Welcome to our new web site!

To give our readers a chance to experience all that our new website has to offer, we have made all content freely avaiable, through October 1, 2018.

During this time, print and digital subscribers will not need to log in to view our stories or e-editions.

Rockett signs to play baseball at DII Arkansas Tech

Justin Addison, Editor/Publisher
Posted 3/12/24

Higbee standout Derek Rockett inked a letter of intent on Thursday to play baseball at NCAA Division II Arkansas Tech University in the fall. The senior with a fastball touching the upper 80s was …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Rockett signs to play baseball at DII Arkansas Tech


Higbee standout Derek Rockett inked a letter of intent on Thursday to play baseball at NCAA Division II Arkansas Tech University in the fall. The senior with a fastball touching the upper 80s was recruited as a pitcher and hitter and will likely also see time as a middle infielder for the Tigers.

Known for his feats on the basketball court—Rockett scored more than 2,500 career points—he is just as dominant on the baseball diamond. And despite his headline-making basketball career, his passion is baseball.

“I think I’m more skilled at baseball,” Rockett said. “I enjoy baseball more. Being able to pitch and hit, I think that’s just what I enjoy.”

That passion is evident on his stat sheet. In three seasons for Higbee, Rockett has put up awe-inspiring numbers. As a pitcher, he holds an ERA of 0.76 in more than 100 innings on the mound. So far, the right-hander has racked up 284 career strikeouts, an incredible average of 2.35 strikeouts per inning.

His numbers are just as impressive at the plate. Batting southpaw, he holds a career batting average of .622 with 84 hits, including two home runs and 51 RBI.

(While Higbee plays both fall and spring baseball, statistics are from spring seasons only).

There is a vast chasm between Class 1 high school and NCAA DII baseball. But Rockett has seen plenty of high-caliber action over the last 10 years on his summer travel team, the Rawlings Tigers, based in St. Louis. During summer ball last season, he finished with a batting average of around .375.

“I’ve been playing kids that are going to be playing at the same level or higher than me, so I should be pretty adjusted,” he said.

Rockett had his pick of schools but said Arkansas Tech was the best fit for him because the coaches will allow him to play both pitcher and middle infielder. “Others wanted me to do one or the other,” he said. “And at Arkansas Tech, I can get a mechanical engineering degree, which is something I always wanted to do.”

After dealing with some elbow soreness over the summer, Rockett said he should return to form for his senior season in a Higbee uniform. Along with a fastball that he consistently throws in the mid-80s, Rockett also has a curveball and a slider in his arsenal. And he’ll be working to develop a solid changeup as the season progresses.

“At Arkansas Tech, they were wanting a guy to throw a changeup, so it’s something I’ve been working on,” he said.

Arkansas Tech finished last season 32-22 overall with a 16-8 record on its home field in Russellville, Arkansas. As of Monday, the Tigers are 14-10 overall this season and 10-1 at home.

Like most athletes who move on to the next level, Rockett has not gotten this far on his own. He thanked his coaches and teammates. And above all, he credits his parents. A decade of travel-team baseball is a major commitment for a family.

“I want to thank my mom and dad,” Rockett said. “They’ve always just been with me. Anytime I want to go to the field and hit and pitch, Dad’s always there for me. So, thanks to all of them.”

Rockett and his Higbee teammates open the season at home on Friday against Fayette. The Tigers last year finished the season 15-3 overall, falling in a two-run decision to Community in the Class 1 District 12 semifinals.

“I know 16-3 sounds great, but it didn’t end the way anybody wanted it to,” Rockett said. “We’re going to miss a couple of the seniors that graduated last year, but I think with what we’ve got coming back, we’re going to do it again this year.”

Higbee returns a solid lineup and its top two pitchers from last year: Rockett and fellow senior Will Spilman. And junior Robert Smith will likely play the role of reliever and closer.

Rocket says he expects to deliver the first pitch of the season against Fayette on Friday. The season officially kicks off at 5 p.m. in Higbee.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here