Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
NCAA SUPER REGIONAL REPORT:
Van Horn gives buzz to Martin
Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin takes batting practice Friday, June 7, 2019, during practice in The Fowler Family Baseball and Track Training Center ahead of Saturday's NCAA Super Regional game at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin stepped into the batter's box inside the Fowler Center and asked his batting practice pitcher, Coach Dave Van Horn, not to throw inside to him.
"Why not?" Van Horn inquired.
Most victories by SEC head coaches
RK., COACH (SCHOOL) TOTAL
- Ron Polk (Miss. St., Georgia) 1218
- Skip Bertman (LSU) 870
- Mike Bianco (Ole Miss) 750
- Ray Tanner (South Carolina) 738
- Keith Madison (Kentucky) 735
- Tim Corbin (Vanderbilt) 733
- Rod Delmonico (Tennessee) 699
- Dave Van Horn (Arkansas) 687
- Hal Baird (Auburn) 634
- Jim Wells (Alabama) 626
Martin said he just didn't want inside pitches.
"Is that what you're going to tell [Will] Ethridge tomorrow?" Van Horn asked, referencing Ole Miss' starting right-hander for today's NCAA super regional.
After the chuckling, Van Horn threw the next pitch behind Martin's head, inciting even more laughter around the batting cage.
The Razorbacks looked loose on the eve of their best-of-three series against the Rebels to determine a place in the College World Series.
"Yeah, it was fun," Martin said. "You just have to stay loose, have a positive attitude."
Van Horn was still joking around about the exchange with Martin after the Razorbacks' indoor workout.
"Oh yeah, I can put it anywhere I want at any time I want once I get loose," he said. "We have fun out here. The team's loose. We're either gonna win or lose, right? And we're still playing. There's 16 teams. I hope it goes good. If it doesn't, it's been a great year. If not, we'll continue on."
Said Arkansas designated hitter Matt Goodheart: "You just have to remind yourself that it's baseball. You're here to have fun. Putting too much pressure on yourself just takes the fun out of it. You can't do that."
Head to head
Ole Miss has not only won its past two series at Baum-Walker Stadium, the Rebels also have enjoyed consistent success against the Razorbacks.
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco has a 37-24 edge in head-to-head meetings with Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn.
"He's done a great job," Van Horn said of Bianco. "They're always good. He's an outstanding coach. I have a lot of respect for him and their whole program. They've had our number ... the last four or five years. It's just trying to find a way to get through the weekend."
Bianco, the SEC's longest-tenured coach, surpassed former South Carolina coach Ray Tanner earlier this year to become the third-winningest coach in SEC history with his 739th victory, behind Ron Polk (1,218) and Skip Bertman (870).
Van Horn, tied with Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin with the second-longest current tenures in the SEC, has the eighth-most wins by an SEC coach with 687. He is 12 wins behind Tennessee's Rod Delmonico for seventh place.
Ole Miss left fielder Thomas Dillard was asked what he thought about playing at Baum-Walker Stadium.
"There's a little bit I like, and a little bit I hate out there with that Hog Pen," Dillard said. "Playing left field, I get about as much stuff as you can get out there.
"It's a cool atmosphere. Playing at a place like Mississippi State, our place, LSU, you know everything is really special. Every place has their own kind of niche that's really cool. The fans here are really special, and it looks like a Triple-A to a major-league ballpark, so playing here is really fun."
Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin broke an 0-for-20 skid with a single through the middle to trigger the Hogs' three-run first inning in their 6-0 victory over TCU in Sunday's regional championship game. He also hammered a line drive to center field in that game, but is still 1 for 22 going back to a 6-1 loss at Texas A&M on May 18.
"It was a better day than I've had in a long time," Martin said of his showing Sunday. "So I mean, even though it wasn't the best and I wasn't too happy with it, you've got to take the positives out and kind of build on that."
Martin was asked whether he's been anxious during his slump.
"I'll say I don't know, I just couldn't get a feel for my swing, was swinging at bad pitches and taking too many strikes," Martin said. "And I feel like it kind of got into my head, which of course baseball is a mental sport, obviously.
