
“It’s going to be up to him,” Van Horn said. “He’s got to tell me. Maybe he’s available tomorrow, but I would say more towards the weekend. “
A heralded freshman from Haughton, La., Stovall has started 36 of Arkansas’ 44 games this season, serving as the usual primary first baseman with a handful of starts at second base.
However, he has struggled to live up to preseason expectations. A projected first-round pick in last year MLB Draft coming out of high school, Stovall likely turned down a seven-figure signing bonus to play for the Razorbacks and was immediately tabbed a potential SEC and National Freshman of the Year candidate.
Those expectations only grew after a strong showing in fall ball that led to Van Horn slotting him in the leadoff spot to start the season, but it hasn’t gone how they all thought it would.
Among the conside nine regulars, Stovall has the fewest home runs (3) and lowest slugging percentage (.372), the second-fewest RBIs (16) and second-worst batting average (.263), and third-worst on-base percentage (.365).
“I think it’s been a battle for him,” Van Horn said. “He’s learning about Division I baseball in the SEC. The pitching that we see, it’s not what you see in high school, that’s for sure. … It’s all about working hard. You’ve got work hard. He knows that. He’s a smart kid. “
Despite it not being his natural position, Stovall has been very good defensively at first base, committing just two errors for a .993 fielding percentage. He is widely viewed as a second baseman at the next level and could play there at Arkansas after Robert Moore moves on.
In his place the last two games, Van Horn moved Brady Slavens to first base – where he played most of last season – and inserted freshman Kendall Diggs as the designated hitter.
The move immediately paid dividends, as Diggs hit a walk-off home run to win Game 2 against the Rebels. Throw in the fact that Slavens has seen his batting average climb from .187 to .263 over the last month and Van Horn will have options when Stovall returns to full health.
“Brady’s been swinging the bat good,” Van Horn said. “Stovall’s actually swung the bat a lot better against right-handers, (but against) left-handers, he’s really struggled. Now you’ve got Kendall Diggs, who’s swinging the bat. He hit lefties and righties. He’s just got a really good swing.
“It’s going to make it a little more difficult to fill out a lineup going down the stretch, but that’s a good thing at the time of year.”
Arkansas is scheduled to play its final non-conference game of the regular season at 6:30 pm CT Tuesday against Missouri State before hitting the road for a critical SEC series at Auburn, which trails the Razorbacks by just two games in the SEC West standings .