Hogs Thirsting For Return To Super Regionals

NORMAN, Okla. — Nearly five years have passed, far too long for Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn.

His Razorbacks have played 303 games since their legendary doubleheader sweep of Wichita State to win the 2004 Fayetteville Regional. Yet the Hogs' seventh-year coach still can't escape the void left by four straight seasons without a Super Regional appearance.

Van Horn interrupted a reporter's question Thursday, eager to offer up how often he's thought about Arkansas' recent regional struggles.

"Probably every day, to be honest," Van Horn said. "I think any coach that is earning his paycheck is thinking about winning a national championship, and a big step to getting there is to win a regional and a Super Regional.

"So yeah, I'd say I probably think about it every day."

Since its College World Series appearance in 2004, Arkansas has posted a 5-8 mark in regional contests and has only once reached a regional championship game. The Razorbacks, seeded second in the Norman Regional, get their latest chance to snap their Super Regional drought today when they take on third-seeded Washington State.

And while even Van Horn has admitted this year's club doesn't possess superior talent compared to his last four, all regional failures, the Hogs say they're sporting unshakable confidence.

Never mind that Arkansas lost eight consecutive games to finish its regular season. Don't worry about that SEC-low .267 batting average, either. The Razorbacks don't. For most of the season, they just relied on grit, finding ways to win, much like the 2004 team that spurred Baum Stadium's renovation.

"We've got a bunch of good guys on this team, not just on the field but off the field," senior outfielder Chase Leavitt said Thursday outside L. Dale Mitchell Park. "We get along, joke around and have a lot of fun. We have a lot of great character on this team, and I think that's going to take us a long ways."

Van Horn said he admired Arkansas' ability to squeak out wins throughout its season. But those qualities frustrated him, as well. Too many times, he said, the Razorbacks underachieved in the early innings, forcing them to unnecessarily rally late in the game.

He wants to see a different bunch of Razorbacks beginning today when junior left-hander Dallas Keuchel takes the mound against the Cougars.

"This team to me has played some very good games, but we've played just good enough to win," Van Horn said. "We've found ways to win. I don't really ever think throughout this season that we've played to our potential. Blame it on whoever. Blame it on the coaches, or whoever.

"But I don't think we've played as good as I think we could've. We still have time to do it. That's the positive. There isn't a better time."

For Van Horn especially, who'd love to rid himself of the daily, agonizing reminders.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories