State of the Hogs: Thompson knows scouting report for Missouri State

By: Clay Henry
Published: Monday, April 16, 2018
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (left) speaks with hitting coach Nate Thompson Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, during fall practice at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (left) speaks with hitting coach Nate Thompson Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, during fall practice at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas' Dave Van Horn downplayed the role that Nate Thompson will play in the matchup with Missouri State on Tuesday night.

Yes, Thompson knows the Bears after spending the previous two seasons in charge of the hitting and recruiting at the Springfield school. But, it's not like the Hogs didn't already have as much scouting information as possible.

Thompson is in his first year with the Hogs. He's hitting coach and heads their recruiting.

“But we know their roster pretty good, too,” Van Horn said. “We recruited a lot of their players and we've faced them (every season). He might can provide a few details.”

Of course, Missouri State eliminated Arkansas in postseason play last season, winning the NCAA Fayetteville Regional. The Bears won a couple of one-run games against the Hogs. That was turnabout from the previous season when the Hogs beat the Bears two out of three in a Super Regional to advance to the College World Series.

“We've had some really good games with them,” Van Horn said. “There were some great games.

“We've won our share and they've won their share. They do a great job.

“They've done a great job of keeping some of the best recruits in their area.”

Thompson was available Monday, along with Van Horn and players. Game time is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Baum Stadium in the lone midweek game for the Hogs this week. They travel to Mississippi State for an SEC series that starts Friday.

Somewhat guarded in his remarks, it was clear that Thompson is an an awkward position playing his old team. Asked how he looks at it, there was the stock answer.

“It's another ball game against a quality opponent,” he said. “I do have a lot of friends there. It's an opportunity for the Razorbacks to get a quality win.”

Would he have additions to the scouting report because of intimate knowledge of the roster?

“You spend a lot of time with someone, you learn things,” he said.

So the answer is yes.

Freshman Caleb Bolden will get the start. He said he's not gotten the scouting report, or any particular help from Thompson – yet.

“I'm sure we will go over it when we watch video tomorrow,” Bolden said.

No doubt, there will be careful study of a terrific 1-2-3 combination in the Missouri State batting order: Hunter Steinmetz, Jeremy Eierman and Drew Millas.

Eierman, junior shortstop, earned first team All-America honors last year when he swatted 23 homers, fifth best nationally. He led the Missouri Valley with 68 RBI. He's hitting .311 with 5 homers this season.

Steinmetz is a pre-season All-Missouri Valley centerfielder with a .302 batting average. Millas, the catcher, hits .316 to lead the Bears.

Missouri State is 22-10 after losing three straight. Oregon State thumped the Bears by 17-6 and 10-2 counts over the weekend. Missouri beat them, 8-6, earlier in the week. The Bears were 43-20 last season.

“You'll recognize a lot of their players from last year,” Van Horn said. “They've got five or six back, including the centerfielder. Of course, Eierman is back.”

The Hogs lead the SEC West at 10-5. They are 27-10 overall and coming off a 2-1 series win over South Carolina that included a pair of shutout victories in a doubleheader on Saturday. LSU trails the Hogs by one game in the West. Top-ranked Florida leads the SEC East at 12-3.

Van Horn isn't surprised that LSU is in the middle of the chase in the West.

“It's no shock to me,” he said. “We knew they were better than they were playing (earlier in the season). They have a great program and do a great job of recruiting that state.”

Van Horn said Carson Shaddy is expected to play against the Bears despite a swollen hand. Shaddy was hit by pitch in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader. He didn't miss any at bats and homered in both games Saturday.

“I was worried about it at first,” Van Horn said. “It was swollen immediately. There are so many little bones there, but all signs was that it wasn't (broken). Yesterday it was sore and today he won't do a lot. But if he's ready, he'll stay in the lineup.”

Shaddy said, “I'm fine. I'll play (Tuesday).”

Shaddy leads the Hogs with a .368 average. He's been moved from ninth in the batting order to fifth. He is tops on the team with 9 homers.

“Stats don't matter,” he said. “I just want to try to help our team win.”

As far as the injured hand, he said there wasn't going to be any mention of it to coaches. He said he didn't want to leave the first game for fear of not starting the second.

“I wasn't going to come out,” he said. “I had enough time to regroup. The adrenaline helps. I figured at the plate I would forget about it, and that's what happened.”

As far as playing the Bears, he said, “It's a good series. I met a lot of their guys. I talk to Eierman. But it will be all business.”

There's no doubt that it's special for Thompson, according to Shaddy. Why wouldn't it be for the Bears, too?

“They are getting to play their old coach,” Shaddy said. “For our side, that makes it even bigger.

“I think he'd want us to show that we have the right attitude. He couldn't help but want us to show out in front of his old team.”

Van Horn knows about this sort of thing. He's gone against his old teams at several stops.

“It's a tough question to answer,” Van Horn said. “I've been involved in games like this. For him, he knows those players. I know his emotions will be up and down. You can feel guilty for leaving, but they know it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up for his family. They get it.”

Well, maybe it's not just another game. It's the kind of stuff that helps fuel a rivalry that already existed.

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