Van Horn: Offense is better

Appalachian State has a loaded team. Dave Van Horn isn't surprised because they called him to make the trip to the Ozarks. Van Horn previewed the first weekend at Swatter's Club.

Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn likes the weather forecast for the weekend, but he told the first spring meeting of the Swatter's Club that he expects good competition from Appalachian State.

The meeting was rescheduled from last week when icy weather hit the Ozarks. It's going to be a good weekend with forecasts of highs of 53 for Friday, 58 for Saturday and 63 on Sunday. Game times for the weekend series -- all afternoon games -- against Appalachian State are 3:05, 12:05 and 1:05.

Van Horn opened his talk with a mention of last week's "disappointing" season that left the Hogs two games short of a Super Regional.

"It's disappointing for us, but for some that would have been a good season around the country," he said. "Honestly, that's where we want it. We almost got there, but almost is disappointing."

Van Horn said his outfield will be Joe Serrano in left, Andrew Benintendi in center and Tyler Spoon in right. Eric Fisher will start at first, Brian Anderson at second and Brett McAfee at short. Jake Wise will catch.

Van Horn said he'd mention only one freshman among position players, but he talked about two. He said Benintendi won the job in center and lead off job early in fall workouts.

"The other freshman is Clark Eagan and he may earn the job at third because he can hit," Van Horn said. "That's the position I have no idea on. Ya'll want me to pick someone who can hit, right?

"We have a couple of junior college shortstops who can play good defense (in Michael Bernal and Bobby Wernes). They didn't beat out McAfee so we have them there.

"Eagan, we like him because he can bunt and he's going to play a lot for us and he'll probably play every day next year.

"We've got more offensive depth this year. I think it's an offense that is going to evolve and is better. It may explode this weekend."

The veteran pitchers Van Horn said he's counting on are Colin Poche, Jalen Beeks, Michael Gunn, Trey Killian, Landon Simpson and Jackson Lowery.

Appalachian State is a team that came to Van Horn for the opening weekend. He said that's a sign of good returning talent.

"They have a Friday righthander that won't blow you away with velocity, but he won nine games last year," Van Horn said. "He can pitch. But we are excited about that. We are going to embrace that. If we get him, we get him.

"They are an older team. Very rarely does a coach call me two years out. They don't make that call unless they know they are going to be pretty good. We will see junior and seniors. It will be a real good series with good weather. We'll wear short sleeves."

Van Horn said he's not ready to name a starting rotation. That will come after midweek bullpens.

Van Horn said the recruiting class with 17 signees is one of the best, if all come to school.

"We signed 14 high school players, three junior college players," Van Horn said. "Three years from now, if we get them all here, it could be one that we look back and say it's our best.

"There's a good mix between right and left pitchers, and right and left hitters. We signed catchers who can play other positions."

In the question and answer session, Van Horn was asked about a radar gun read-out on the scoreboard. He said that may come in the next year or two. He was once against it, but isn't now.

"That will likely come when we update our scoreboard in the next year," he said.

Asked how many of his signed recruits will sign, he said, "Take probably four of them off. That's just the way it works. Now you got me all depressed."

Future Swatter's Club meetings will be Tuesday, March 4, Monday April 7 and Monday May 5.

The Hogs' annual trip to North Little Rock to play at Dickey Stephens Park will be March 26 against Mississippi Valley State. Game time is 6:35 p.m. Tickets go on sale through the Arkansas Travelers offices on Feb. 17. Box seats are $18, reserved $15 and general admission $12.

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