Van Horn expected to win two or three in Arizona and was surprised when the Hogs lost two to Arizona State and also lost to Gonzaga and Pacific in the four days in Suprise, Ariz. That dropped them to 7-5. After starting the season at No. 1, the Hogs find themselves No. 16 after three weeks.
"I don't want to go back to Arizona, I admit that," he said. "Overall, I talked to the team about playing on the road. We had some bang-bang plays go the other way. It happens. It's good to get prepared for going on the road.
"Most of the teams in our conference have not been on the road. That might work out for them. But it may be that they get it handed to them the first time they go out on the road.
"Hopefully, this helps prepare us for conference. I think it helped us and I think it made us better and I know it made us tougher. In baseball, I know it will turn around. If it helps us for conference -- that's what we are trying to get ready for."
The Hogs left something to be desired in all areas on the road. They hit .233 and made several crucial errors that pushed their fielding percentage to .961, 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC. They had 32 strikeouts against just five walks as they faced top line pitching. The costliest error came in the ninth against Pacific with the Hogs leading 3-1 when shortstop Brett McAfee didn't handle a two-out bouncer in the hole.
"Defensively, we are going to be alright," Van Horn said. "Two of our errors have been by pitchers. The shortstop didn't field it in the ninth, but that was a tough play to his right and the infield was concrete. If I'd say anything, he could have charged it a little more. It jumped off his hand.
"I talked to scouts and general managers out there who saw us play. They like our team. They thought it was athletic.
"Defense was a concern to me coming in. It's all a concern. The strikeouts are a concern, especially when they come with runners in scoring position."
Van Horn announced one change for this week's four-game series with San Diego State beginning Thursday at Baum Stadium. Barrett Astin is moving from the starting rotation to the back of the bullpen.
"We knew all along that Barrett would be (in the bullpen)," he said. "We want to have him at the end of games. If we beat someone good three times, then he can start a midweek game. But we'd like to have him close a couple of times on the weekend.
"We need him in the bullpen and we'll mix it up to close with Astin, Colby Suggs and Jalen Beeks. I think that's a good combination."
The game times for this weekend have been altered slightly because of other events on campus. The Hogs will play at 6:05 Thursday night, to get a night game before moving into the SEC rotation of Friday nights. On Friday, it'll be a 3:05 p.m. start so as not to conflict with the NCAA track meet next door. The starting time Saturday will be 11:05 a.m. because of the 1 p.m. hoops game. First pitch Sunday will be at 12:05 p.m. to allow San Diego State to hit plane connections.
The rotation will be Ryne Stanek on Thursday, Trey Killian on Friday and Randall Fant on Saturday, with Sunday's outing to be announced. Van Horn said one possibility Sunday is Colin Poche.
Van Horn likes the weather forecast, especially the next couple of days. They'll get Monday off, but most of the players will work on their own. Dominic Ficociello, junior infielder, will test his lefty batting stroke after coming back from a rib injury to bat only righthanded in Arizona.
"We'll know more on him Tuesday," Van Horn said. "But he's going to take a voluntary workout today to see if he can swing from the left side. We need him back in the lineup."
The pitching staff has compliled a 1.82 ERA, but Ryne Stanek has started slowly. The ace of the staff is at 2.84 and has thrown a lot of pitches early in games trying to find his command.
"The big issue for Stanek in his first three starts, too many pitches," Van Horn said. "You can't throw 25 in the first inning and go real deep. He pitched a lot better in Arizona. He was still right down the middle in the first inning in Arizona and they hit him. He got it going after that."
Van Horn said he isn't surprised about Stanek's struggles. He said with lots of national publicity comes pressure.
"There was too much media, too much Baseball America," Van Horn said. "That goes for Stanek and all of them. They have been trying to throw it through the wall.
"It happened to Nick Schmidt. I truly believe that's what happened. They just have to calm down and play a little.
"It's human nature not to want to let anyone down, just over do it. I knew it would happen. You get a little out of control until you get your feet back under you after playing awhile."
Van Horn said McAfee just needs to play, too. He said the sophomore junior college transfer is beginning to hit. His average is up to .289 after five hits in Arizona.
"We are still learning about our players," Van Horn said. "You take McAfee, he missed his senior year in high school with Tommy John surgery. He was still coming back from that last year in junior college and also missed a lot with a hamstring. So he still doesn't know how to play the game.
"To me, he's like a straight-up freshman. But he's talented. He'll be there. It's just about getting him experience."
One of the straight-up freshman is going to get more at bats.
"I think Willie Schwanke is going to get more playing time," Van Horn said.
As far as the outfield, Van Horn is pleased with Tyler Spoon (.391) in right field. Matt Vinson (.300) has been up and down, but his hitting has played a role in several good innings. Jacob Morris (.160) has struggled.
"Morris, we are going to keep giving him a shot," Van Horn said. "We've got three freshman outfielders, but they are not ready. Vinson has had some strikeouts, but he's been in the middle of some stuff. He cares about it and I really think he's going to be fine."