College World Series report:

Bad start is looking bit better

By: Bob Holt , Matt Jones
Published: Saturday, June 13, 2015
Arkansas outfielder Joe Serrano runs to first base after an RBI single during a game against LSU on Thursday, March 19, 2015, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas outfielder Joe Serrano runs to first base after an RBI single during a game against LSU on Thursday, March 19, 2015, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Arkansas started the season 1-5 in SEC play, being swept in a three-game series at Vanderbilt and losing 2 of 3 games to LSU in Baum Stadium.

Arkansas vs. Virginia

WHEN 2 p.m.

WHERE TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.

RECORDS Arkansas 40-23, Virginia 39-22

RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Check local listings

TELEVISION ESPN

That start doesn't look so bad in retrospect considering the defending champion Commodores and Tigers are at the College World Series along with Arkansas.

LSU Coach Paul Mainieri and Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin praised Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn for steering the team through its early struggles.

"I've coached against Dave's teams now for nine years, and there's nobody I respect more than him and his ability as a coach and how he handles his team, how he game strategizes," Mainieri said. "Good coaches earn their money when things aren't going so great.

"It's easy to coach a team when everybody's doing well, but when the team's struggling a little bit, that's when you hold it together."

Corbin said he was impressed by the Razorbacks after playing them.

"As the season progressed, you could see them just hanging there, hanging there," Corbin said. "At least from afar, it looked like Dave was very patient with the group, and it paid huge dividends."

Best seat in house

Arkansas third baseman Bobby Wernes, who will start against Virginia today, was at TD Ameritrade Park as a fan the last time the Razorbacks played in the College World Series.

Wernes, from Overland Park, Kan., attended the 2012 College World Series the summer after his senior year at Blue Valley West High School.

"I sat in the cheap seats way out in left-center field," Wernes said after Friday's practice. "I think they were $5 general admission.

"I've got a little bit better view this time around. It's neat for sure to see how far I've come."

Picture this

Before Arkansas played Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park on May 12, Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn downplayed the significance of the venue being home of the College World Series.

Van Horn told reporters the game was about getting a home-and-home series with Creighton, not playing at TD Ameritrade Park. He had a different message for the Razorbacks before the Creighton game.

"Coach Van Horn said not to take any pictures the last time we were here because we'd be back in about a month," Razorbacks third baseman Bobby Wernes said. "I thought that was awesome, because he had the confidence we could get back here, and he was right.

"We can take all the pictures we want now."

Vitello's boys

Arkansas assistant coach Tony Vitello has finally made it to the College World Series, and two teams he helped assemble are here with him.

In addition to Arkansas, Vitello's former team, TCU, is playing this weekend at TD Ameritrade Park.

"It's a little bit of an asterisk," Vitello said of knowing so many players at the event. "It's a little bit different, and it will be unique seeing some of those guys."

Vitello, 35, spent three seasons (2011-13) as an assistant coach for the Horned Frogs. He just missed on trips to the College World Series twice while in Fort Worth, arriving there within weeks of a trip to Omaha in 2010 and leaving for Arkansas before the Horned Frogs returned last season.

Vitello served as the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at TCU and was primarily responsible for assembling the Horned Frogs' dynamic pitching staff that has the nation's second-lowest ERA this season.

Senior Preston Morrison, junior Mitchell Traver and sophomores Alex Young and Tyler Alexander have a combined 35-9 record this season. None has an ERA higher than 2.86. Young and Alexander were drafted in the second round of the major league draft earlier this week. Riley Ferrell, TCU's top relief pitcher who was recruited by Vitello, was drafted in the third round.

"There are a couple of guys on the team that we had recruited before he came," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said, "but the majority of the roster without question -- especially the sophomore/junior class, and particularly this junior class that's had so many guys drafted and the pitching -- he did a phenomenal job with."

Drafty

Arkansas had the fewest players drafted (four) among the eight teams in Omaha. Defending national champion Vanderbilt and Florida had the most players drafted (nine), followed by LSU (eight) and TCU (eight), Virginia (seven), Cal State-Fullerton (six) and Miami (5).

Sports on 06/13/2015

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