With senior first baseman Danny Hamblin stuck in the middle of the worst hitting slump of his career -- collecting just five hits in 42 at-bats this season -- Van Horn was hoping his co-captain and four-year starter would eventually work things out on his own. But as Arkansas inches closer and closer to Southeastern Conference play, Hamblin's time as a starter appears to be drawing closer and closer to an end.
"I don't even know if he'll play (today)," Van Horn said. "You know, I've got to be fair. There's guys over there waiting to get their chance and they keep looking at me thinking, how much longer are you going to keep playing him? I've tried to be on his side and be fair, but he struck out four times in one game (Friday), struck out in his pinch hit at-bat last week and mentally I don't know where it's at.
"He just needs to snap out of it. When he takes batting practice, he looks like an All-American and he hits the ball as hard as he's ever hit it. But in the games, it's not happening and we need Danny for us to be really good. He needs to step it up for us to be a really good team."
While Hamblin -- who is hitting a dreadful .119 with just one home run and eight runs batted in -- could be headed to the bench as soon as today, Van Horn wasn't sure as of Saturday who would be his replacement. The top candidates would figure to be junior college transfer Aaron Murphee or true freshman Dylan Duren. Either way, Van Horn believes now is the time for someone else to get an opportunity.
"You think about it, we've got four losses and if we would have gotten some better production from some of the older kids it could have been a different story," Van Horn said. "Now it's been three or four weeks and it's the same old story.
"I look at Ole Miss and they have a freshman (Andrew Clark) at first base, he comes out and hits a homer and gets big double (Friday). So it doesn't matter how old you are, you just go out and play confident and put the bat on the ball. And that's the thing, when you're in a slump if you make contact that's one thing. But when you're not making contact, that hurts because you can't move a runner up or drive anybody in from third. So I hope somebody else will step up."
Don't Worry About Todd
So what if Arkansas' hotshot closer Jess Todd was roughed up for the loss Friday. As far as Razorbacks catcher Brian Walker is concerned, it will be one of the few times you'll see that happen this year.
"It's like I went out there and told (Jess) after the game, he's the best I've ever seen," Walker said. "He's the best guy I've ever caught and he's better than any other guy I know.
"He went out there and got beat (Friday) and that's the way it goes. That's the game of baseball. But there's no doubt that guy is going to win more games and save more games for us than he loses for us. He's going to be fine, no doubt in my mind, and he's the reason we're going to be a great team."
Mall Of America, Anyone?
With Arkansas getting Saturday off as the result of a late change in tournament schedule, Van Horn allowed his players to see the sights after a light batting practice session in the Metrodome. Several players opted to stick around and watch the doubleheader between Ole Miss and Minnesota, but a few others headed off to Minneapolis' favorite tourist trap, the Mall of America.
"We had the whole team out in here taking turns in the batting cage and running in the hallways," Van Horn said. "You know, there's not a whole lot we can do with the weather like it is, but we'll let them go to the Mall of America or do whatever they want to do."
That's Hubert H. Humphrey To You
While most Minnesota natives refer to it as the Metrodome, or simply 'The Dome,' the indoor stadium which houses Minnesota Vikings football, Minnesota Twins baseball and University of Minnesota football and baseball is actually called neither.
At least, officially.
When first constructed and opened on April 3, 1982, the Minneapolis stadium was named the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, in honor of the former U.S. vice president who also served as a longtime Minnesota state senator.
Although the tournament has had several different sponsors and names through the years, the Dairy Queen Classic is in its 23rd year of existence... Saturday, the host Golden Gophers managed a split with Ole Miss, rallying for a 3-2 win in the first game before dropping the finale... In the previous 22 tournaments, Minnesota has come away with the best record in the event only three times, in 1991, '95 and 2004... After Saturday, Minnesota's all-time record in the Dairy Queen Classic is just 29-43-1. Arkansas' record in the tournament stands at 2-5, with the Razorbacks making appearances in 1993 (1-2), 2001 (1-2) and this season (0-1).
Dairy Queen Classic, Arkansas vs. Minnesota
WHEN: noon, Sunday
WHERE: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
RECORDS: Arkansas 9-4, 0-0, Minnesota 4-1, 0-0
Hamblin Headed To The Bench?
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