Q and A with Arkansas commit Blake Lillis



By Sean McCann
Prep Baseball Report Kansas

Last spring class of 2016 St. Thomas Aquinas left-handed pitcher Blake Lillis helped the Saints capture the 5A state tournament title in Manhattan.  The projectable 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty carried the momentum from his spring season into the summer and a series of very strong outings on the mound.

Earlier this week Lillis made a verbal commitment to the University of Arkansas - making him the first Kansas class of 2016 prospect to name his school.  We had a chance to visit with him regarding his decision and his spring/summer seasons.

PBR: What did it feel like to be the first Kansas Class of 2016 player to commit to a college?

Lillis: I just kind of felt like I'm another kid committing to play in college! I’m very blessed to be a part of Arkansas and their baseball program.

PBR: Why did you choose University of Arkansas?

Lillis: Being committed to University of Arkansas is a gift. I feel it was the best fit for me. I fell in love the second I stepped on their campus. The campus, facilities and baseball program are unbelievable especially all they have done with their facilities over the years.  Then, having Coach Jorn (Arkansas pitching coach) helping me become even better.

PBR: What role does the coaching staff expect you to play during your first year on campus?

Lillis: Pushing myself harder and harder each day to become a weekend starter early in my career. Getting in the weight room and staying on top of my grades.

PBR:  What things do you need to improve on before getting to Arkansas?

Lillis: Putting on more weight, trying to keep my arm in shape and keep getting my arm stronger to keep pushing forward.

 PBR: Outside of your family, who has had the biggest impact on you as a baseball player and why?

Lillis: Shane Halter. He has been there for me ever since I've been on his team. He always wanted the best for me and helped me push myself cause he believed in me. 

PBR:  Was there a point in your baseball career when you went from just playing and having fun to “I might actually be pretty good at this”?  

Lillis: Last year when I pitched at the University of Kansas, saw my velocity, how hard I actually threw and at that point realized what a gift it was to be a 6-foot-3 left-handed pitcher! 

PBR: It’s safe to assume the highlight of your spring season was capturing the 5A state title in Manhattan.  Other than that, was there a game that stood out from an individual standpoint as a high point?

Lillis: Pitching in school ball against Blue Valley West, having my coaches trust in me to help sweep them. I also pitched in the semi-finals in the state tournament. That led us to the 5A state championship game. 

PBR:  Tell us about your experience with the Building Champions organization and things they have helped you with in your development.

Lillis: With BC I felt like I've became better as a baseball player. Without Josh Smith (pitching coach), Shane Halter (coach) and Jeremy Jones (head of BC) I wouldn't be where I am today. 

PBR: Who are the three toughest Kansas high school hitters you have faced?

Lillis: James Cosentino (St. Thomas Aquinas, 2016), Will Brennan (Blue Valley, 2016) and Gunner Halter (Blue Valley, 2016).

PBR: Even though you are just now entering your junior year, you have seen a lot of Kansas high school baseball players over the last several months.  Who is one class of 2016 prospect you think might be flying under the radar that people need to know about and why?

Lillis: Dallas Mitchell (St. Thomas Aquinas). He was an outstanding catcher this last spring. He filled a huge hole on our baseball team. Dallas has a lot of potential to play baseball in college.  He has been one of my favorite catchers. Blocks the ball well, has a solid arm and came up clutch with two hits in the state tournament.

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