Van Horn Puts Wrap on 2015 Season

Dave Van Horn's 13 seasons at Arkansas have all ended in the NCAA tournament. There have been four College World Series trips. The Arkansas head baseball coach put the wraps on the 2015 CWS trip with a season review Thursday morning.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn knows that outfielder Andrew Benintendi will take the money after going seventh in the major league draft, but where the draft impacts the Hogs the most is with Bobby Wernes and Tyler Spoon.

"They'll both sign," Van Horn said Thursday. "We knew Tyler would sign. With Wernes, he went in the 30th round, but they are offering him a lot more money than 30th round."

Benintendi, who ended the season as the national leader with 20 home runs, helped the Hogs to a 40-25 season and a run to the College World Series. He's the first NCAA Division I player since 2009 to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season.

"Tyler has graduated and he was offered more money than expected," Van Horn said. "He can pay off his bills and have something left. He should do that."

Arkansas recruit Jacob Schelesener, lefthanded pitcher from the St. Louis area, is undecided on whether he'll come to school or sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. Van Horn called that situation "50-50."

Van Horn said Brett McAfee, Blake Wiggins and Jonnah Patten would not return. All have eligibility remaining. Wiggins and Patten will transfer to junior colleges. McAfee has battled injuries in his three years at Arkansas.

Injured pitcher Dominic Taccolini will likely have summer surgery, but more tests are needed for a shoulder injury that ultimately ended up as a blod clot.

"The plan is for him to be throwing by fall and pitch in the spring," Van Horn said.

Keaton McKinney, slowed by a hip injury, will rehab for the summer.

"They may do another MRI with dye to make sure to isolate the problem," Van Horn said. "He'll do some throwing when he's healed."

Infielder Max Hogan has been out with concussion syndrome since early in the season. He's still not cleared for baseball.

"It's a lot better in the last month," Van Horn said. "I think he'll be able to play in the fall."

Van Horn called the results at the CWS "frustrating" because of the lack of pitching depth after the injuries to Taccolini and Teague.

"You go up there and you know you don't have enough pitching," Van Horn said. "Had we won a game and played on Wednesday, we didn't know who we were going to pitch. I was avoiding the question as to who was next. It might have been Josh Alberius or Jacob Stone starting that third game."

Van Horn said the answer is to balance the roster with more pitching, particularly from the left side. Freshman Kyle Pate was the only lefthander on the active roster this season. He did not pitch in postseason and only once in the last month of the regular season. Ryan Fant was the only other lefty on the roster, but redshirted.

"We want to win the national championship," Van Horn said. "Our 2016 class is one of our best classes and we still have some guys that we haven't talked about in that class. We are going to have plenty of lefthanders on the roster next year -- five or six. We are working on the 2017 class and it's good, too.

"We needed to get better on the mound and we needed more offense. We are working right now to make sure we have the roster correct. But, really the only thing that caught us by surprise with the roster now was Werenes signing. But I don't blame him for signing, because that was more money than that round.

"The good things, we have some experience coming back and we just need to keep getting better. We do have four or five pitchers we need to build around."

The Hogs lose their outfield of Joe Serrano, Benintendi and Spoon.

"I see the outfield as wide open," said Van Horn, who mentioned Carson Shaddy, Luke Bonfield, Clark Eagan and Chad Spanberger as possibilities. He said there were several outfield candidates in the 2016 class.

"Shaddy is going to play some outfield this summer," Van Horn said. "I had a really good talk with Bonfield. He's disappointed (after hitting .177) and he's on a mission (to get better). He was injured in the first scrimmage, a broken ankle. That was devastating to miss 45 days of our outside work."

Bonfield will play in the Cape Cod League this summer.

"He hopes to do a 360 degree (turn around)," Van Horn said.

Among the redshirts, Van Horn said freshman Jack Beninghoff could challenge for playing time in the outfield.

"If you watched batting practice, you saw what he can do," Van Horn said. "He was in the last round each day and he hit a lot of balls out."

Cullen Gassaway will get a shot at first base, but Van Horn wants to see a different body.

"He needs to get in better shape," Van Horn said. "He has a chance to take that first base job because he can hit. He's got the best hands, but his range and mobility needs to improve."

Zach Jackson, who had nine saves this season in the closer role, will get a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation.

"He'll close with Team USA for three weeks, then shut it down for a bit," Van Horn said. "He'll just do some long toss before coming back in the fall. He's got three pitches, a pretty good change-up. He got better with his location in the last month, more strikes. He just has to keep from throwing 100 pitches in five innings. You can't keep doing that or you eat up too many innings with the bullpen.

"He's got some other things to work on this summer, like his pick-off move and his fielding."

Catcher Tucker Pennell won't play summer ball. He's going to focus on strength training.

"He threw well early, but that fell off in the last month," Van Horn said. "That was unusual because that's why we brought him in (from junior college). We want him to get more physical this summer."

Van Horn might not have predicted a CWS trip in preseason when it became clear that there were no capable lefthanders and catcher Nathan Rodriguez was ruled ineligible.

"You don't have a lefthander and you lose your number one catcher," he said. "To make the College World Series was pretty good. Kyle Pate's velocity was down. He has some academics to get done and he'll pitch in California this summer. We hope he makes a big jump."

Diamond Hog Notes

Keaton McKinney set the freshman school record with 18 starts. Bobby Wernes recorded seven triples, the most since Kirk McConnell's eight in 2002....

Zach Jackson's nine saves on the season ranks seventh-most in a single season while his 2.28 career ERA is sixth lowest among pitchers with over 100 innings of work....

Coach Dave Van Horn has 524 wins at Arkansas, averaging more than 40 wins per season. His six career CWS appearances (four Arkansas, two Nebraska) are the most by an SEC coach.

Arkansas is one of five teams to appear in the last 14 NCAA tournament....

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