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Royals draft pick Eric Cole helps push Arkansas to College World Series success

Royals draft pick Eric Cole is helping Arkansas thrive in Omaha at the College World Series.
Royals draft pick Eric Cole is helping Arkansas thrive in Omaha at the College World Series. Courtesy of Arkansas baseball

Growing up in Texas and attending Arkansas, outfielder Eric Cole had only a casual knowledge of the Royals.

That changed his freshman year when he was assigned a roommate, pitcher Isaiah Campbell from Olathe South High, and together they watched the Royals win the 2015 World Series.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about them before college, but Isaiah is a diehard Royals fan, so ever since then, if I see them on TV, I’ll pay attention,” Cole said.

Even more so now after the Royals selected Cole in the fourth round of the draft this month.

The Royals went mound heavy early, with college pitchers taken with the first five selections. Cole was the team's second position player drafted.

The next stop is on the back burner for now as Arkansas improved to 2-0 at the College World Series with a 7-4 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday.

Cole, a junior switch hitter who has spent the second half of the season hitting leadoff, had a pair of singles, including a game opener. He scored the Razorbacks’ first run in a game they never trailed.

With a victory in the double elimination tournament on Friday — a game that Campbell is expected to start — Arkansas will move into the championship series for the first time.

The Razorbacks entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 national seed. They swept through the Regional, and then took two of three from South Carolina in the Super Regional.

Take a look at the Kansas City Royals' draft picks from the 2018 MLB Draft. Music from Bensound.com.

This could be strongest team in the tenure of coach Dave Van Horn, the Kansas City native who formerly coached at Nebraska. The Razorbacks feature 11 players who were selected in the draft.

Cole didn’t know what to expect when the draft arrived, nor could he follow the proceedings on the day he was selected.

“We had practice,” Cole said. “I didn’t even get to watch it, or hear anything. When I came to the locker room my phone was blowing up, so I figured it had happened. It took some of the stress away. I wish I could have witnessed it, but I’m thankful that it happened.

“It’s what I’ve been thinking about since I was 8 years old. I didn’t care what round. I just wanted a shot. I’m glad it was that high.”

Cole is listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. With his two hits Wednesday, he raised his batting average to .331. He’s the only Arkansas starter who hasn’t committed an error this season.

Although he’s hit first or second most of the season, Cole could hit in the power spots. His 14 home runs are tied for the team lead. The right fielder came up huge in the game that clinched the College World Series berth, going 3-for-3 with a home run and scoring five runs against South Carolina.

His swing looks the same from both sides of the plate.

KC Royals draft pick and Florida pitcher Jackson Kowar on his dominating performance against Texas at the College World Series on June 19, 2018.

“What he’s got is a feel and a flow to his swing,” Arkansas hitting coach Nate Thompson told Hawgs Illustrated last week. “The movement from both sides is very similar and you don’t see that often.”

Royals officials have congratulated Cole on his college success but that’s about all the communication they’ll have until after the Razorbacks’ run has concluded.

“They’ve been very complimentary and wished us luck,” Cole said. “I feel like I’m in a good situation.”

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