Van Horn: Taccolini Wild Card

Dave Van Horn knows Tennessee is hot, but the Arkansas coach has a wild card out of the bullpen in Dominic Taccolini. The SEC announced Andrew Benintendi as the player of the year.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was asked about how he'll set his pitching for this week's SEC baseball tournament in Hoover, Ala. There were no surprises, except maybe that Dominic Taccolini is now his "wild card" for postseason play.

The All-SEC team was announced Monday. Andrew Beintendi was named Player of the Year, and joined reliever Zach Jackson as first team All-SEC. Bobby Wernes was named to the All-SEC defensive team and Keaton McKinney was selected to the All-SEC Freshman team.

Junior Trey Killian has been up and down of late, but he'll start the opener, a single elimination game Tuesday night against Tennessee. It's the final game of the opening day of play, starting somewhere around 8 p.m. depending on the time of the 4:30 p.m. game.

Arkansas (33-20) split a weather-shortened, two-game series with Tennessee (24-25, 11-18) two weekends ago. The Vols won the opener, 5-4. The Hogs had the lead when Killian exited. Keaton McKinney pitched a complete game in the finale, a 5-2 victory by the Hogs.

The Hogs are the fifth seed. Tennessee got in as the No. 12 seed by sweeping Mississippi State, taking advantage of Georiga's two losses to the Hogs.

Tennessee has won six of seven coming into the tournament. That has Van Horn's attention.

"They are coming off an emotional weekend, scoring three in the ninth in front of their home crowd to beat Mississippi State and get it. They are feeling good and they will be tough."

Tennessee will start Andy Cox. The Hogs got the lead against Cox in Fayetteville, but couldn't take advantage of lots of early scoring chances.

"He's a strike throwing lefty and who goes down and in and is tough to righthanders," Van Horn said. "He gave us some opportunities, but we didn't get after him early and didn't take advantage. We allowed him to stay in the game.. It will be a good challenge."

Killian (2-4) has been up and down after struggling with tendinitis in his pitching elbow in the offseason. His 5.16 ERA does not rank in the top half of the Arkansas staff. The junior built his reputation in his first two years as a hard thrower with pinpoint control of his fast ball. But he's given up 72 hits and 20 walks in 61 innings this year.

Van Horn said he'll watch Killian close and won't be afraid to go to the bullpen early. It's single elimination for the first round, then switches to double elimination until pool play is completed. The title game is single elimination.

"It's do or die in this situation," Van Horn said. "It this first game, it's a situation where you might leave him in for three or four innings, but if it's not going good, you might go to the bullpen more quickly. We've got Dominic Taccolini and Zach Jackson ready."

As far as Killian's inconsistencies, Van Horn said, "He hasn't always had command. He has been able to spot his fast ball in the best locations at times. When we were in Hoover against Alabama, he gave us some good innings against a good offensive team."

Taccolini started 12 games, but his last three appearances have been in relief. The sophomore righthander was a reliever last year.

"He'll be a bullpen guy tomorrow," Van Horn said. "He could still start a game (in Hoover). And, he might get an opportunity (to start) in the NCAA tournament.

"I've always liked him out of the bullpen. He worked there as a freshman and was outstanding. In a perfect world, you'd throw him two or three times on a weekend because he bounces back quickly. He's kind of a wild card for us right now."

The Arkansas player going wild of late has been Andrew Benintendi, the likely choice for SEC player of the year and a candidate to win the national award, too.

"Obviously, he's having an incredible year," Van Horn said. "He's such fun to watch."

Benintendi led the SEC for the complete season at .415, well ahead of second place Mitchel Nau (.377) of Texas A&M. Benintendi was even better in SEC only games, hitting . 443. His on base percentage for the season is an incredible .511. He led the SEC with 17 home runs.

"He's really developed," Van Horn said. "The thing about it, once you get into SEC play, the scouting reports were out and he still maintained a high level.

"Teams have tried to pitch around him, pitch him away and I've seen him hit the ball the other way as hard as I've ever seen. He takes what they are giving him."

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