Bright future: Hogs looking ahead after CWS loss

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz walks toward the dugout during a College World Series game against Texas Tech on Monday, June 17, 2019, in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz walks toward the dugout during a College World Series game against Texas Tech on Monday, June 17, 2019, in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. -- When Florida State's season ends, with a national championship or a loss, Arkansas' Dave Van Horn will become the active coach with the most College World Series appearances.

Seminoles Coach Mike Martin, who is making his 17th CWS appearance, is retiring at the end of the season at age 75.

Van Horn just completed his 17th season as the University of Arkansas coach with his eighth CWS appearance, two at Nebraska and six with the Razorbacks.

The Razorbacks (46-20) ended their season with a 5-4 loss to Texas Tech on Monday at TD Ameritrade Park -- the promised land for every college baseball team -- after opening with a 1-0 loss to Florida State.

Van Horn, 58, is confident he'll have Arkansas back in Omaha after three appearances in the past five years.

"I know I've got some more in me," he said. "We're already working hard to get back here. We'll be on the phone [Monday] evening, trying to secure a player or two.

"It may not be next year. It may not be the year after. But it'll come again."

Van Horn led Nebraska to its only CWS appearances in 2001 and 2002 before taking the Arkansas job, He has led Arkansas to its first back-to-back appearances.

Is three in a row realistic?

"I would say it's realistic," Van Horn said. "You have to be good. You've got to be a little lucky and you've got to be playing well at the right time."

The Razorbacks are expected to lose six juniors selected in the Major League Draft -- All-American pitchers Isaiah Campbell and Matt Cronin, center fielder Dominic Fletcher, second baseman Jack Kenley and pitchers Jacob Kostyshock and Cody Scroggins -- and first baseman Trevor Ezell was a senior.

Right fielder Heston Kjerstad and shorstop Casey Martin will be three-year starters next season and will lead the returnees along with catcher Casey Opitz and designated hitter Matt Goodheart.

Kjerstad and Martin said they're confident Arkansas can advance to Omaha again next season.

"I mean, honestly this program that we run at Fayetteville, I don't see why not," Martin said. "Coach has done an outstanding job recruiting. We have a lot of good young talent coming in. I think our program is good enough for it."

Kjerstad said Arkansas should be a perennial CWS contender.

"Our program is never out of the running," he said. "You've just got to keep playing and we'll get back after it in the fall and improve and be back in the spring."

Among the the top 16 national seeds who lost regionals at home were No. 3 Georgia Tech, No. 4 Georgia, No. 15 West Virginia and No. 16 Oregon State, the defending national champion which beat Arkansas last season in the CWS finals.

UCLA, the No. 1 overall seed, lost its super regional to Michigan. Also losing super regionals at home were LSU to Florida State and North Carolina to Auburn.

"It's awfully hard to get here," Van Horn said. "There are some really good teams that aren't here.

"But you've got to earn yourself a spot in a regional, so you have an opportunity. There are some teams that started really well this year that faded. They didn't make regionals. Some teams that were ranked all year, they didn't get out of their regional.

"So you've got to have some things go your way. It's a mindset. You've got to have a lot of want-to. But you have to be awfully good as well."

Arkansas, the No. 5 national seed, got strong contributions from freshmen with Christian Franklin starting in left field, Jacob Nesbit at third base and Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander earning spots in the starting rotation. Outfielder Curtis Washington Jr. also got significant playing time.

The top newcomers include outfielder Chet Allison from Fresno City College and high school signees Jason Hodges, an outfielder from Chicago, and Jesse Pierce, an infielder from Las Vegas.

Arkansas signed the top in-state high school players in right-handed pitcher Blake Adams from Springdale Har-Ber, left-handed pitcher Zack Morris from Cabot and catcher Cason Tollett from Little Rock Christian Academy.

"I feel good about the guys coming back. I feel good about the guys coming in," Van Horn said. "I think there are some good freshmen that should be able to contribute and help us out.

"A couple of position players might be able to get in that starting lineup. I feel like there are some pitchers that are for sure going to work out of that bullpen, and maybe even get in the rotation. Because we've proven this year that freshmen can pitch and they can win at this level."

Van Horn said Arkansas isn't finished recruiting for 2020.

"We're still out looking at some guys," he said. "We've got to get our roster squared away. Make sure that everything jells when we get everybody back to school in August."

Fletcher was the only position player to start in the same spot this season as he did in 2018 with Kjerstad moving from left to right field and Martin moving from third base to shortstop. Campbell went from being the No. 3 starter to No. 1.

"We had a spectacular year getting back here for the second year in a row," Kjerstad said. "It shows a lot about the guys that came in and replaced a lot of starters we had from last season.

"It took everyone on our whole roster to get us here. We'll look back on the season and realize how good we were, how good of an experience we had. But for now, it's obviously a little bitter once the season is over."

Arkansas was picked to finish third in the SEC West in a preseason coaches' poll behind LSU and Ole Miss. The Razorbacks shared the division title with Mississippi State with a 20-10 record -- their most SEC victories during Van Horn's tenure -- and they beat LSU in a regular-season series for the first time since 2011 and beat Ole Miss in a super regional.

