Kuhn Providing Pleasant Surprise

FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn didn't want to have the sobering conversation this winter with freshman outfielder Collin Kuhn.

After all, Arkansas' baseball coach remembers how he felt that day recruiting up north, when the Beaver Dam, Wisc., native caught his eye by blazing down the first base line. Van Horn woke up early the next morning just to watch Kuhn again.

Didn't take long for Van Horn to become convinced Kuhn should join the Razorbacks. His mix of speed and strength was too alluring, and Van Horn loved that Kuhn had the toughness to play running back in high school.

Those memories made Van Horn's blunt words even harder to utter, as Kuhn came off a redshirted 2008 season and struggled this past fall.

"He showed some signs in the fall, but at the end of the fall, I told him, ‘I'm not sure if you'll be able to make the traveling squad,'" Van Horn said. "But when he came back after Christmas and we started scrimmaging, you could just tell he was better. He finally said, ‘It's time for me to stop being nervous and I'm as a good as these guys and I'm going to get it done.'

"That's exactly what he's done."

Kuhn has surprised even himself, in addition to many of his coaches and teammates, in earning consistent playing time this season.

He has gone from being caught up in a muddled outfield situation to establishing himself as a weekend starter. Kuhn enters this weekend's series against Mississippi State hitting .339, the fifth-highest batting average among Southeastern Conference freshmen. His .486 on-base percentage ranks third on the team.

And Kuhn appears to have given Van Horn a stable No. 9 hitter, a player who can set up Arkansas' surging leadoff man, senior Chase Leavitt.

"It kind of has been (surprising)," said Kuhn, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound former shortstop. "I just tried to come in here and be a role player and just do what I can to help the team win. It's just worked out better than that."

Kuhn has still turned into quite the role player for the No. 14 Razorbacks (17-4, 6-0). He has hit in four different spots in the lineup and thrived during his brief leadoff time against Florida while Leavitt nursed a hamstring injury.

He has played all three outfield positions — making nine starts in left field, four in center and one in right. But his main contribution has been at the plate, giving Van Horn stable production and likely solidifying his status as Arkansas' starting left fielder.

Kuhn credits his simple approach.

"I'd have to say I just try to get on base," Kuhn said. "I don't try to do too much and hit home runs or anything. That's not my game. I just want to get on and score runs."

Redshirt freshman infielder Tim Carver calls Kuhn one of his best friends and insists the value of his surprising start isn't limited to statistics.

"He's a great teammate," Carver said. "He's always going to be there for you and he's real competitive. He gives 110 percent at all times, and I think he's been handling all this really well."

Collin Kuhn

Class: Freshman

Position: Outfielder

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 190 pounds

Hometown: Beaver Dam, Wisc.

Notables: Ranks fourth on the Razorbacks in batting average (.339), tied for second in runs scored (19), tied for second in stolen bases (four) and tied for third in doubles (four). ... Earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors on March 16 after filling in injured senior Chase Leavitt in center field and atop the Arkansas batting order; had six hits as Arkansas swept Florida the previous weekend. ... Redshirted the 2008 season.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories