After a strong showing a week ago while pitching for the St. Louis Pirates Select 17U team in Atlanta, Evan Gray became a player to consider by some of the top college programs in the nation.
The Belleville East senior didn’t wait long to make up his mind of which school to choose. Beginning in the 2019-2020 season, the 6-3, 180-pound Gray will be an Arkansas Razorback. Gray verbally committed to Arkansas on Thursday.
“I had been in contact with TCU (Texas Christian), Duke, Stanford and Louisville and a couple of Ivy League schools all in the last week or so,’’ Gray said on Friday. “But I visited Arkansas about a year ago and really liked the school and facilities. Driving down yesterday (Thursday) I just felt like this is where I wanted to go to school and play baseball.
“Academics are really important to me and in my family. Arkansas is a place where I can get a great education and when it comes to playing college baseball, it doesn’t get any better than Arkansas.’’
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Gray won’t be the only member of his family who will be wearing a Razorback uniform in the near future. His younger brother, Drew Gray, who will be a sophomore at Belleville East, gave a verbal commitment to the Razorbacks in April.
Gray will be joining one of the top college baseball programs in the nation when he enrolls in August of 2019. A perennial contender to reach the NCAA Division I College World Series each June, the Razorbacks reached the final game last month, dropping a 5-0 decision to Oregon State in game three of the best-of-three national championship series
Arkansas finished 48-21 this past season.
Former Waterloo High School standout Jordan McFarland is a starter at Arkansas and will be a junior in 2018.-19. McFarland batted .299 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI this season.
Gray said the outing in Atlanta helped him with the college coaches and scouts.
“I had a very strong outing with six strikeouts. I think that really helped me get noticed,’’ Gray said. “I feel really good about the decision and my family is really happy that Drew and I will be playing together at Arkansas
“I tried to make the fact that he (Drew) is going to Arkansas not be a major influence in my decision. But it did a little bit,’’ Gray said. “To be able to play high school baseball with my brother is great and now to know that we’ll play two years of college baseball on the same team, that’s something special.’’
A key factor in the Lancers winning the Class 4A regional championship this past spring, Gray was a two-way player.. An outfielder/pitcher Gray batted .207 with one home run and 18 RBI. As a pitcher, Gray was 1-4 with a 5.50 ERA.
But this summer, the right-handed Gray has raised his velocity and gained better command of his pitches, according to Lancers coach Ryan Wiggs.
“I know he had a good showing in Atlanta earlier this summer and I think that helped him,’’ Wiggs said. “We had him clocked at 88 mph this spring and I think he’s added a little bit to that summer. He’s at 88-90 with his fastball and he’s got a sharp-breaking curve ball.. Plus, his command has gotten a lot better.’’
Wiggs also added that Arkansas is getting an excellent student-athlete.
“Earlier this spring, he had some interest from schools, not the caliber of Arkansas though. One thing that Evan really has in his favor is that he’s an exceptional student,’’ Wiggs said. “His ACT score was very high and his GPA (grade point average) is near the top of his class. I think that helped as well.’’