State of the Hogs: Nervous Energy Obvious as Baseball Season Opens Friday

Dave Van Horn announces starting rotation, but coy when asked about rest of starting lineup. Clark Eagan "guesses" he'll start in center field for Friday's opener.

Arkansas players and coaches had that game look before practice Wednesday. It's time to start the season.

It was clear that there was some nervous energy that comes from a long off season as Dominic Taccolini, Clark Eagan and Keaton McKinney met with the media. Dave Van Horn also had an edge when he visited with reporters for the last time ahead of the season opener with Central Michigan at 3:05 p.m. Friday.

Asked about a starting lineup, Van Horn had a short answer.

"I know it," he said.

It did not seem that he wanted to share, outside the revelation that his opening weekend starting pitching rotation would be Taccolini on Friday, McKinney on Sunday with true freshman Blaine Knight set to start the Saturday game.

Eagan has played first base the last two seasons, but will probably be the starting center fielder for the opener.

"I don't think I'll know for sure until Coach Van Horn posts the lineup on Friday," Eagan said.

And, just to keep things interesting, Eagan took extra ground balls at third base with Carson Shaddy. It's clear that Eagan could play first, third and center as the season progresses. But, he's excited about playing center.

"That's been a position where a lot of great players have played here through the years," said Eagan, with a mention of last year's centerfielder as a starting point.

Andrew Benintendi played a beautiful center field last season for the Hogs, earning national player of the year and all sorts of SEC honors. He's honored with some new banners just inside the gate down the left field line. Eagan has heard about the new graphics, but not seen them.

"Everyone has been talking about that stuff and I ought to go down there and see," he said.

Told that there are also graphics in the stadium with other famous Arkansas center fielders, like Craig Gentry and Kevin McReynolds.

"I know that's a storied position here," he said. "I like playing there. I played it a lot on my summer league teams. I feel really comfortable in center. I'm more comfortable in center than I am at first, actually. But I don't mind. I want to help the team win. I would guess that's where I'll play Friday."

Eagan said there is an edge to the team that game time is approaching.

"We are excited," he said. "I think and I hope that the team you see will be one that grinds it out and shows the fans that we are going to play hard."

Eagan is excited to be full strength. He's battled a trick left shoulder the last two seasons after a bad slide at third base caused a dislocation. He had it repaired in the off-season.

Van Horn said it was the kind of injury that forced a change to his base stealing thoughts when Eagan was on base.

"Honestly, I didn't want him stealing," he said. "He likes to go head first. That shoulder could pop out real easy. I think you'll see a different Clark on the base paths this year."

Eagan said he was a cautious base runner as a freshman just because he was learning the ropes of college baseball.

"Really, the last two years I was a non factor on the bases," he said. "I wasn't comfortable my first year and just not a threat in any way last year. But I'm good now. I think I can go head first now without any worries. I'm diving head first in the outfield. No issues. I feel great."

Van Horn does feel great about his pitching. After finishing last season with about five solid pitchers, Van Horn said he could go deep into his staff this weekend.

"We want to win the games and we could use 13 to 14 if the situations call for it," he said. "We have a lot more pitching."

Central Michigan has a deep staff, too.

"They return their three weekend starters," Van Horn said. "They have 11 pitchers back from last year and 13 position players, five starters. We will be challenged this weekend. Their closer from last year moved into their starting rotation late in the year and he's going Friday."

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