State of the Hogs: Picking lineup tough with lots of options

By: Clay Henry
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (front) and players watch practice Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (front) and players watch practice Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— Every once in awhile a baseball player thinks he'd like a shot at being head coach for one day. That didn't appeal to Blaine Knight on Wednesday.

Knight will be the starting pitcher for the Arkansas baseball team. He'll be in the lineup, for sure. But he didn't envy what head coach Dave Van Horn will have to do for the rest of the opening day lineup against Bucknell on Friday.

“I don't know how he's going to do it,” said Knight, a junior pitcher from Bryant.

Basically, no matter what Van Horn does, Knight said, someone good is going to be left out.

“That's the way I see it,” Knight said. “I wouldn't want to try to do it. It's a good problem. That's one way to look at it.”

Knight just is glad to be looking at someone different on Friday.

“I know Bucknell is good,” he said. “So I'm not saying it's going to be easy. But I'm tired of seeing our guys up at the plate. Let's go against someone else now.

“What I've seen from our position players, they are all good. There's guys with power. There's guys who can wear you out for average. It's well rounded. It's as good as I've seen.

“We have no lack of depth. I can tell you that I didn't like throwing against them the last month. We need to do something else because it's been tough on the pitchers.”

Isaiah Campbell is scheduled to start the second game of the weekend. He had a similar take.

“Our guys are good,” he said. “Up and down the lineup, it's tough. I can tell you the guy I don't want to see anymore and that's Jax Biggers.”

That's probably the way Van Horn will start his lineup card. Biggers is the lefty shortstop who led the team in hitting at .338 last year.

Van Horn has hinted at some lineup combinations. The Hogs will go against a righthanded starter to open the Bucknell series.

It might be that the only righty hitters to start are catcher Grant Koch, second baseman Carson Shaddy and designated hitter Luke Bonfield.

Other potential starters are Eric Cole (switch hitter) in right field and lefty hitters Heston Kjerstad and Dominic Fletcher in left and center, respectively. Van Horn suggested Wednesday that he'll start a pair of lefty hitters to fill out the lineup with Jared Gates at third and Evan Lee at first.

“We might go at it a lot differently in the second game when they have a lefty starter most likely,” Van Horn said. “Maybe that gets Jordan McFarland on the right side in at third.

“I don't know. We want to see if we can get some guys out there and move people around. I want to see who might be one of those guys who really steps up in a game. Some guys are like that. They are good in practice, but then better in a game.”

It sounded like there are still some questions about what's the best lineup, but not on whether or not the options are good.

“That's right,” Campbell said. “We've got a team full of tough outs. I know Coach Van Horn has a tough job this weekend.”

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