College World Series report:

Van Horn moved on from 2018

By: Bob Holt , Matt Jones
Published: Saturday, June 15, 2019
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn watches batting practice Friday, June 14, 2019, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn watches batting practice Friday, June 14, 2019, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. -- The first question University of Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn was asked at Friday's College World Series news conference was how hard it was to move on from finishing second to Oregon State in last year's final.

"Man, you nailed that first question right out, didn't you?" Van Horn said. "Just, bingo!"

After the Razorbacks won Game One 4-1, the Beavers came back to win 5-3 and 5-0 to take the national championships.

Game Two was especially agonizing for Arkansas because Oregon State rallied to score three runs in the bottom of ninth inning with two outs to overcome a 3-2 deficit.

"I mean, it is what it is," Van Horn said. "Baseball -- 27 outs. You've got to get 27.

"We had a good team last year. We fought hard. We were an old team last year. It's a different team than this team."

A foul popup that could have ended the game with an Arkansas victory instead fell between three Razorbacks.

"You've got to let it go," Van Horn said. "You've got to go out and recruit. You start fall baseball."

Van Horn said he never has talked to his team about the play.

"I've only watched it two or three times," he said. "Once was enough, honestly."

Real small piece

Mike Martin, who has announced that he's retiring after completing his 40th season as Florida State's coach, is a sentimental favorite to win the College World Series.

This is the 17th time Martin has brought a team to Omaha, but his Seminoles have yet to win a national championship. The closest they've come is finishing second in 1986 to Arizona and second in 1999 to Miami.

Even the opposing coaches in FSU's bracket were asked at a Friday news conference that if their team was eliminated, if a little piece of them was rooting for Martin, 75, to win it all in his final season.

"A real small piece," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said, drawing laughter.

Van Horn's Razorbacks play FSU tonight.

Michigan and Texas Tech are on the same side of the bracket as Arkansas and FSU.

"I'll agree with Dave, a very small piece as far as on the winning deal," Texas Tech Coach Tim Tadlock said of rooting for Martin and the Seminoles. "All of us are competitors, and believe me, if we weren't here, yeah, absolutely."

Martin is known by his coaching peers as "11" for his uniform number.

"There was a time where absolutely you're thinking about it being 11's last year and until you qualify, you're going, 'It would be really cool if he could win this deal,' " Tadlock said. "Then you qualify, and you're like, 'No, that wouldn't be cool.' "

Van Horn, 58, and Tadlock, 50, both said they won't still be coaching when they're 75 as Martin has done.

"I hope I'm alive at 75," Van Horn said with a laugh.

Van Horn called it amazing that Martin has been FSU's coach since 1980.

"For someone to stay at one university as long as he's been, I think those days are gone," Van Horn said. "He's done a tremendous job.

"I think the key, he's always had great coaches and good people around him, a lot of support."

Said Tadlock of Martin's longevity, "I don't even know where I'm going next week, much less at 75."

Walk talk

Florida State ranks third nationally in walks drawn with 373 -- 6.0 per game -- but the Seminoles' patience figures to be tested against Arkansas starting pitcher Isaiah Campbell.

Campbell has issued 20 walks in 1111/3 innings. His high for walks in a game his season is three -- against Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia.

"There are some teams in our league that have the same philosophy," Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn said of trying to draw walks. "When they face Isaiah they have to change their philosophy a little bit if he's doing what he can do, because he throws strikes.

"We're all about throwing the ball over the plate early in the count and making them swing."

4 for 4

No player this week has been at the College World Series more times than Arkansas catcher Zack Plunkett.

In fact, it's difficult to imagine any player has been more times.

Plunkett, a fifth-year senior, is in Omaha for the fourth time. He has been the past two seasons with the Razorbacks and went twice as a backup at TCU in 2015 and 2016. The only year Plunkett didn't come to the College World Series was 2017, when he redshirted at Arkansas after transferring.

"I've been extremely blessed to be able to make it here for all four years," Plunkett said. "Not many guys can say they've been four years, and I may be the only guy ever to make it two years with two teams.

"I'm really good at giving good restaurant recommendations. I'm good about making sure people are where they need to be. It's kind of become a team joke that I live here."

Despite his many trips, Plunked has never played a game in Omaha. He was a third-string catcher on the Razorbacks' national runner-up last season and didn't play in any of TCU's eight games during his two trips with the Horned Frogs.

Plunkett isn't likely to start any games this week, either. Arkansas starting catcher Casey Opitz has become one of the nation's best defensively. Plunkett started the Razorbacks' final game at the SEC Tournament last month, but his playing time in the NCAA postseason has been relegated to a single pinch-hit at-bat in the super regional.

"He's always maybe been the backup guy, but one thing about Plunk this year, he's kept a tremendous, tremendous attitude," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We had to talk a lot early in the season and he saw Casey evolve as such an incredible defensive catcher and leader. He took his role. The character he has shown by the way he has acted in the dugout, by coming to practice every day and working hard, it's been really fun to watch."

Beating SEC

Arkansas will be the third SEC team FSU is trying to beat in the NCAA Tournament.

The Seminoles, who were seeded third in the Athens (Ga.) Regional, beat Georgia twice to win the title, then beat LSU twice in a super regional in Baton Rouge to advance to the College World Series.

FSU Coach Mike Martin didn't brag about beating the SEC teams.

"They've beaten us like a drum for a few years," he said. "The Southeastern Conference is obviously a very strong conference in all sports, but we just happened to have a weekend at the University of Georgia in which everything went our way.

"When we went to LSU, we just seemed to get the hits when we needed to get them. We got outstanding pitching."

'Little DVH'

Will Bolt, an assistant coach at Texas A&M the previous five seasons who was an infielder team captain for Dave Van Horn's Nebraska teams that advanced to the College World Series in 2001 and 2002, was hired as the Cornhuskers' coach on Friday.

Because of his fiery demeanor, Bolt was jokingly referred to as "Little DVH" when he played at Nebraska.

"I knew that Will was going to be a coach probably a year or two after he started playing for us," Van Horn said. "He even talked to me about it [while a player] that he wanted to coach. A lot of times people would even compare him to me saying we looked alike, acted alike. I don't know if that's good or bad."

Sports on 06/15/2019

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