FAYETTEVILLE — Coming from Benton High School to the University of Arkansas makes Peyton Pallette just half the baseball player he used to be.
Benton’s star third baseman/pitcher is just a pitcher now.
Well, not just a pitcher.
After all, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn opened preseason drills mentioning the freshman right-hander among several candidates vying to replace Matt Cronin, the turned pro All-American closer who helped pitch the Razorbacks into the 2018 and 2019 College World Series in Omaha.
“Peyton Pallette’s a straight-up freshman,” Van Horn said, citing the rookie’s potential to help immediately in the bullpen. “But his curveball is as good as anybody’s. And he throws his fastball anywhere from 93 to 95 and there’s nobody in the stands. When it warms up and the place is jumping and his adrenaline going, there’s going to be more.”
Pallette treasures those words.
Especially as the season officially nears with Arkansas opening hosting Eastern Illinois in a three-game series 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium.
“Being able to hear my name come out of his mouth is an honor,” Pallette said at the Razorbacks’ Jan. 31 media day. “I can’t wait for the season to start.”
How different starting it without a bat in his hand?
“It’s weird,” Pallette confessed. “I miss hitting a lot. In fact, earlier in the fall we had a little BP (batting practice) round and it was fun. Every now and then I’ll go to the batting cages and hit off a tee a little bit. I miss playing third every single day but pitching here at Arkansas, that’s great.”
Hard to adjust?
“It was hard at first getting adjusted and everything but after that I kind of fell into everything and it’s been great,” Pallette said.
He actually got a full-time pitching head start before Razorbacks fall ball.
“During summer ball (for the Arkansas Sticks), all I did was pitch and work on my pitches.” Pallette said. “I got into the routine of being a pitcher only.”
What prompted the change from third baseman/pitcher to pitcher only?
“I just felt like I was a better pitcher than a hitter,” Pallette said. “It doesn’t come easy, there’s a lot of hard work trying to do both. I feel like being a pitcher is a little bit easier.”
Though with much muscle to gain at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, Pallette packs SEC heat, especially since working full-time under Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs.
“Since I’ve gotten here it (velocity) has gone up a lot,” Pallette said. “I gained a couple of pounds and my velocity went up probably three or four miles an hour. I’ve been throwing 91 to 94, touching 95.”
And adding finesse to power.
“I’ve added a changeup over the fall,” Pallette said. “I’m still working on it but I feel a lot more comfortable with it than I was earlier.”
As for his Razorbacks career, Pallette said it started with a dream immediately deciding his choice of schools.
“As soon as Arkansas offered me, man I was all over it,” Pallette said. “Arkansas has been my dream school ever since I was a little kid.”
The dream, he believes, has just begun.
“I feel at the end I’ll be one of the closers,” Pallette said. “Potentially even being a starter somewhere but mainly a closer. Ever since I got up here I’ve been throwing strikes and gotten my velocity up. I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at.”