Arkansas (6-3) is up to No. 11 in the Collegiate Baseball national poll after sweeping South Carolina and winning two of three from Mississippi State. Alabama (18-11, 7-2) is No. 22 in the same poll.
The Hogs meet the Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. Thursday in a game set for ESPNU. They'll play two more on the weekend, the finale Saturday.
There are no midweek games for the Hogs since this SEC series is moved up. But looking forward, Van Horn doesn't see anything but tough games on the schedule. The midweek games feature New Mexico, a trip to Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri State the rest of the way.
"We don't have any more games where we an roll out some rookies," Van Horn said. "If we win these games, it helps our RPI and the ability to host a regional. I'm excited about it. Every game is tough but I think we will be up to the challenge."
One of the challenges is just to get into the pitching rotation that leads the nation in ERA.
"Our guys know that even in midweek games, they better be going out there thinking like it's a Friday night start," he said. "It's that tough to get on the mound with this staff."
Alabama has struggled in nonconference, but has gotten off to a good league start against Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn. Those are the teams at the bottom of the league standings. The Tide has hit .250 in nonconference games, but .300 in the SEC.
"Sometimes it's who you are playing," Van Horn said. "Time will tell. But we need to go down there and gain some ground."
The Tide has done it with solid pitching. They'll go with two righthanded starters around a lefty. That may make for an interesting decision for rehabbing infielder Dominic Ficociello, trying to figure out if his rib injury will stand up from the left side. The switch-hitter hasn't been able to swing much from the left side and has mostly batted righthanded against lefties.
"He's close," Van Horn said of Ficoceillo going lefty against righthanders. "I did ask him to swing lefty on Friday night against the sidearm guy. He hit him in the foot."
But there were no pleas to bat lefty on Saturday when a three-pitch strikeout ended the game.
"I did notice him taking swings in the on-deck circle lefthanded Sunday," Van Horn said. "I want him to take some swings (in the cage) before he goes up there lefthanded. I just know he's getting closer.
"He can help us with his energy. We need him in the middle of that lineup to get going."
Van Horn said he'll likely stick with the same lineup at Alabama, even with some in the bottom struggling at the plate and with Brian Anderson and Ficociello making too many errors in the infield at short and second, respectively.
"The way it works in baseball, you stick with something that's winning," Van Horn said. "But we are talking about it over there in the dugout all the time. They make an error, we just try to tell them to shake it off when they come in because we want them to forget about it before they hit. But we are thinking about it."
There are plenty of options and they are all on display in practice. Brian Anderson has also worked at third and first base. Ficociello could also go back to first, his position of the last two seasons. Jacob Mahan, a hot leadoff hitter, could also move to first.
Van Horn said it hurts to not have much infield practice time because of bad weather in March.
"We've mostly just been playing game and that's been our practice," he said. "We can't take ground balls in our football building. The turf, it's not baseball turf. You can't hit a grounder through it. Plus, they are in spring football now. That's why we need our indoor facility."
That was an impromptu attempt at sales. It was mentioned earlier in the meeting that ground breaking plans for the indoor facility are on hold while more funds are sought. Later, Van Horn did get to his planned talk on defense, after he'd talked about pitching and hitting.
"Our strong part has been defense," Van Horn said, pausing for the laughs from the Swatter's Club crowd.
"We haven't been real pretty. We are fielding .960 which is not good enough to win a championship. We've got to get it to .968 or .970. Defense hurt us in Arizona (in a four-game losing streak) and we are working on it. Our outfield is running down things, but we need to get (Matt) Vinson to stop air mailing the catcher. We are working on that.
"Can I put a better fielding team out there? Yes, but that hurts our offense. We just are trying to stay positive and so are our players.
"The bottom line is we just need more infield practice. The defense is going to get better. As it warms up, we will get better and we are going to win."
Van Horn was pleased with the weekend versus State.
"That's one of the best teams in the country," Van Horn said. "They might not have looked like that because of the way our pitchers made them look. They could go to Omaha and win in Omaha.
"We did get their best shot and we handled it."
The trip to Alabama will be played around a strong threat of rain to begin the series.
"There's a 9-0 percent chance of rain for Thursday night," Van Horn said. "It gets a little better each day. We could play two seven-inning games on Saturday. But you can't stay past Saturday. When you travel on Wednesday, the weekend ends on Saturday. So I know what you are thinking, but no, you can't play on Sunday."