Van Horn likes offense

Arkansas is No. 1 in several pre-season polls because of pitching, but head coach Dave Van Horn said Monday that he's encouraged about the offense, too.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn "messed up" when he put together what he thinks is his toughest schedule, but he thinks he might have the team that can handle it.

"We want to win as many as we can, but at the same time we know where we want to go," Van Horn said, referencing the potential of his fourth College World Series trip in 11 seasons with the Razorbacks.

"I don't have to talk about it because we have a veteran team that does talk about it."

Van Horn spoke for over 40 minutes at the first Swatter's Club meeting of the 2014 season, noting afterwards in a briefing with the media that he's optimistic of an improved offense to go with what may be the nation's best pitching staff. The Hogs enter the season ranked No. 1 in several national polls.

"Our approach has been to be unselfish at the plate and be able to adjust with two strikes," Van Horn said. "We want to be content to put the bat on the ball (with two strikes) and not try to hit it over someone's head.



"We should be better one through nine with this lineup. We have more experience. We are older. We have Tyler Spoon, Brian Anderson, Joe Serrano, Jake Wise, Matt Vinson, Jacob Morris, Dominic Ficociello and Eric Fisher. Some of them didn't play last year, but they are older and they are more experienced from the summer.

"What we have is an idea of what to do with pitches. From what I've seen since we've got started this past month, I'm encouraged that we are going to have a better offense."

Freshmen Brett McAfee (shortstop), Willie Schwanke (third, first, DH) and Isaac Hellbusch (first, third, DH) also figure in the offensive plans. McAfee gives the Hogs quickness and athletic ability at shortstop.

"McAfee may be the quickest shortstop I've ever had," Van Horn said. "He's going to make some plays that make you say wow. He hasn't played much the last two years. He had Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school and had a hamstring injury last year at junior college. But he has a lot of ability. He's got a good arm and it's coming around. He's a great athlete and is really fast."

Schwanke has power and has shown a rare eye for a true freshman at the plate.

"I see his bat in the lineup," Van Horn said. "I'm not sure where he'll play, but he can hit. He is very advanced for a freshman. He knows the strike zone. He may let too many border line pitches go by, but I like that.

"Hellbusch has a chance to play, too. He's very talented."

Van Horn said two-way player Michael Gunn, a sophomore from tiny Wilson, has made a move both as a lefty pitcher and a power hitter.

"He can hit the fast ball a long way," Van Horn said. "Now he's learned to go the other way, too. He's a guy we can use as a pinch hitter. He's either fearless or goofy or both. I remember watching him get a pinch hit at Florida when I'd been tossed and I was watching from the volleyball locker room and the guys who were still left coaching put him in for a big hit in extra innings."

"Some guys when you call them to pinch hit, they say, 'Who me?' He's not scared. He's fired up."

Van Horn said Gunn impressed with a great start as a pitcher in a scrimmage over the weekend. He opened with four straight strike outs, then struggled when he had to pitch from the stretch.

"Obviously, we need some work there, but he has good stuff," Van Horn said. "He's made a move. He's got a good breaker with late movement."

Van Horn also said he'd put pitcher Chris Oliver in the category of "making a move." But the big story of the spring so far comes from big lefty Cade Lynch, a 6-6, 240-pounder coming off delicate surgery to relieve compressed arteries in his neck.

"It's a miracle," Van Horn said. "He's working his way back. He had big time surgery in early December. He's acting like the old Cade."

The Hogs open the season with a three-game set against Western Illinois on Feb. 15-17. Pitchers Colin Poche and Adam Meyer, who were arrested for shoplifting in mid-January, will be suspended for that weekend.

"They will be out a minimum of three games," Van Horn said. "They are paying a price and have learned a lesson."

Meyer is battling back from Tommy John surgery. Poche, a 6-3 lefty, was a fifth-round draft choice who came to school.

"I think Poche has grown up in the last few weeks," Van Horn said. "Mentally, this probably pushed him ahead one year."

Among the notes coming out of the Swatter's Club meeting was the status of the indoor facility for track and baseball. Associate AD Matt Trantham told the group that if enough funds can be found, it could be ready by next season.

Van Horn said one of the misconceptions is that the facility would be just be used for bad weather days. He said the indoor practice field would enable the Hogs to actually double the amount of work in a normal day with work going on at the game field and the indoor facility at the same time.

"It would be big for recruiting, but we can double up our work in a practice," he said. "We can do a lot more with a facility of that type than just get in time when the weather is bad."

