Dave Van Horn: Razorbacks Still Fighting

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said his team is still fighting in pursuit of an NCAA tournament berth.

Arkansas has an uphill battle to make postseason after losing a close series to No. 2 Texas A&M, but coach Dave Van Horn said there is still plenty of fight in the Razorbacks.

"I was asked about our sense of urgency in the dugout after the game Sunday," Van Horn said at Monday's Swatter's Club luncheon. "We are not cheerleaders. We were trying to figure out the pitcher and hit that guy. They were out pitching us.

"We are going to keep playing. It's what we do. We are not going to quit."

Arkansas is 26-18, 7-14 in the SEC. That's tied with Auburn, Missouri and Georgia and one game ahead of last-place Tennessee.

They play at Missouri State on Tuesday night in Springfield, Mo. Those same two teams played a Super Regional at Fayetteville last season when both were rolling. Missouri State, like Arkansas, has struggled of late. The Bears are 28-11 and 3-5 in the Missouri Valley after losing three straight to Indiana State last weekend.

Van Horn detailed the Arkansas struggles at Swatter's Club, noting the lack of pitching is a surprise because that's where the Hogs returned experience in Zach Jackson, James Teague, Keaton McKinney, Dominic Taccolini and Josh Alberius. They also thought returnee Cannon Chadwick was ready for a breakout season on the mound.

"Chadwick was on the California all-star team last summer," Van Horn said. "He had a great fall with us and pitched well for the first couple of times."

Chadwick has been out with elbow soreness and will not pitch the rest of the season.

"We are probably going to shut him down," Van Horn said.

Of those veterans, Van Horn said Taccolini has been good of late. Taccolini's ERA is 4.81, best of anyone throwing over 40 innings on the team. Jackson is at 5.11 and McKinney is at 5.84. Teague is at 6.48.

"He's pitched well the last two times," Van Horn said. "Zach has great innings and some that he doesn't pitch so well. Keaton actually showed me something yesterday. That's the best he's thrown.

"He started out yesterday and his changeup wasn't doing anything, just straight. And, he fought through it."

There was a period earlier in the week that Van Horn thought about holding McKinney out for the weekend.

"We weren't going to put him on the roster," he said. "But we had a talk, a meeting he asked for. He told me he was disappointed he hadn't helped the team more than he has. I thought maybe we'd pitch him in relief. Then, we used up a lot of pitching in the doubleheader on Saturday and we just told him we'd start him.

"He had the surgery and he's just struggled this year. He'd tell you he's not been right. I think he'll be better next year."

The Hogs won one game of three against the Aggies, but had a chance to sweep a doubleheader on Saturday. They lost the second game in 11 innings, 11-8.

Van Horn said it's been a surprising season on the mound.

"Our team ERA is 4.61 and that's not too good," he said. "That's about worst in the league. Our SEC ERA is over 6. That's one reason we haven't won a few more games. It's been hard to keep up.

"We've really missed Cannon. But he's going to be OK. He just needs rest."

Teague has been able to pitch all year, but not for long.

"He's got pretty good stuff," Van Horn said. "He can throw 92-94 and has a 84 slider that's pretty good. But location has been a little bit of an issue. I don't care how hard you throw it, if you can't locate, guys at this level will hit it.

"James didn't pitch all summer and not much in the fall. We just have to watch him closely. That elbow is still fragile. We can pitch him once a week and maybe not for long."

Van Horn doesn't know what it will take to get to the school's 15th straight NCAA tournament, but knows it's still possible. The Hogs are 83rd in the RPI. He does know that he may try a different approach to scheduling in  the future. The Hogs have a 19-4 non-conference record, but much of it has been with home victories. They don't carry much weight in the RPI.

"We are starting to pitch better, but it's pretty late," he said. "We are trying to win enough games to get to the tournament. I don't know how many it will take and maybe some in the SEC tournament. We need to win some games on the road because the RPI weighs them heavier. You win on the road, you take a jump in the RPI.

"As a coach, I may want to play more (non-conference) games on the road in the future. A lot of teams are hitting the road. You lose on the road, it almost helps you. And, if you win, you take a jump."

Missouri State should be a good atmosphere on Tuesday night. The game has been hyped as major in the Springfield market after the Bears had to play at Fayetteville last year in the Super Regional. They could not host because their home stadium was not available.

"I know they've been playing promotions for this game for awhile," Van Horn said. "I know they packed their place when Missouri came there. I expect we'll have fans, too. Our fans always travel."

Van Horn was asked about draft eligible players. He revealed that sophomore Luke Bonfield will be draftable since he turns 21 before the deadline this summer.

"We need to get him back," Van Horn said. "I think we will get some of these guys back."

That probably will not include junior pitchers Jackson and Taccolini, but Teague will come back among other juniors.

Carson Shaddy, a third-year sophomore, is also draft eligible, but needs a summer off to rest a sore elbow. Shaddy had Tommy John surgery last summer and probably won't be full speed until next winter. Shaddy leads the team with a .356 average. Bonfield is next at .338.

The key will be how the Hogs weather the draft among a great class of signees. Two key players to watch are center fielder Dominic Fletcher from Cypress, Calif., and catcher Ben Rortvedt of Verona, Wis.

"Our outfield hasn't made errors, but they have not gotten to everything they might," Van Horn said. "We don't have a natural centerfielder. We have one signed and I call him every day telling him please come to school. He's got a great arm."

Van Horn said this could be among his best class ever signed.

"It's a big-time list, but we need to get them to school," he said. "We need to get most of them."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories