FAYETTEVILLE - Trent Daniel repeatedly represented Bryant and never opposed Bryant.
Until perhaps Friday night in Manhattan, Kan. For Daniel would be pitching against Bryant should the Arkansas Razorbacks summon their senior southpaw native son of Bryant, Ark., to relieve vs. Bryant University in the first round of the four-team, double-elimination Manhattan Baseball Regional.
“I’ve gotten a couple of jokes from my teammates,” Daniel said. “ It’s kind of funny being from Bryant and playing a team called Bryant, I guess.”
What have they said?
“Oh, ‘Guess we are going to have a good scouting report, and playing your little brother,’ stuff like that,” Daniel said.
So what does he know about Bryant? Not the high school Hornets for which he played but these Bryant Bulldogs, the champions of the Northeast Conference.
“We know they are from Rhode Island,” Daniel said, “and they had a really good year and a really good showing in their conference tournament. We heard they lost their first game and then won four or five straight. We know they are a solid team. You have to be if you are in postseason. We have to be ready to play.”
Last year, Stony Brook, the Eastern unknown American East champion from South Hampton, N.Y., much like Bryant is the nationally unknown from Smithfield, R.I., was the surprise of the College World Series before it finally boiled down in Omaha to Arkansas, third behind South Carolina and national champion Arizona.
“That’s what we have kind of mentioned that they could be the Stony Brook,” Daniel said. “Hopefully not for us because Stony Brook went to the World Series. But you can’t look past any opponent. You have to treat them all the same and that’s definitely what we are going to do because we know they can play. They are a good team.”
Kevin Brown, .368 and 46 RBI, and Carl Anderson, .340, and 47 RBI, the Bulldogs’ two best hitters, both bat left-handed.
Host team Kansas State and Wichita State, opening the regional at 2 p.m. Friday with loser’s bracket and winner’s games scheduled Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, are both loaded left-handed hitters.
Those left-handed hitters could signal Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn to summon Daniel at a critical juncture even with the Hogs starting two right-handers among the best in the country.
Barrett Astin, just one earned run the last 15 innings, starts Friday night against Bryant.
Ryne Stanek, named Tuesday first-team All-SEC and one of 30 semifinalists for the Golden Spike Award, college baseball’s version of the Heisman Trophy, starts Saturday.
Great as Astin and Stanek have pitched, Van Horn doesn’t hesitate going to Daniel in key left-on-left situations knowing closers Colby Suggs and Jalen Beeks are ready to finish.
After an excellent 2011 following redshirting in 2010 as a sophomore transfer from Arkansas-Fort Smith, Daniel overcame a struggling start in 2012 to become Arkansas’ go-to guy against lefties en route to and during the 2012 College World Series. Daniel’s situational lefty vs. lefty matchups against slugger Logan Vick were pivotal during the Waco Super Regional when Arkansas beat host Baylor 2 of 3 to advance to Omaha.
“That’s a guy I played with,” Daniel said, “He was on my (2011) summer team so we we were already pretty good buddies. There was a rivalry. I got him those times, but he’s a great hitter. I was lucky enough to get him.”
Though without a 2013 victory or save, Daniel has skillfully guided the Hogs through key left vs. left situations, this season, too, though his last two relief outings at Auburn and in the SEC Tournament against LSU weren’t up to his standards.
“It’s been a little bit up and down lately but I just have to stay confident and keep working hard with Coach Jorn and stuff,” Daniel said. “Things went well for me in the middle part of the season. I’ve had a couple of rough outings the last couple of times, but I just have to keep going and keep competing. It’s become a mindset. I’ve got to attack the zone and know I’ve got to do it with each lefty that I face.”
For even in college baseball’s deepest bullpen, Trent Daniel remains that situational guy summoned from the left to make things right.