Hogs reemerge in baseball poll at 24

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Arkansas shortstop Michael Bernal leaps to make an out on a hard hit line drive in the fifth inning of a game Sunday, April 20, 2014 against Vanderbilt at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas shortstop Michael Bernal leaps to make an out on a hard hit line drive in the fifth inning of a game Sunday, April 20, 2014 against Vanderbilt at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - It took seven weeks, but the Arkansas Razorbacks are back in the Baseball America poll.

The Razorbacks (25-16, 9-9 SEC) are ranked No. 24 in the Baseball America poll released Monday after they took two of three games from Vanderbilt, which fell from No. 18 to No. 25 in the poll.

Arkansas opened the season ranked No. 25 and moved up to No. 24 after a 7-0 start, but the Razorbacks fell out of the poll after being swept in a doubleheader by South Alabama on March 1.

Tuesday's Ticket

NORTHWESTERN (LA.) STATE AT ARKANSAS

WHEN 6:35 p.m.

WHERE Baum Stadium

RECORDS Arkansas 25-16, 9-9 SEC. Northwestern State 22-17, 10-8 Southland Conference.

PITCHING MATCHUP Northwestern State: Brandon Smith (RHP 0-1, 3.96 ERA). Arkansas: Colin Poche (LHP 3-0, 1.71 ERA).

SHORT HOPS Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn got his first NCAA Division I head coaching job at Northwestern State and led the Demons to a 106-65 record from 1995-1997 … Demons assistant coach Chris Curry is a Conway native and former Arkansas assistant … the Razorbacks’ relievers have not allowed a run over the last 15 2/3 innings of work, including 13 2/3 innings last week against Stephen F. Austin and Vanderbilt. … with three double plays in three games against Vanderbilt, the Razorbacks have turned 40 this season to rank second in the SEC .. Arkansas is 20-7 at Baum Stadium.

The Razorbacks were 8-7 overall after going 1-3 on a road trip to California and losing their first two SEC games at Florida, but they beat the Gators in the series finale and are 17-9 in their past 26 games.

The Vanderbilt series ended a 17-game stretch in which Arkansas played 14 games against ranked teams. The Razorbacks went 7-7 in those matchups, including taking two of three games from then-No. 1 South Carolina three weeks ago.

All of Arkansas’ SEC games have been against nationally-ranked teams. The Razorbacks are fifth in the West and tied with Kentucky for seventh-best overall in the SEC standings. Florida and Alabama lead the SEC East and West at 12-6.

“You’ve just got to keep grinding it out and try to stay positive, because there’s going to be bad days in this league,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “This league will make you have bad days. … If you get frustrated and guys aren’t getting along, it makes for a tough, tough season, but we’ve held strong tougher. The guys have done a good job.

“We’ve got about 15 games left and we’re going to try to win them all.”

Arkansas will face an unranked SEC team for the first time this weekend when the Razorbacks host Auburn (22-19, 7-11).

Before resuming SEC play, the Razorbacks take on Northwestern (La.) State in a two-game series. The Razorbacks play the Demons (22-17, 10-8 Southland Conference) at 6:35 p.m. today and at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday at Baum Stadium.

Van Horn was Northwestern State’s coach in 1995-1997 and led the Demons to a 106-65 record.

“I just want to beat them like everybody else,” Van Horn said. “Yeah, it was my first Division I coaching job and it was a great learning experience. That’s probably the beauty of that situation. You don’t have a lot. You’ve got to get it.”

Van Horn is among four SEC coaches who coached at Northwestern State along with Alabama’s Mitch Gaspard, Mississippi State’s John Cohen and Texas A&M’s Rob Childress, who was Van Horn’s assistant at TexarkanaCommunity College, Northwestern State and Nebraska.

Jim Wells, who coached Alabama for 15 seasons, was Van Horn’s predecessor at Northwestern State.

“There’s a lot of good stories there,” Van Horn said. “It will make you or break you, and I think it’s made a lot of good coaches.”

Lane Burroughs, a former Mississippi State assistant, is in his second season as Northwestern State’s coach. Former Arkansas assistant Chris Curry, a Conway native, is an assistant for the Demons.

Northwestern State already has more victories than they did all of last season, when the Demons finished 16-40.

“They’re probably the most improved team in the Southland,” Van Horn said. “They’ll be good games.

“We’ll do the best we can. We’ve got some pitchers that really need to throw, because we’ve gone with the same six guys on the weekend. We’ve got some guys that are ready to get after it.”

Sports, Pages 16 on 04/22/2014

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