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Andy Hodges

Because Van Horn plans for May in February, Hogs play in June

You get the idea Dave Van Horn is planning for Memorial Day before Valentine’s Day and it’s why the Hogs are still playing into June.

Arkansas is on a roll with 10 straight wins to start this season and don’t fall for any of the negative nannies saying it’s not against SEC teams.

What it does show is Dave Van Horn and how he works his program.

“It’s not like we just sat here and played a bunch of mid-majors and got after ’em,” he said after Sunday’s 6-0 win over Murray State that capped a weekend series where the Hogs trailed in the first three games until late. “We had to fight for wins.”

Not Sunday. On the third day of a weekend series, it usually gets interesting because pitching gets deep into the roster.

That’s going to usually work in Arkansas’ favor because of how Van Horn has put this team together.

And he works his ways combining praise and being able to get their attention when that’s the best course of action.

“You look at what’s going on around the country, mid-majors are beating the big schools all the time,” Van Horn said Sunday. “To beat who we’ve beaten, I’m real proud of the guys — I told ’em that — for showing up every day and getting after it.”

To be honest, about the only thing Van Horn hasn’t gotten is a national title. If he had a pile of those, the Razorbacks’ baseball program would be along the lines of Alabama in football.

Oh, don’t think we’re saying the Hogs are going to run the table the rest of the season. You can’t compare football and baseball by the number of losses.

Nobody does that in college baseball and in a sport where there is a legitimate way to win a championship without anybody’s opinion mattering, Van Horn consistently has the Hogs in the mix.

He knows he doesn’t have to win every game … but he wants to and you get the idea this team does, too, and it’s what he likes about it.

Van Horn has blended a roster in a year filled with covid distractions, uncertainty and more changes than he wants to deal with, he has somehow made it work to his advantage.

The guess here is we’re going to see a year with some really, really good baseball being played across the college baseball landscape at the highest levels.

A lot of players that would be trying to climb their way out of the minor leagues are playing another year at the collegiate level. Arkansas has a couple of those guys like Casey Opitz, who would have been gone after last season in a normal year.

Van Horn also brought in transfers from other programs that is starting to pay off. Lael Lockhart was the Friday starter at Houston last year and his getting five solid innings to start things Sunday was big.

“Lael did a good job,” Van Horn said later. “He had a couple innings where he cruised pretty fast. But he also had a couple where he had to fight a little bit. He made a couple of mistakes on pitches when he was ahead in the count and gave up some hits that maybe shouldn’t have happened or if they were gonna happen they needed to be later in the count after he threw maybe a chase pitch or two.”

And he made it through without Van Horn having to stroll to the mound to take him out. He let him figure out how to get out of a couple of jams.

“He knows what he did,” Van Horn said. “What he did was work out of it. He did a tremendous job again working out of a couple of small jams.

“The fifth inning was getting a little bit dicey there but he got a strikeout that got us in the dugout and finished up his day.”

It has appeared finding a Sunday starter was the last piece of the pitching rotation that has Peyton Pallette starting on Friday, then Caleb Bolden on Saturday.

Lockhart may be the leader just less than two weeks away from the SEC opener against Alabama.

That’s always been the most critical day of the season. It was Norm DeBriyn that explained one time Sunday was when you could either sweep a team, avoid getting swept, win or lose a weekend series.

It adds up by the time you get to May.

Which is what Van Horn starts thinking about before Valentine’s Day every year and it’s why the Hogs are usually still playing in June.

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