Wonder Boys baseball preview

LAURA BEAN/THE ARKA TECH: Connor Brady slides home during a recent home game at Tech Field.

It is a new year, which means Wonder Boys baseball is right around the corner.

Coming off a 30-21 record last year that landed Arkansas Tech fourth place in the GAC, the Wonder Boys have been projected to finish fifth in the league in 2016, according to the pre-season poll.

The poll also projected Southern Arkansas to repeat as conference champions, Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist followed, ranked second and third respectively.

The Wonder Boys will take the field this season missing a key piece from last year’s squad, as 2015 GAC Player of the Year, Patrick Castleberry, has departed.

It is not all bad news for the Wonder Boys, as three all-conference players will be returning.

Trent Armstrong, a junior from Waxahachie, Texas, will return after posting a 6-2 record alongside a 3.84 ERA last season.

Collin O’Neil, a senior from Phoenix, Arizona, will return to platoon the middle infield for the Wonder Boys, after posting a .315 batting average last season.

The last all-conference player returning is Mark Vaughn, a sophomore from Salina, Kansas. He finished last season with a .398 on-base percentage and .418 slugging percentage.

Arkansas Tech will also have quite a few fresh faces to rely on this season as 15 freshmen have joined the team’s hopes to secure a top spot in the GAC.

Among these is Layton Robinson, a redshirt freshman from St. Vincent.

Robinson had a stellar high school career, as he earned all-state honors during both his junior and senior years at J.D. Leftwich High School in Magazine, along with being named all-district and all-region his sophomore, junior and senior years.

The Wonder Boys will open the 2016 season Friday in San Antonio, Texas, for a three-game series against St. Mary’s. First pitch is at 3 p.m.