UAPB ‘David’ vs. No. 1 Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn is leaving a lasting legacy in a career that has included stops as a baseball coach at Arkansas, Nebraska and other places.
Time will tell whether he’ll stay in the game long enough to challenge mentor Norm DeBriyn’s University of Arkansas school-record of 1,161 wins, though his six trips to the College World Series already have surpassed DeBriyn’s four.
Van Horn’s Razorbacks (26-5, 9-3 SEC) reclaimed the No. 1 spot in all the major baseball polls Monday after a series victory at No. 3 Ole Miss.
Another Van Horn milestone: He served as the driving force behind retiring a long-standing Razorback mandate of not scheduling in-state competition.
Former UA athletic director Jeff Long would not budge on the scheduling restrictions, but Van Horn got a willing ear when Hunter Yurachek took the reins in December 2017, and by 2019 Arkansas baseball was hooking up with in-state opponents.
“I think it’s really good for the state,” Van Horn said prior to a two-game series with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock last week. “I said that a few years ago, I’ve been saying it for 10 years, but for the first 10 years nobody would listen. Then when Hunter got here, I think he started saying, ‘You know, maybe it would be a good idea.’ ”
Another chapter in that saga will take place tonight as the Razorbacks host sister institution University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 6:30 for the second time in three years to start a two-game series. The Golden Lions (2-19) will play for the first time since Wednesday after having their Southwestern Athletic Conference series at Alabama A&M canceled due to predicted dangerous weather.
“I’ve got a young group,” UAPB Coach Carlos James said. “We’ve played basically a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, and we’re trying to teach them how to play the game and play it the right way, and for them to understand you can’t give teams more than three outs per inning. I’ve seen some good things over the last couple of weeks.”
Arkansas will face an instate opponent for the third consecutive week after beating UCA 21-8 on March 30, and UALR by the scores of 7-2 and 10-3 last week. UAPB has lost its only in-state matchup this season, falling 7-2 at UALR on March 31.
The Golden Lions bused to Northwest Arkansas for a Monday evening workout.
“I told them before they got off the bus … this is a time for reflection,” James said. “We’re playing the No. 1 team in the country. We’re not very good right now. But they can see where they actually are and how far they have to go before we can start winning games again.”
The Golden Lions were outscored 35-7 in a two-game series at Tennessee to open their season Feb. 23-24. UAPB’s wins came on the same day, a doubleheader sweep at Texas Southern by the scores of 14-3 and 14-10 on March 13. The Golden Lions have lost 11 games in a row.
“One good thing about it is our guys shouldn’t be scared, because we’ve played Tennessee and they’re sixth,” James said. “We’ve played TCU. At least they should know what to expect.
“Of course, Arkansas is a different atmosphere, but it is during the week, so we may not have as many people out to scare them half to death.”
The Razorbacks were a near-unanimous No. 1 pick in the USA Today coaches top 25, the poll of record for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Arkansas received 31 of 32 firstplace votes, with Vanderbilt receiving the other.
Arkansas, which is 8-1 vs. teams in the top 10 of the coaches poll, is No. 1 in the latest Rating Percentage Index rankings. The Razorbacks are 10-2 against teams in the Top 25 of the coaches poll and have nine games remaining against the group.
While the Razorbacks rate at the top of the polls, not everything is clicking.
Arkansas starting pitchers Patrick Wicklander, Peyton Pallette and Lael Lockhart worked 4, 4 and 2 2/3 innings, respectively, in the Ole Miss series.
“I mean, we’re all definitely concerned about the starting pitching,” Van Horn said Sunday. “It’s not giving us enough innings. We’re having to get into our bullpen way too early. We’re going to wear them out.
“So obviously the guys that you saw coming out of the pen a lot the last two days, they won’t throw all week until Friday or Saturday. We’ve got to have some starters give us some time.”
The Razorbacks will start veteran right-hander Caleb Bolden (1-0, 5.19 ERA) tonight, while Kole Ramage (1-1, 8.47) is scheduled to start Wednesday’s 4 p.m. game.
James said the Golden Lions would start either righthander Tony Horn Jr. (1-2, 4.33 ERA) or right-hander Joel Barker (0-5, 14.40), a Russellville High product.
“We’re going to throw everybody who has started a game tomorrow,” James said. “We’re going to give them an inning or two and give them some work. You want to get kids out on this stage, against this team, and see what they can do for a couple of innings.
“Wednesday will be all-reliever day. They’ll probably all go one inning apiece. They’ve got to get three outs.
“This is true David vs. Goliath.”
“I told them before they got off the bus … this is a time for reflection. We’re playing the No. 1 team in the country. We’re not very good right now. But they can see where they actually are and how far they have to go before we can start winning games again.”
UAPB Coach Carlos James