OMAHA, Neb. – After his team finished up a Sunday afternoon workout at Bellevue East High School, University of Arkansas head baseball coach Dave Van Horn found himself swarmed by the media.
"You guys are multiplying," Van Horn said of a group that included over 20-plus media members from Arkansas alone; not to mention ones from national outlets.
Indeed as the Razorbacks (40-22) have continued their postseason surge by winning six straight postseason games, the attention on Van Horn and his club has intensified locally, regionally and nationally.
It's warranted seeing as how Arkansas has outscored its postseason opponents by a combined score of 64-25 heading into its Monday 6 p.m. game with SEC foe LSU (52-16) in the second round of the College World Series.
You certainly could never tell there is any extra pressure from being around a very loose and relaxed coaching staff and roster of players.
"I am not really (surprised) because I have seen it kind of gaining momentum over the last few weeks," Van Horn said. "They (the players) are loose, we are trying to stay loose, they see us loose and they know we are confident. They know they can beat anybody if they play well.
"I think it is just kind of a team effort right now," Van Horn added. "They stay loose, but they are also focused and know why they are here."
LSU used all three of its weekend starters while rallying to down Virginia 9-5 Saturday night and win its 11th straight postseason game.
Arkansas will pitch right-hander Brett Eibner (5-4, 4.61) against LSU first-team All-American right-hander Louis Coleman (13-2, 2.74), who threw 17 pitches on Saturday in the win over Virginia.
Coleman, named the SEC's best pitcher this season, blanked the Razorbacks 5-0 in Fayetteville on May 2 in the nightcap of a doubleheader split.
Eibner pitched in the final game of that aforementioned three-game weekend series, a 4-3 Tigers win that gave them a 2-1 edge this season.
His shining moment this season was a complete-game, one-hitter at Georgia and the Razorbacks have won both his starts this postseason.
"If he (Eibner) can throw like he has been throwing down the stretch, he'll give us a chance," Van Horn said. "He has been giving us five or six quality innings. Anything more than that would be great. We have got some guys ready to go if he struggles early and we can go to the pen. It is one of those games that you don't mess around a whole lot since it is such an important game."
Arkansas players were given the opportunity to either come to the Texas-Southern Miss game on Sunday night, hang around their rooms and watch TV or go to a movie.
"I just want them to be comfortable and be ready to go," Van Horn said. "…It's been a good day just getting them out of the hotel and just trying to stay sharp. We tried to not do too much to wear them out."
Albeit that did mean running off a big lunch featuring steak and chicken served up by a local Kiwanis Club.
"We just had a meal with the Kiwanis Club and they were kind enough to provide steak and chicken and it was good," Van Horn said. "Guys had fun and they also had a lot of ice cream on the way out and I told them we were still going to run. They were begging not to run, but we have been doing it for the last month or two and we are not going to change now."
As far as Monday's lineup against the Tigers, Van Horn will slide Collin Kuhn in as the starting center fielder with Eibner concentrating solely on his mound performance.
"We will pretty much have the same lineup that we finished the game with last night except Brett won't be in there," Van Horn said.
That will include hot-hitting outfielder Andrew Darr, who has reached base in 8 of his last 9 plate appearances.
He has appeared in the last three of the last four postseason games, is hitting a mind-boggling .857 in the postseason and has watched his season average jump from .214 to .253.
"He had a good game yesterday," Van Horn said. "He got on base three times with a base hit, a hit by pitch and I think a walk. He brings a little bit more of a threat to the bottom of that order. The top of the order has been pretty solid and it's nice to get a big hit or have a guy get hit down there."
It has certainly been quite the turnaround for a team that was ranked No. 1 earlier in the season, finished the regular season by losing 8 straight and then turned it back on at the SEC Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament.
"Once we scored those 7, 8 or 9 runs or whatever it was in the bottom of the eighth against Washington State in the regional, the whole demeanor and just the look in their face changed," Van Horn said. "They picked up that next day on Saturday against OU and we have just continue it. We were like we were going to win this regional and we have a chance to go to Omaha if we can win the next round. It's just happened."
Relaxed in Omaha
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