Gene's Page Top Stories

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\r\n\"We should be better one through nine with this lineup. We have more experience. We are older. We have Tyler Spoon, Brian Anderson, Joe Serrano, Jake Wise, Matt Vinson, Jacob Morris, Dominic Ficociello and Eric Fisher. Some of them didn't play last year, but they are older and they are more experienced from the summer.\r\n

\r\n\"What we have is an idea of what to do with pitches. From what I've seen since we've got started this past month, I'm encouraged that we are going to have a better offense.\"\r\n

\r\nFreshmen Brett McAfee (shortstop), Willie Schwanke (third, first, DH) and Isaac Hellbusch (first, third, DH) also figure in the offensive plans. McAfee gives the Hogs quickness and athletic ability at shortstop.\r\n

\r\n\"McAfee may be the quickest shortstop I've ever had,\" Van Horn said. \"He's going to make some plays that make you say wow. He hasn't played much the last two years. He had Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school and had a hamstring injury last year at junior college. But he has a lot of ability. He's got a good arm and it's coming around. He's a great athlete and is really fast.\"\r\n

\r\nSchwanke has power and has shown a rare eye for a true freshman at the plate.\r\n

\r\n\"I see his bat in the lineup,\" Van Horn said. \"I'm not sure where he'll play, but he can hit. He is very advanced for a freshman. He knows the strike zone. He may let too many border line pitches go by, but I like that.\r\n

\r\n\"Hellbusch has a chance to play, too. He's very talented.\"\r\n

\r\nVan Horn said two-way player Michael Gunn, a sophomore from tiny Wilson, has made a move both as a lefty pitcher and a power hitter.\r\n

\r\n\"He can hit the fast ball a long way,\" Van Horn said. \"Now he's learned to go the other way, too. He's a guy we can use as a pinch hitter. He's either fearless or goofy or both. I remember watching him get a pinch hit at Florida when I'd been tossed and I was watching from the volleyball locker room and the guys who were still left coaching put him in for a big hit in extra innings.\"\r\n

\r\n\"Some guys when you call them to pinch hit, they say, 'Who me?' He's not scared. He's fired up.\"\r\n

\r\nVan Horn said Gunn impressed with a great start as a pitcher in a scrimmage over the weekend. He opened with four straight strike outs, then struggled when he had to pitch from the stretch.\r\n

\r\n\"Obviously, we need some work there, but he has good stuff,\" Van Horn said. \"He's made a move. He's got a good breaker with late movement.\"\r\n

\r\nVan Horn also said he'd put pitcher Chris Oliver in the category of \"making a move.\" But the big story of the spring so far comes from big lefty Cade Lynch, a 6-6, 240-pounder coming off delicate surgery to relieve compressed arteries in his neck.\r\n

\r\n\"It's a miracle,\" Van Horn said. \"He's working his way back. He had big time surgery in early December. He's acting like the old Cade.\"\r\n

\r\nThe Hogs open the season with a three-game set against Western Illinois on Feb. 15-17. Pitchers Colin Poche and Adam Meyer, who were arrested for shoplifting in mid-January, will be suspended for that weekend.\r\n

\r\n\"They will be out a minimum of three games,\" Van Horn said. \"They are paying a price and have learned a lesson.\"\r\n

\r\nMeyer is battling back from Tommy John surgery. Poche, a 6-3 lefty, was a fifth-round draft choice who came to school.\r\n

\r\n\"I think Poche has grown up in the last few weeks,\" Van Horn said. \"Mentally, this probably pushed him ahead one year.\"\r\n

\r\nAmong the notes coming out of the Swatter's Club meeting was the status of the indoor facility for track and baseball. Associate AD Matt Trantham told the group that if enough funds can be found, it could be ready by next season.\r\n

\r\nVan Horn said one of the misconceptions is that the facility would be just be used for bad weather days. He said the indoor practice field would enable the Hogs to actually double the amount of work in a normal day with work going on at the game field and the indoor facility at the same time.\r\n

\r\n\"It would be big for recruiting, but we can double up our work in a practice,\" he said. \"We can do a lot more with a facility of that type than just get in time when the weather is bad.\"\r\n\r\n","skipOnMobile":true,"skipOnMobileReason":"UnsupportedHtmlTable","unsupportedMarkup":"LackingResponsiveTableClass","media":[],"dateOverride":"2013-02-04T12:08:00-08:00","authorOverride":"Clay 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Peyton Plumlee didn’t feel his very best. 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