Blaine Knight will not soon forget 2014.
Early in the year, he made a verbal commitment to sign to play college baseball at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. It figured, however, that he needed a good junior season for his high school team, the Bryant Hornets to make sure the Razorbacks’ offer would still be there when it came time to actually make it official in the fall signing period.
And he did pretty well as it turned out. Let’s see, he pitched 65 2/3 innings and allowed just four earned runs while compiling an 11-0 record and an 0.43 earned run average. In the Class 7A State Tournament, he twirled two shutouts including a four-hit gem in the final against the defending champion (and favored) Fayetteville Bulldogs (in the Razorbacks home ballpark). Knight was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player as the Hornets captured their third crown in five years, finishing 33-2 and ranked 10th in the nation.
Joined by teammates Trevor Ezell, Chase Tucker and Drew Tipton, Knight was named to the Louisville Slugger High School All-America team selected by Baseball Collegiate.
So, now that November has come around with the early signing period, Knight made it official. Surrounded by his family including his parents Blake and Carol Kngith, he signed an NCAA national letter of intent with Arkansas.
“I had a couple of other offers and some other schools looking at me but Arkansas just felt like home,” Knight explained. “It’s been my dream school since I was a little kid and when I finally got in touch with them and everything happened, I knew that’s where I wanted to go.
‘’My first connection with them was the summer of my junior year,” he added. “Playing with Arkansas Express, I’m up in that area a lot and they saw me at a tournament and talked with my coach and that’s how the whole thing got started.”
“That was one of the best games he threw all year,” said Bryant coach Kirk Bock about the championship contest. “He was in control the whole game.”
“I couldn’t have pictured it more perfect,” Knight said. “It was awesome. If I could go back and do it again, I would.”
“The thing that really helped Blaine this past season was that he learned how to pitch,” Bock stated. “He didn’t just try to strike everybody out. He learned how to pitch. He also learned how to use his defense. He realized that it was all about getting outs, not striking people out. And I think that caught the eye of a lot of people.”
The right-hander still fanned 80 and walked just 24 in his 65 2/3 innings.
“I was a little more mature on the mound,” Knight reflected. “I’d been varsity for two years and it finally settled in with me. I didn’t let stuff get to me as bad. I settled down and did what I had to do to get the job done.”
“He needed to (mature) and he did,” agreed Bock. “And they all need to continue to mature in the game of baseball. His big deal this year (during the 2015 season) is just how efficient can he be. He has figured out how to get people out. Now how can he do it efficiently? I think he will. He works hard enough during the course of the year that he will figure that out.”
With his scholarship in hand, Knight intends to help make his senior season a special one as well.
“We’ve got plans,” he said. “We definitely have a shot at going back and doing a repeat. That’s in the plans right now and we’re hoping to get it done.”
And there’s a chance, Knight could get picked in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft in June.
“If I get drafted, I’m not quite sure yet,” he said when asked about that possibility. “It’s going to be something that me and my parents sit down and talk about and try to figure out what’s going to be best for our family. We’ll just see what happens when that gets here.”