"It's tough when you start fall ball and there probably aren't a lot of expectations out and about, but there were in our locker room," Van Horn said. "We thought that we'd compete and then we needed to get better, and we did."

Van Horn said the Razorbacks developed into one of the best teams he's coached.

"Because it was a true team," he said. "Might not have been the most talented team. Fairly young.

"But it took advantage of just about every break it got all year and got a lot of wins. Honestly, we had a lot of fun. It was fun being around these guys."

At a glance



Feb. 16 E. Illinois W, 15-7

Feb. 16 E. Illinois W, 12-3

Feb. 17 E. Illinois W, 3-2

Feb. 21 at Southern Cal W, 6-3

Feb. 22 at Southern Cal W, 8-6

Feb. 23 at Southern Cal L, 6-4 (10)

Feb. 27 Memphis W, 10-3

Mar. 1 Stony Brook W, 3-1

Mar. 2 Stony Brook W, 4-3

Mar. 3 Stony Brook W, 15-7

Mar. 6 UNC Charlotte W, 9-2

Mar. 8 Louisiana Tech W, 4-2

Mar. 9 Louisiana Tech L, 12-7

Mar. 10 Louisiana Tech W, 11-0

Mar. 12 W. Illinois W, 8-0

Mar. 13 W. Illinois W, 11-1 (8)

Mar. 15 Missouri* W, 2-0

Mar. 16 Missouri* W, 4-3

Mar. 17 Missouri* W, 3-2

Mar. 19 at Texas W, 11-4

Mar. 20 at Texas L, 7-6

Mar. 22 at Alabama* W, 12-3

Mar. 23 at Alabama* L, 10-0

Mar. 24 at Alabama* W, 10-2

Mar. 26 at Missouri State W, 8-2

Mar. 29 Mississippi* W, 5-3

Mar. 30 Mississippi* L, 4-3

Mar. 31 Mississippi* L, 10-5

Apr. 2 UALR L, 17-7

Apr. 5 at Auburn* L, 6-3

Apr. 5 at Auburn* W, 9-5 (15)

Apr. 6 at Auburn* W, 8-0

Apr. 9 Oral Roberts W, 15-8

Apr. 12 at Vanderbilt* L, 3-2

Apr. 13 at Vanderbilt* L, 12-2

Apr. 14 at Vanderbilt* W, 14-12


Apr. 16 UAPB W, 16-4 (7)

Apr. 18 Mississippi State* W, 5-3

Apr. 19 Mississippi State* W, 12-5

Apr. 20 Mississippi State* W, 10-2

Apr. 23 NW (La.) State W, 19-2

Apr. 24 NW (La.) State L, 10-7

Apr. 26 Tennessee* W, 11-9

Apr. 27 Tennessee* W, 15-3

Apr. 28 Tennessee* W, 4-3 (10)

Apr. 30 Grambling State# W, 17-3

May 3 at Kentucky* W, 5-2

May 5 at Kentucky* W, 9-1

May 5 at Kentucky* L, 4-3

May 9 LSU* W, 14-4

May 10 LSU* W, 11-6

May 11 LSU* L, 3-2

May 16 at Texas A&M* W, 7-3

May 17 at Texas A&M* L, 6-2

May 18 at Texas A&M* L, 6-1

May 22 Mississippi% W, 5-3

May 23 Georgia% L, 3-1

May 24 Mississippi% L, 3-2

May 31 Cent. Conn. St.^ W, 11-5

June 1 TCU^ W, 3-1

June 2 TCU^ W, 6-0

June 8 Mississippi^ W, 11-2

June 9 Mississippi^ L, 13-5

June 10 Mississippi^ W, 14-1

June 15 Florida State+ L, 1-0

June 17 Texas Tech+ L, 5-4

*SEC Game

#at Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock

%at SEC Tournament, Hoover, Ala.

^NCAA Tournament game

+at College World Series, Omaha, Neb.

At a glance


At TD Ameritrade Park

Omaha, Neb.

All times Central

(Double elimination; x-if necessary)

Saturday, June 15

Michigan 5, Texas Tech 3

Florida State 1, Arkansas 0

Sunday, June 16

Vanderbilt 3, Louisville 1

Mississippi State 5, Auburn 4

Monday's games

Texas Tech 5, Arkansas 4

Arkansas eliminated

Michigan 2, Florida State 0

Tuesday's game

Game 7 Louisville (49-17) vs. Auburn (38-27), susp., rain

Game suspended in fifth inning -- Louisville leads 4-1

Today's games

Game 7 Louisville (49-17) vs. Auburn (38-37), 11 a.m.

Game 8 Vanderbilt (55-11) vs. Mississippi State (52-13), 1 p.m.

Game 9 Texas Tech (45-19) vs. Florida State (42-22), 6 p.m.

Thursday's game

Game 10 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 7 p.m.

Friday's games

Game 11 Michigan (47-20) vs. Game 9 winner, 1 p.m.

Game 12 Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m.

Saturday's games

x-Game 13 Michigan vs. Game 9 winner, 1 p.m.

x-Game 14 Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m.

Championship Series


Monday, June 24 Teams TBD, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, June 25 Teams TBD, 6 p.m.

x-Wednesday, June 26 Teams TBD, 6 p.m.

Sports on 06/19/2019


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