Razorbacks to take on Missouri State at Baum
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas and Missouri State, annual nearby baseball rivals including postseason regionals at Baum Stadium won by Arkansas in the 2015 super regional and by Missouri State in last year’s regional at Baum, renew their rivalry tonight at Baum.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s hosting Razorbacks, 27-10 ranked second in the national Division1.com poll, and Coach Keith Guttin’s visiting Bears, 22-10 from Springfield, Mo. and the Missouri Valley Conference, clash at 6:30 p.m. on the Razorbacks’ radio network and over Internet video on SEC Network+ or ESPN3.
“There's been some really good games over the years,” Van Horn said before the Razorbacks practiced Monday. “And once you get to postseason, we've had some great games. It just seems like every time we play them it’s a battle.”
A battle with one defector. Nate Thompson, Guttin’s hitting coach the past three seasons, became Van Horn’s hitting coach and third base coach last summer replacing Tony Vitello who left Arkansas to become head coach at Tennessee.
Will Thompson find it strange working against Guttin instead of for him?
“Yeah, a little different, sure,” Thompson said. “But other than that, no. I still have a lot of friends over there but it’s just another quality baseball game against a quality opponent. Just two really quality programs getting after it and loving to play in front of a passionate fan base.”
Van Horn, formerly Nebraska’s coach taking the Cornhuskers to their only two College World Series trips before returning to coach his alma mater in Fayetteville, says it is difficult playing the team you just coached.
“Especially when you know guys on the team it makes it a little more difficult,” Van Horn said. “And obviously he knows probably just about every player on the team. I think his emotions will be up and down a little bit. A lot of times you feel a little guilty when you leave a team and there's guys you recruited playing for another team. I think they understand. It was a move for him that was really good for his family. I think he'll just be professional and go out and do his job and shake a lot of hands and hug a few kids after the game.”
Thompson can provide some input to Arkansas about the Bears he coached and observed but as Van Horn noted, the two teams already are quite familiar with their opponent.
Both teams will put a lot into tonight’s game but both have conference fish to fry. Arkansas, 10-5 for best in the SEC West, visits SEC West rival Mississippi State for three weekend games starting Friday night in Starkville, Miss. while the Bears 22-10 overall and 5-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference, host MVC rival Illinois State Friday through Sunday.
Arkansas will start freshman right-hander Caleb Bolden, 3-0, 2.81 earned run average, become Arkansas’ regular midweek game starter.
Other than 9-save lefty Matt Cronin saving both games of Saturday’s SEC doubleheader sweep of South Carolina at Baum, the Hogs should have a totally fresh bullpen available tonight.
Missouri State is anticipated to start one of two right-handers Austin Knight, 1-0, 4.97 who pitched against Arkansas in last year’s Fayetteville Regional, or freshman Logan Wiley, 4-3, 5.12.
Three Bears familiar to Arkansas from last year’s regional, catcher Drew Millas, shortstop Jeremy Eierman and center fielder Hunter Steinmetz, lead them in hitting at .316 .311 and .302.
Second baseman Carson Shaddy leads the Razorbacks batting .368 with nine home runs.