State of the Hogs: Leadoff Man

After two straight losses, Dave Van Horn decided he needed Collin Kuhn to lead the way. Arkansas responded with a big victory over South Dakota State.

Dave Van Horn had a simple answer when first asked about placing Collin Kuhn in the leadoff spot after two straight losses. The Arkansas head coach tossed out something about putting the hot hitter at the top of the order.

A little later, he went a little deeper. Van Horn thought Kuhn had displayed some leadership traits that might jump start the Hogs after a shutout at Cal followed by a 3-2 loss to South Dakota State.

Bingo. Kuhn stuffed the box score, made a sparkling play in left field and generally played like a leader in a 21-2 victory Wednesday over South Dakota State in Baum Stadium.

"He was the one that was probably the most mad yesterday," Van Horn said of Kuhn. "He was really upset. I thought he came to the park today with a purpose and an attitude that he didn't like what went on in that game. That's one of the reasons I moved him up to leadoff. He talked to the team a little about how he didn't like what happened."

Kuhn didn't remember that. He said he's not a "rah rah type or a talker." But he did admit that there was nothing he liked about the loss to the Jack Rabbits.

"I think the way I'd describe the way I felt today was hungry," Kuhn said. "I don't think I said anything, but I think everyone could tell how I felt."

Kuhn played like a leadoff man Tuesday. Batting in the eighth spot, he one for two with an RBI. He was hit by pitch twice (for a team leading seven) and had three stolen bases. On Wednesday, he had a home run, an infield single, a sacrifice bunt, three runs, three RBI and walked twice. He was on base four times.

"He just plays hard, battles," Van Horn said. "He's not going to move if they come inside. We've got some other guys who can bat leadoff and it may be leadoff by committee this year, going with the hot hitter as we move through the season."

Asked if he Kuhn reminds him of the way he played the game, Van Horn laughed.

"Well, he's thicker," Van Horn said. "I didn't get out of the way, either. But there is more of him. He's thicker, 190. I was 165.

"I like the way he plays. He battles on two strikes. His on-base percentage (team best .547) is pretty good. He does a lot of things for us. He's playing well in the field, he's stealing bases, working walks."

Kuhn led off the bottom of the first with a walk, then got a good look at a Zack Cox blast into the teeth of a 25 mph wind to right field for a 2-0 Arkansas lead. It cleared the bullpen and was close to the new fence near the road, a massive shot.

"Yeah, that was a shot," Kuhn said. "I didn't think there would be any out that way. But it was way out."

Kuhn's solo shot in the second went to straight away left into the seats beyond the UA bullpen. The wind probably helped his a little. It was his first home run of the season, but no more important than all of the other little things he did right the last two days.

"I just want to do my job," he said. "If that means batting leadoff, getting hit or taking a walk, that's fine. I knew we needed to come out and get some runs today. I also knew we needed to remember we lost yesterday and we couldn't let that happen again."

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