Champion product Michael Turner’s CWS run comes to an end
The former Flashes star hit for a .323 average with Arkansas in his final season
Michael Turner knew early on that Arkansas baseball had the makings of something special.
When the Champion alum and Kent State grad arrived on campus in the fall, he saw the talent that the Razorbacks had — a roster comprised of a mix of young and veteran players, and Arkansas ended up having a historic season, reaching the College World Series in Omaha for the third time in the last four seasons, before falling to eventual national champion Ole Miss 2-0 Thursday in a double elimination game.
“We were scrimmaging in the offseason and all my buddies and my parents and everybody asked me how good I thought we were going to be, and I told him straight up that I thought we were going to win the whole thing,” Turner said. “I thought we were loaded from day one and we ended up having a pretty good year.”
However, Turner almost didn’t end up at Arkansas. After four years at Kent State, he was all set to grad transfer to Kentucky. But at the last minute, he received an email from Arkansas assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Nate Thompson, and after that the decision became easy.
“I just felt like I wanted to play on a little bit of a bigger stage,” Turner said. “I decided to use my last year of eligibility and get in the (transfer) portal — had a bunch of teams reach out, I think 34…I got the email from Coach Thompson and the next few days were pretty exciting and I told them I was in.”
Finishing with a final record of 46-21, the Razorbacks had a stellar run to the College World Series, beating No. 6 Oklahoma State in the Stillwater Regional, No. 11 UNC in the Chapel Hill Super Regional, as well as No. 2 Stanford and No. 25 Auburn in Omaha.
“It was exciting, it was like a dream for me,” Turner said. “I’ve always wanted to (play in the College World Series). It’s talked a lot about at Kent, but it’s not expected there like it is at Arkansas. We didn’t really talk about it (at Arkansas) because everybody just expects them to be there because they’re that good.”
After forcing a decisive elimination game against Ole Miss for a spot in the championship series, Arkansas came up short against the Rebels after Ole Miss pitcher Dylan DeLucia pitched a complete-game shutout.
When that final out was recorded, Turner was emotional in the dugout, but he made sure to take a moment to reflect.
“It was tough, I just took it all in,” Turner said. “I realized it was my last time ever playing college baseball. I was pretty upset about that, but at the same time, not a lot of people get to finish in Omaha, so I try not to take that for granted. I said thank you to all my teammates and I did my best to take in all those experiences the best that I could.”
As catcher, Turner finished the season with the second highest batting average on the team (.323) and the most total hits (83).
He had big shoes to fill in replacing previous catcher Casey Opitz, who graduated last year after three seasons starting behind home plate for the Razorbacks.
“I always had a lot of faith in my hitting and my Dad’s really been one of my only hitting coaches till I got to Arkansas,” Turner said. “Coach Thompson helped me with my swing a little bit too. I know (hitting) is not really a common thing with catchers so I’m a little unique in that way.”
Now that he’s exhausted his eligibility, Turner has his sights set on the MLB Draft on July 17-19.
He’s currently using these first 7-10 days since the end of the season to rest and wind down. But then, he’ll start racking back up and getting ready — getting his legs back underneath him, start using a wooden bat and get back in the batting cage.
“We’ll see what happens in a few weeks,” Turner said. “I’m super excited. I think I’m going to get an opportunity to play with somebody, but we’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to it.”