Van Horn's recruiting making an impact

In his weekly recruiting column, Hawg Illustrated's Dudley E. Dawson looks at how Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn and his staff have already seen their recruiting efforts pay off and have a bevy of talented future Diamond Hogs waiting in the wings.

No matter the sport, recruiting is the lifeblood of any program and it's not any different with the University of Arkansas baseball squad.

One of the reasons that second-year head coach Dave Van Horn has his Razorbacks (39-21) hosting a NCAA Regional - and possibly a Super Regional - is because he added some quality to what he found when he arrived from Nebraska.

He's plugged a pair of freshmen in the full-time lineup like left fielder Jake Dugger and designated hitter Danny Hamblin, added versatile junior college recruit Casey Rowlett to the starting nine and covered right field with freshmen Blake Parker of Fayetteville High and Steven Robinson.

It's all added up to a date this Friday night at 7 p.m. with Le Moyne (36-19) in a regional that will also have Wichita State (47-14) and Missouri (37-21-1).

"We couldn't have gotten to where we are at without those guys and how they have meshed with the guys that we already have," Van Horn said. "It's been a great mix of getting some of the right kind of guys in here and there are more on the way."

Van Horn is not just talking about the 14 ones he has already signed for next season.

The guys we've got coming in next year we are excited about and then the guys we are recruiting for the next year (2005) that I can't talk about right now are big-time. We are recruiting some frontline guys and we don't have to have a bunch because we are pretty young."

Van Horn noted his program isn't just recruiting locally either.

"Playing this far is really going to help us because we are recruiting against Stanford now, Texas, Texas A&M and we are on national kids that everybody wants," Van Horn said. "We really like we are headed and are excited about the guys that are going to continue to help us get there."

The 2004 recruiting class will certainly add to the strength of his ballclub according to Van Horn.

"We will add starting pitching, some pitching depth, a little bit more speed and a little bit more power," Van Horn said. "The power might take a year or two because we went in for some younger power guys and you have got to develop that power a little bit."

As with every college baseball coach, Van Horn is not only recruiting against other college teams, but also against the Major League Draft, which happens this year on Friday.

He is most worried about a couple of right handed pitchers in T.J. Sinovich (6-4, 200) from Maryland Heights (Mo.) Desmet Jesuit in the St. Louis area and Shaun Seibert (6-0, 180) of Worden (Ill.) Edwardsville.

Sinovich just finished his high school career with a nine-inning one-run performance in the state playoffs in what was supposed to be a seven-inning game, but his team ended up losing 2-1 in 13 innings.

"I think he is going to stay under the radar and I really think wants to come here," Van Horn said.

Seibert brings it in the 92 to 93 miles per hour range, but is currently unable to pitch for a couple of months because of a freak injury on his last pitch of the high school season.

"That might keep him from being drafted," Van Horn said. "You have to be a little lucky, too. Thank goodness he wasn't hurt too bad. He had not lost in high school. He hurt his arm when they called timeout in high school right in the middle of a pitch. He stopped and hurt his arm and at first they thought it was major. He can't pitch until July, but he is a guy that is 92 or 93 miles per hour."

St. Louis (Mo.) Lundberg second baseman Brock Bond (5-10, 180), perhaps the top hitter the Razorbacks sign, will also be a possible high draft choice.

"He is an outstanding switch hitter and was the quarterback on his football team," Van Horn said. "He needs to get a little bit better defensively, but he can hit at this level right now."

There's also a wealth of versatile players such as Fayetteville High shortstop Ben Tschepikow (6-0, 185), who helped lead the Purple Bulldogs to the 2003 state high school tournament, but did not play in 2004 because of an injury.

"I'm big into increasing our depth, our athletic ability and our versatility" Van Horn said. "I want guys like Casey Rowlett who can play center field, left field, third base, second base, and Danny Hamblin, who can play third base, first base and outfield.

"We are bringing in a kid next year that is a catcher/center fielder, a couple of infielders who can play outfield and a guy like Tschepikow, who can play a little bit of everywhere because he is a great athlete," Van Horn added. "Those are the kind of guys I like. You get a bunch of shortstop/center field type players and put them around. It's kind of like in football where a guys a wide receiver and a safety. You can just put them where you need them."

That catcher/center fielder is Clint Arnold (5-10, 175) of Cedar Hill, Texas, who joins the lefty-swinging, righty-throwing shortstop Tschepikow and speedy outfielder Craig Gentry (6-2, 180) of UA-Fort Smith; Texarkana Community College outfielder Chris Hollensworth (5-9, 180) and shortstop Matt Willard (5-11, 175) of Newtown (Pa.) Council Rock North as fellow UA signees.

They also signed three switchhitters in first baseman Seth Loman (6-3, 215) of Colorado Springs, Colo.; infielder John Marquadt ( 6-0, 185) of New Mexico JC and first baseman/catcher Jerrod White (6-1, 210) of Claremore, Okla.

Joining Siebert and Sinovich as incoming pitchers are righty Phillip Graham (5-10, 180) of Rogers; lefty Barrett Burka, (6-2, 195) of Austin (Texas) McCallum and big lefty Nick Schmidt (6-4, 230) of High Ridge (Mo.) Vianney.

Even if someone didn't break the starting lineup next season, Van Horn says the recruits will make the team better next season.

"We just need more depth and more competition in practice," Van Horn said. "You have that and coaches don't have to say as much. You just work and they know they have to beat somebody out. I don't have to push them all the time because there is somebody else already doing it."

One pitcher who could be a big addition next year is already on campus is pitcher Josh Smith, who redshirted because of an injury.

"He is staying in town all summer, going to summer school and rehabbing that shoulder," Van Horn said. "We might not see him until the middle of next season, but maybe he is then a guy that picks us up and takes us home. He is a 92-93 mile an hour guy when he is healthy."

Some of the future Razorbacks will likely be fans this weekend.

"I think so, but the problem is I can't get them tickets," Van Horn said. "I know my phone will be ringing off the hook to put them on the pass list, but you can't do that. I still have a feeling some of them might get down. It will be exciting for them, too."

"We've had some find a way to come see things for two reasons," Van Horn said. "I think they wanted to see the field- the finished project. When they signed in the fall, it wasn't done and they were like wow! I think they wanted to weigh what they saw against that draft. They are recruiting us and we are still recruiting them a little bit till they get here."

Van Horn admits that the rebuilding project is ahead of schedule.

"I thought next year we would be pretty good, but still have a lot of young players, " Van Horn said. "I thought in the fourth year we would be knocking on the door, which means basically we would be good enough to get there (Omaha). Whether you get there, a lot of things have to do. You obviously have to play well over those last couple of weekends.

"We are ahead of schedule in my opinion, but a lot of that has to do with the players - some of the guys that were in here and some young guys that are here now doing a great job," Van Horn. "It's been a nice combination and we are just going to keep getting better and better."

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