State of the Hogs: Making Move

Dave Van Horn liked the idea of Collin Kuhn's numbers against Alabama. The junior outfielder may be making his move.

Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn got a good feeling about Collin Kuhn when someone gave him some numbers on the bus ride to the ball park in Tuscaloosa on Friday.

"Someone gave me the stat that Collin was 18 of 36 against Alabama in his career," Van Horn said.

As it turned out, Kuhn's numbers only got better this weekend. He went 9 of 13 (.692) with three stolen bases. He was the best weapon in the Arkansas attack as it battled through a third straight 1-2 SEC weekend. The Hogs won the series finale, 4-3, with Kuhn getting at least two hits in all three games.

Van Horn pointed to several adjustments that may have helped get Kuhn out of a slow start. He said hitting coach Todd Butler talked him into two major changes.

"One, Coach Butler wanted Collin out of the leadoff spot," Van Horn said. "I've always liked him there. But we've struggled in the middle of the lineup. He thought moving Collin there could give us a boost."

But there was more. Butler also wanted Kuhn, now hitting third in the lineup, to move off of the plate a bit. Kuhn set the school record for hit by pitches last year. He's always crowded the inside. With Kuhn backed off the plate, he had better plate coverage for the weekend.

There's more to it, of course, It may be that Kuhn is just finally healthy.

"He had that jammed hand," Van Horn said. "It's bothered him since before the San Diego State trip. He's finally getting healthy. He's still getting a lot of ice treatments. I think that's bothered him. He wanted to be in the lineup, but he wasn't 100 percent until now."

Van Horn addressed Kuhn's hot weekend along with other topics at Monday's monthly meeting of the Swatter's Club at the Clarion Inn. Van Horn said his team is encouraged despite its 3-6 SEC start.

"We have a young team and we've played two of our first three SEC series on the road," Van Horn said of the 19-8 Hogs. "The one home series was Vanderbilt and we knew what we were getting into there. Vanderbilt is one of the two really veteran, experienced teams in our league. Florida is the other.

"To be honest, we encouraged our team after the Sunday game in Alabama. We are heading home now. I think they know that they've got a chance to do some good now with some home games coming up."

The Hogs play seven of their next eight games at Baum Stadium, starting with a 6:35 p.m. nonconference date with Texas State on Wednesday night. They play host to LSU and then Mississippi State in SEC West series the next two weekends.

Van Horn said the Hogs will start Ryne Stanek on Wednesday night, but if the big freshman righthander pitches well, it won't be a long outing.

"We'll get him out quick if he does well because that would keep him available on the weekend. We want to see him do well first. We'd like him to raise his stock with this outing."

Van Horn expects to open the LSU series with DJ Baxendale. But after Friday night, he's not sure. Brandon Moore, who threw better this weekend, is also a candidate to fill a starting spot. But Cade Lynch, a starter the last several weekends, is likely to move to the bullpen. Randall Fant could be the third starter.

"We think that's a better role for him," Van Horn said.

Van Horn thinks the team will hit, although the Hogs are ranked at the bottom of several categories in the SEC, including a .275 team batting average.

"It's about getting some guys rolling in the middle of the lineup," he said. "But our pitching has been good. I'm pleased with what we've gotten on the mound."

But the defense has to improve. The Hogs rank last in the SEC with 40 errors. They've come in bunches in the last few weeks. The Hogs gave up a lot of unearned runs at Alabama.

"Honestly, I thought this was going to be the best defensive team since I got here," Van Horn said. "We fielded very well in the fall. We've got two middle infielders who have played seven seasons (in Tim Carver and Bo Bigham). It just hasn't happened for them so far, but that could change real quick.

"Our pitching overall has been very good. I knew it was going to be a young staff, but they've thrown strikes and competed. They are getting better. We knew that if we kept running them out there (on the mound), they'd get better and they have. If we hang around, we might be dangerous.

"But we need to win a series. We've got LSU coming in and we need to win. It's supposed to be nice weather, maybe 80 on Friday and Saturday. We'd like to get a big crowd and that will help us. Both teams are fairly young. Maybe that will make the difference this weekend."

Van Horn noted that junior pitcher Geoffrey Davenport is scheduled to undergo "Tommy John" surgery on an injured elbow on Tuesday. He also said outfielder Jacob Morris is battling a bad back that might reduce the switchhitter to just batting lefthanded this weekend.

Baseball Notes

Freshman pitcher Nolan Sanburn "touched 96" on the radar gun this weekend, according to Dave Van Horn. The UA coach said the righthander consistently threw between 92 and 94 mph. He will continue to be the Hogs' closer....
Since Oklahoma is not open to making up the game that was rained out last week on a Wednesday, Van Horn said he's calling teams about filling in some open Wednesdays later in the season....
The Hogs should get a bump for their 29th spot in the RPI (power rankings). Texas State, with some awesome midweek performances, is 20th. LSU is 17th. Texas State has beaten Nebraska, Baylor and Houston and lost to Texas and TCU, both by 3-1 scores. There's also a one-run loss to Rice.

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