"For a little bit, I kind of felt sorry for myself. After that I was just like whatever, it's baseball, it's part of it. These guys we're facing are good. The competition isn't easy, obviously, which is why you come here to play baseball. So you've just got to kind of remember that. At the end of the day, we're winning and you've got to do what you've got to do to help the team win no matter what it is."
Ole Miss first baseman Cole Zabowski used the term "dude" to describe Arkansas right-hander Isaiah Campbell.
"He's good," Zabowski said. "He's 92 to 95, four pitches, and he can throw them all for strikes. Yeah, he's a legitimate dude, and he's going to be coming at us. We're going to have to game plan for him and stick to it, and really just keep doing what we've been doing."
Arkansas' Isaiah Campbell will be opposed by Ole Miss right-hander Will Ethridge (7-6, 2.91 ERA) in today's super regional opener.
Ethridge picked up the loss in a 5-3 setback against the Razorbacks and Campbell on March 29, allowing 4 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 in 5 innings. The Razorbacks scored in each of the first three innings.
"They put some pretty good swings on some of my bad pitches I made," Ethridge said. "I just think if I can limit those bad pitches I make and hit the corners with my fastball and keep my breaking ball down, I'll have the success I've had these past two weeks and get us a win on the mound."
Ethridge said keeping the crowd blocked out is critical.
"You can't really let them affect you out there on the mound, because once they get in your head, they're just not going to leave," he said.
Dave Van Horn did not clarify his starting pitching plan after ace Isaiah Campbell makes today's start in the super regional opener.
"No, we'll wait and see how it goes tomorrow, and then we'll make a decision on who we're going to pitch on Sunday," Van Horn said.
Freshman right-hander Connor Noland (3-4, 3.56 ERA) and freshman left-hander Patrick Wicklander (6-2, 4.29) are likely to be called on to start games 2 and 3, if needed.
"We're good," Wicklander said. "We just have to be ready to go when our name's called, basically. We've been pretty good at that this year."
Said Noland: "We just prepare like we're both going to throw on Sunday. I mean, you never know what's going to happen. You just have to be mentally ready to go out there and perform on the day you've got to pitch."
In or out?
Both teams practiced inside the Fowler Center on Friday as the middle infield at Baum-Walker Stadium was a little soggy after more than 3.25 inches of rain Thursday and Friday.
"We didn't practice on the field because the field is really muddy," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "It's basically at the shortstop/second base area.
"Today's practice is basically working on swinging the bat a little bit, turning some double plays. We can turn double plays a lot better in here on this stuff than we can playing around in the mud out there. We've practiced on our own field a lot this year. We kind of like it in here, honestly."
Ole Miss also practiced indoors, with Coach Mike Bianco saying his team had 60 games under its belt and was familiar with Baum-Walker Stadium.
Ole Miss has two Arkansas natives with second baseman Jacob Adams from Conway and left-handed pitcher Zack Phillips from Texarkana.
"I think it adds a little bit to it, obviously to be in your home state," Rebels Coach Mike Bianco said. "But I think most importantly, they're just happy we're in a super regional and they're continuing to play."
Adams, a left-handed hitter who figures to start today's game against righty Isaiah Campbell, is hitting .222 with 19 RBI in 53 games, including 43 starts.
"It'a always cool to get to come back to my home state and play in front of all my friends and family," Adams said. "I grew up around here and came to games. So it's awesome to get to be out there and compete on the other side."
Phillips (4-3, 5.19 ERA) could pitch out of the bullpen this weekend.
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz was asked what advice he would have for freshman pitchers Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander when they take the mound this weekend.
"Just kind of stay hooked up with me," Opitz said. "That's all I want them to worry about. If something goes crazy or something hits the fan, I just want them to look back in at me and I'm going to try to keep them as calm as possible, because they've got the stuff to keep us moving past these guys.
"As long as they stay under control and they don't let the fans get to them, and the moment, they're going to be fine."
Sports on 06/08/2019
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