What Van Horn Has Done Is Nothing Short of Magic
By Kent Smith,2023-03-25
Razorbacks winning at incredible clip despite several potentially crippling injuries in pitching staff
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Immediately following the Arkansas upset of No. 1 seeded Kansas in the Round of 32, someone asked "Who has more job security – Eric Musselman or Dave Van Horn?"
It took a while to produce an answer.
At that exact moment, the answer was Musselman. He had just led a team of mostly non-complementary parts to one of the bigger upsets in college basketball.
He had also done so by way of a historic effort by one of the most beloved Razorbacks to ever take the floor in Davonte Davis.
But once the high of the emotion settled, the answer was clearly going to return to Dave Van Horn.
So many people don't understand the Dumbledore level wizardry happening in the baseball program at the moment.
Wander back mentally to the 2021 Arkansas football season that had even the biggest doubters falling over themselves to express their love for Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman.
Now, take KJ Jefferson out for the season just a couple of days before the opener.
In the Week 1 game Treylon Burks gets hit so hard he damages internal organs and is out 6-8 weeks. For good measure, leading running back Trelon Smith goes down with a broken leg in Week 2.
Hopefully, the possible implications of those injuries to that season are really rolling with the recollection that a trip to Athens to face the national championship favored Georgia Bulldogs is on that schedule the second week of SEC play.
That's the situation Van Horn found himself in this season, and not only has he coached this Arkansas baseball team to 15 straight wins, he just essentially went between the hedges in Athens and used a huge fourth quarter spurt to blow out baseball's version of the Georgia Bulldogs.
There's elite, and then there's an entirely separate plane of existence in coaching, and that's where Van Horn is living right now.
His Razorbacks went down to Baton Rouge and took down No. 1 LSU using a duct tape and Gorilla Glue level solution to what has been one nightmare after another from an injury standpoint in the pitching staff.
Shortly before the season opener against TCU down at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Van Horn learned ace Jaxon Wiggins would need season ending Tommy John surgery. It was a huge loss, but the Arkansas skipper had a plan for how to cope.
Hagan Smith and Hunter Hollan would simply move to a 1 . a/1.b role as co-aces of the staff while Brady Tygart provided nasty lockdown stuff in the late innings as the closer.
However, during a mid-week game against Illinois State that went extra innings, Tygart began shaking his arm following a pitch, called for the trainer and had to be removed from the game. Turns out he strained his UCL, which put him on the shelf for what is expected to be six weeks.
So, Van Horn adjusted again. This time an amalgamation of whoever happened to be left in the bullpen stepped into the role of closer. Somehow, the borderline draw a name out of the pitching hat approach has worked wonders.
This success relied heavily on baseball's version of the running game, the set-up guys. In the midst of all the turmoil, this group became the rock upon which the rest of the team could stand.
Emerging among them, right-handed Nebraska Cornhusker grad transfer Koty Frank. He was having a monster season.
Six appearances, two wins, nine strikeouts and a single walk issued in 11 2/3 innings of work while holding opponents to a .214 batting average. He provided the consistency needed to kill any big inning in progress while providing a sturdy bridge to the closer of the day.
That is until he found himself out for the season following a lat injury suffered in the seventh inning against Wright State back during the first weekend of March.
It would have been easy, and quite frankly justified, for Van Horn to wander up to the microphone and start lamenting how injuries decimated what was the overwhelming strength that was supposed to finally get the Arkansas program over the hump in terms of finally capturing a national championship.
Instead, he did what everyone was surely thinking. Van Horn pulled his No. 1 starter, Smith, out of the rotation.
That's right . He quietly waved his magic wand, causing Smith to disappear from an already short-handed starter's list and fused him with Hollan to create a form of hybrid super starter that would divvy up a complete game.
Against Auburn, Hollan went six and Smith threw three to close it for a 7-2 win in the SEC opening series
Against LSU Friday afternoon, he did it again. This time Hollan went 5 1/3 while Smith went 4 2/3, picking up the 9-3 win in extra innings.
By eating up so many innings, the Hollan-Smith hybrid is providing Van Horn with a fully stocked cupboard to play with the remaining two games of these SEC series.
Meanwhile, a perfectly selected mix of offensive ingredients is pounding the ball from top to bottom of the line-up . It's not only the most consistent group of hitters Van Horn has assembled in recent years, there's equal opportunity power all the way through the batting order also.
Sure, the Arkansas Mountain Monster, Jared Wegner, is a home run waiting to happen every time he steps to the plate, but at no point is anyone else on this team not a threat to put one over the wall . Even the guys off the bench are hitting with power, making it impossible for a pitcher to ever let down his guard.
The best part about it is that no one is up there hacking away trying to take one out of the park . If it leaves the yard, then so be it.
Meanwhile, everything else is getting hit on a frozen rope to whichever area of the park the pitch dictates.
What has transpired has been a work of art under such difficult circumstances.
For fans just now joining the journey for the first time Saturday afternoon, even if the Razorbacks drop both games of the double-header. bg5, know that everything is going to be fine.
Van Horn has infused this team with a level of magic never seen before in Fayetteville.
And that's saying a lot given the history of this program.
HOGS FEED :
ARKANSAS OBLITERATED BY UCONN AS RAZORBACK CAREERS COME TO AN END
THIS IS WHY CASINOS DON'T LET KIDS GAMBLE ON THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
RAZORBACKS' SHOWDOWN WITH NO. 1 LSU GETS RESCHEDULED
NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE, TV LISTINGS FOR THE SWEET 16
MAYBE ALABAMA COACHES NEED TO BE A LITTLE MORE LIKE RAZORBACK COACHES
MIKE ANDERSON HAS LEGITIMATE ARGUMENT TO MAKE WITH ST. JOHN'S OVER FIRING "FOR CAUSE"
NCAA TOURNAMENT ROUND: SEC EDITION
DAVE VAN HORN GETS WIN NO. 1,400 HEADING INTO SHOWDOWN WITH NO. 1 LSU
SABAN PROVES ARKANSAS HAS SOMETHING ALABAMA DOESN'T IN LATEST PRESS CONFERENCE
NATIONAL CELEBRITY HELPS ARKANSAS SOCIAL MEDIA STAR TO LAS VEGAS FOR SWEET 16
RAZORBACKS ADVANCE TO SUPER 16 WITH BIG WIN OVER STEPHEN F. AUSTIN ON MONDAY NIGHT
STATE OF ARKANSAS CRIED ALONG WITH DEVO DAVIS AFTER WIN OVER KANSAS
SANOGO ISN'T BIGGEST THREAT HOGS FACE IN SWEET 16 AGAINST UCONN
WATCH: HOGS' FORWARD KAMANI JOHNSON PREVIEWING THURSDAY MATCHUP WITH UCONN IN SWEET 16
WEGNER'S RECORD SETTING HOME RUN COMPLETES SWEEP OF AUBURN
YOU DIDN'T THINK IT WOULD GET EASIER FOR RAZORBACKS DID YOU?
HOGS' COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN HAS ACCOMPLISHED WHAT ONLY ONE OTHER COACH HAS DONE AT ARKANSAS
HOGS WILL NEED TO SUMMON INNER JOKER TO TAKE OUT JAYHAWKS' BATMAN AND ROBIN DUO
HUNTER HOLLAN, HAGEN SMITH COMBINE TO START SEC PLAY WITH WIN OVER AUBURN
DEFENSE REASON FOR TWO BIG MOVES BY RAZORBACKS IN WIN OVER ILLINOIS
MUSSELMAN KNOWS PAST MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR THIS YEAR IN NCAA TOURNAMENT
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