Arkansas Athletics/courtesy
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is quite experienced in having postseason baseball success.

We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy! Dave Van Horn’s managing lifts Arkansas to Super Regionals

Eric Bolin

Arkansas football rules the world of Razorbacks sports. So, with your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast and get caught up. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas … especially Arkansas football. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points! There is no place like it on the web.

Dave Van Horn had a choice to make, an important choice.

It was either going to be madness or brilliance. Considering it’s Van Horn, which do you think it turned out to be?

The Arkansas baseball coach isn’t one for making many mistakes. He is largely considered one of the 10 best college baseball coaches in the game. Six College World Series appearances on the resume means Van Horn has earned the right to make decisions on the field however he sees fit. Sometimes they don’t work out. Most times, they do.

Such was the case Sunday in Arkansas’ super regional-clinching win over Dallas Baptist. Van Horn, as he is prone to do, hit the nail on the head. Against some conventional wisdom, even. He had to decide, zero outs into the game, how quickly to pull the plug on his starting pitcher, Isaiah Campbell. The right-hander who may be the most highly touted MLB draft prospect on the roster, let the first three batters of the game reach base. None had scored, but Van Horn decided that was enough.

In a game Arkansas didn’t have to win, Van Horn elected to pull the most electric arm on his roster and deplete his bullpen. He knew if the move didn’t work, if Jake Reindl couldn’t slow Dallas Baptist, much of his staff would be out of commission for the winner-take-all game Monday.

That took some guts. It’s one of those decisions that, if there were a chart labeling percentage chance of things, the potential outcomes are superior over the long run if Campbell remains. His statistics suggested things would turn around.

But analytics guys don’t play the game. Sometimes analytics are for naught. Sometimes a sheer gut instinct, a baseball decision, has to be made. Few can make that call like the man called DVH.

Now, after the 4-3 win, his team has a handful of days to rest before retaking the Baum Stadium field in a game that matters. Arkansas will get either South Carolina or North Carolina-Wilmington in the super regionals on the weekend. If it’s the Gamecocks, Arkansas beat them two out of three at Baum Stadium earlier this year.

Not coincidentally, beating South Carolina two out of three again would mean a trip to the College World Series. It would be Van Horn’s seventh.

And, boy, would it be well-deserved.


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