Courtesy Arkansas athletics
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn oversaw quite the turnaround in 2017.

Arkansas baseball’s Dave Van Horn deserves your appreciation as one of nation’s best

Eric Bolin

With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points. There is no place like it on the web.

Dave Van Horn, take a bow.

The Arkansas baseball coach would never. But the man deserves it. What he has done with the Diamond Hogs program in less than a calendar year has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Remember a year ago? You might not. You could have tried to block it out. But a year ago, the Arkansas baseball team was toast. The Diamond Hogs lost 13 consecutive games to finish the season, including 11 straight in SEC play. A late-season question to Van Horn about whether his team was burying its head was met with scorn. Later that summer, Van Horn copped to it.

The 2016 Arkansas baseball team was Murphy’s Law in action. Snowball, meet hill.

Those Razorbacks left onlookers and pundits, nationally and locally both, with a big case of ‘meh’ when projecting how the 2017 iteration would fare. Fifth in the SEC West and 10th in the SEC was how the numbers broke down from the preseason coaches poll. There was not a lot of optimism Arkansas would reach the NCAA Tournament. Nothing more than a rebuild was figured.

Now, after a 2-1 series win over NCAA Regional-bound Vanderbilt, Arkansas is thinking more than just Tournament. The Razorbacks can, with another series win and some dominoes falling the right direction, host. As Van Horn said after a 7-1 win over the Commodores on Sunday, it’s there for the taking.

“We can control by winning,” the Arkansas coach said. “Who’s to say what’s going to happen. … The only thing we can do is play Thursday, see what happens and kind of go from there.”

And that’s the shock of it. An Arkansas team that saw six of its best seven recruits go pro instead of to Fayetteville has a shot at an SEC West title. An Arkansas team that lost two-thirds of its projected rotation in just February can earn a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. A Razorbacks bunch with a brand-new pitching coach and piecemeal bullpen could host a Regional.

If the preseason was met with a ho-hum attitude from those on the outside, the added difficulties Van Horn’s team has had to go through should have been enough to send them crashing.

Nope.

They weren’t about to let that happen again. Once was enough. The worst season of Van Horn’s Division I coaching career and he, nor the players, wanted no part of anything like it in 2017.

A rise in roster talent, even with the injuries, has helped. So has a bit of luck (but every team is lucky at one point, that’s baseball). Neither has been so overwhelming as to suggest the Diamond Hogs would go from worst to, well, not first, but awfully close. So, how then?

DVH.

Appreciate him. Recognize what he’s doing this year — what he’s done since arriving in 2003 — is incredible. The Arkansas baseball team is one of the best, most respected in the nation every year. And it’s because of Dave Van Horn.

Mother’s Day Hogs

Everybody has a mama. Most everybody loves their mama.

Here is a collection of Razorbacks folks’ messages to the matriarch on this Mother’s Day 2017. Sweetness.

Former Arkansas and current San Diego Chargers TE Hunter Henry.

Former Arkansas RB Rawleigh Williams III, who recently retired from football.

Offensive line coach Kurt Anderson

Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson

SEC Champs

When people say Arkansas is “a football school,” correct them. It’s not. Nor is it a baseball one or basketball one.

Nope, the University of Arkansas is a running school. Track and field and cross country, the Razorbacks absolutely dominate. And the women showed it this weekend.

Arkansas’ women’s track and field team won their 10th straight SEC running/events title by rolling to a 28-point lead in the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships that concluded Saturday. It’s the third straight “Triple Crown” for the Razorbacks, meaning a season in which a team captures the Cross Country, Indoor Track and Field and Outdoor Track and Field league titles in the same season.

Arkansas hasn’t lost the SEC’s showcase meet in any of the three seasons since the indoor season of 2014. A list of the titles won consecutively:

  • 2014 Outdoor
  • 2014 Cross Country
  • 2015 Indoor
  • 2015 Outdoor
  • 2015 Cross Country
  • 2016 Indoor
  • 2016 Outdoor
  • 2016 Cross Country
  • 2017 Indoor
  • 2017 Outdoor

ICYMI

  • Want to own one of Moses Kingsley’s game-worn jerseys? Hit up the former Arkansas big man on Twitter.

  • Don’t you wish it were basketball season already? Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford do, clearly. Their return still has people excited about next season.
arkansas-arkansas basketball-daryl macon-jaylen barford
Screenshot of Daryl Macon’s tweet from Sunday afternoon
  • Don’t play just one sport. If you’re a parent reading this, don’t put your child in just one sport. The best way to get your son or daughter that precious college scholarship is to have them vary their athletic careers. That’s how those succeeding at Arkansas are doing it, our Trent Shadid found.
  • Speaking of multisport athletes, one of those is Connor Noland. If you’re a regular on Breakfast, you know I’m a big Noland fan. He’s a quarterback commit for Bret Bielema and a pitching commit for Van Horn. And he is, as high schoolers go, one of the best and brightest kids to be around.

Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas

A lot of people don’t know this, especially if you’re not in the media, but they used to serve alcohol to reporters at baseball games back in the day. “They” being the host team in the press box.

Like, for real. And it wasn’t all that long ago. It was one of the few jobs deemed being potentially intoxicated could actually be helpful to your employ, I guess. Most other gigs, say, for example, high school teacher, not so much.

Ann Higgins of Maumelle High found this out last week when she was removed from her classroom and arrested after showing up to school drunk. Her teaching colleagues said she was acting in a strange manner and smelled of booze. Higgins was cited at the police station, according to this story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Sigh.

Skip Breakfast? C’mon. It’s too important. Catch up with previous versions here.