One hundred twenty-two miles east of Fayetteville, deep in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, lays a small town with a population just over 12,000. Mountain Home, Arkansas is known for being one of the best retirement communities in the country, not harvesting top baseball prospects, but Trey Killian broke the mold.
Coming out of high school, the right-hander had already drawn up an impressive resume as the No. 1 prospect in the state by Perfect Game, Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year, Under Armour All-American Game participant and SEC baseball signee, but that was only the beginning.
“It all started at home,” Killian said, reflecting back on how he got his start in the sport.
Robin Killian saw a spark in his son early on, so much so that he built a pitching mound in the backyard. He would crouch down and catch for the future Hog for hours on end, helping him develop. Little did the duo know that the kid dealing to his dad from the homemade bump would one day be one of the best college baseball players in the country.
Last season, Killian secured a spot as a weekend starter for the Razorbacks as they entered conference play. He led the team in innings pitched, boasting a 2.30 ERA and striking out over 60 batters, stats good enough to receive an invitation to try out for the USA Collegiate National Team.
Team USA invites 33 players to tryout, whittling it down to a 24-man roster before embarking on an extensive worldwide tour. During tryouts Killian was impressive, striking out seven in just three innings and securing himself a spot on the pitching staff.
“Trey pitched really well to make that team,” said Arkansas and Team USA head coach Dave Van Horn. “His first outing was electric. He was throwing 91-93 miles per hour with nothing but strikes.”
After the two-dozen players were selected, the team began its journey to 19 different hotels in 40 days. They traveled to the Netherlands and Cuba to face off against teams like Japan and Chinese Taipei, in addition to the home country’s teams.
“It was unreal,” Killian said of the experience. “You have guys like Alex Bregman from LSU and then you have guys from all over the country like Thomas Eschelman and Justin Garza from Cal State Fullerton. They’re going to turn into big names and to be able to go out there with all that talent, it’s a humbling experience.”
Besides Bregman and Killian, there were seven other SEC players on the Team USA roster and with Coach Van Horn acting as manager the national team experience could give the Hogs an advantage going into conference play next season.
“I think it helped a lot,” Coach Van Horn said. “In my mind, I feel like I know a lot more about what they’re all about on the inside.”
After just two outings, Killian was forced to rest the remainder of the tour due to arm soreness and has been working hard this offseason to get better.
“I’m almost back to full strength now,” Killian said. “It was a slow fall and it kind of crept along, but I’m excited to be back on the mound and doing what I love and that’s pitching.”
As the season draws closer, Killian is stepping into a dominant leadership role and is excited to begin what could be his last collegiate season.
“I’m going to go out there and do my job on the mound, try to keep my team in the ballgame when I can,” Killian said. “When I’m not pitching, I’m going to be standing in the dugout being the best cheerleader I can be.”
Killian and the Razorbacks open the 2015 campaign Feb. 13, playing host to North Dakota in a three-game series at Baum Stadium.