Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
No one with Arkansas baseball should be blamed
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn returns to the dugout, Saturday, June 5, 2021 during the sixth inning in the second game of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Check out nwaonline.com/210606Daily/ for the photo gallery.
It was inevitable.
In the world of perspiring arts, there are always a few who need a specific reason why a team lost.
Whether it is Little League or the World Series, those who need to blame usually find the easiest target to be the manager or coach.
In the aftermath of the University of Arkansas losing two games to No. 17 North Carolina State, 6-5 and 3-2, there have been some who called at least one of the many sports shows on KABZ, 103.7, The Buzz to point a finger at Dave Van Horn.
The hosts generally let them say their piece and then get them off the phone.
One of the two most heard criticisms are that Van Horn pitched Kevin Kopps too long.
This season, Kopps was the ironman pitcher for the Razorbacks in relief, and in my opinion, he earned the right to start what turned out to be the final game of the season.
Other than a couple of pitches, he was once again spectacular, and what pitcher hasn’t had a couple of pitches he wished he had thrown differently or not thrown.
The other major complaint was that the Hogs weren’t aggressive enough at the plate and looking for ways to get on base, instead of swinging for the fences.
First, Van Horn did not have a single at-bat in the three-game series, and second, this team won 50 games by hitting home runs, leading the nation in that statistic.
They were a team that hit the long ball, and yes, base hits were part of the strategy, but in the final game the Hogs were almost always a home run away from winning it.
In his 19 seasons with the Razorbacks Van Horn has led the Razorbacks to six College World Series and has a record of 750-402.
Looking for someone to blame is just part of what a coach endures, and Van Horn has always said he would rather any blame be aimed at him than his players.
For more than 50 years the Razorbacks baseball team has been good.
It started in 1970 when Norm DeBriyn was hired away from teaching driver’s education by Frank Broyles.
By his fourth season, the Hogs were in the NCAA Tournament and by 1979 a national power.
DeBriyn, one of nicest people on earth (and an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church), came up two runs short of winning the national championship in 1979 and the very few who were so disappointed they were unhappy probably blamed the coach, who blamed himself.
DeBriyn took the Razorbacks to four College World Series and retired from the Hogs with a 1,161-650-6 record.
He hand-picked Van Horn, a former player of his, to take his place, and then DeBriyn pulled off the greatest feat in his career: He stepped back.
He was always there, but he didn’t linger in the background or hang around in the shadows.
He let Van Horn have the team, and that was unselfish and great leadership on DeBriyn’s part.
He busied himself at the Razorback Foundation, and when Harold Horton became the president, he wasted no time in handing off his duties to DeBriyn, including football parking which is one of the toughest jobs at the Foundation.
Like Horton, DeBriyn handled it flawlessly.
In the last few years, the lack of success by the football and basketball teams has put baseball and its success in an even brighter spotlight.
Razorbacks fans were starved for some wins, and in the last five seasons the baseball team has gone 200-78 including last season’s covid-19 shortened schedule.
In the last 50 years, the Arkansas baseball team has averaged more than 38 wins a season, and while there have been some lows, there obviously have been a lot more highs.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.