Neumann-Goretti's Josh Ockimey, a hard-hitting junior first baseman, orally committed to play at the University of Arkansas Thursday night.

"I'm really excited about it," the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder said. "Arkansas was ranked among the top five teams in the country to watch for the 2013 season, and the team draws about 10,000 fans a game. Also, I think going away to school will help me mature as a man."

Ockimey, who batted over .400 with nine home runs while earning Inquirer second-team all-area honors last season, was also being recruited by North Carolina, Penn State, Temple, and Vanderbilt. Penn State and Temple had offered scholarships.

The 17-year-old, who lives in Southwest Philly, has yet to visit Arkansas. "I plan on going there next month," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Ockimey gained positive feelings about Arkansas after speaking by phone with former Council Rock North standout Matt Willard, who batted .289 in 105 games with the Razorbacks and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 49th round of the 2007 amateur draft.

Said Ockimey: "He said, 'Playing at Arkansas is like playing on the big stage. It's a place where you come in as a boy and leave as a man.' "

Last year, in helping the Saints to a a 21-4 record and the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals, he earned second-team all-Catholic League Blue Division honors.

As a freshman, from the No. 5 spot in the order, Ockimey batted .466 with 25 RBIs and 15 runs. He was named The Inquirer's rookie of the year for Southeastern Pennsylvania.

- Rick O'Brien