Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Razorback Baseball Notebook:
Van Horn moves into 5th on SEC wins list
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is shown during a game against LSU on April 30, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.
Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn moved into fifth place for most victories by an SEC baseball coach Sunday.
The Razorbacks’ 3-2 victory at Tennessee was the 739th win during Van Horn’s 19 seasons at Arkansas. Van Horn passed former South Carolina coach Ray Tanner, who won 738 games from 1997-2012.
Van Horn passed former Kentucky coach Keith Madison (1979-2003) for sixth place with his 736th in last week’s series finale against Georgia.
He passed former Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico (1990-2007) with his 700th victory in the final game before the 2020 season was shut down due to the covid-19 outbreak.
Van Horn is the third active coach to join the SEC’s top five, along with Ole Miss’ Mike Bianco and Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin. Bianco has won 803 games in 21 seasons at Ole Miss, and Corbin has won 789 games in 19 seasons at Vanderbilt.
Former Mississippi State and Georgia coach Ron Polk is the SEC’s winningest coach with 1,218 victories in 31 seasons between 1976-2008. Former LSU coach Skip Bertman ranks second with 870 wins between 1984-2001.
The SEC list only takes into account wins while coaching a team in the conference. Van Horn has 1,059 career wins as a Division I coach, counting his time at Arkansas, five seasons Nebraska and three seasons at Northwestern (La.) State.
He also won 51 games and the Division II national championship during one season at Central Missouri State in 1994, and won 214 games during five seasons as a junior college coach in Texarkana from 1989-93.
Arkansas takes SEC lead
Arkansas will enter the final week of the regular season with sole possession of the lead in the SEC standings.
The Razorbacks (39-10, 19-8 SEC) regained the top spot with their victory over the Volunteers (39-13, 18-9) on Sunday. The teams were tied for the SEC lead going into the game.
Afterward, Van Horn said he was more focused on winning the SEC West. Arkansas can claim at least a share of the division title with one victory during its three-game series against Florida that is scheduled to begin Thursday in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks have a two-game lead over Mississippi State (17-10 SEC) in the SEC West standings, and Arkansas owns the head-to-head tiebreaker because it swept Mississippi State in March.
“We don’t play everybody in the East. I want to win the West. We play everybody in the West. We went 13-5 against the West,” Van Horn said. “If we win the overall, that’s awesome, but let’s win the West….That’s the way we look at it.
“I haven’t talked to the team one time about winning the championship. They know. They know where we’re at and they want to win. They play hard.
“But we’re in a good position. We’re right where we want to be. We’re at the top of the standings going into the last week.”
Mississippi State lost two of three games at home this weekend to Missouri, the last place team in the SEC. The Bulldogs entered the series one game behind Arkansas.
Mississippi State finishes the regular season with a three-game series at Alabama.
Ole Miss (16-11) is also mathematically eligible to tie for the division title following its series win over Vanderbilt. The Rebels would have to win their final three games at Georgia to have any chance of sharing the division, and would need help from Florida and Alabama on the final weekend.
Arkansas’ path to winning the SEC overall title includes several scenarios, the easiest of which is for the Razorbacks to win their series with Florida. A series win would guarantee the Razorbacks at least a share of the overall championship, and Arkansas would win outright with a sweep.
“The ball’s kind of in our court,” second baseman Robert Moore said. “We kind of control our own destiny with all that.
“As long as we play one game at a time, we know at the end of the year it’s going to work out for us with the way that we’re rolling and the way we’re hitting and pitching and playing defense. Hopefully we can finish it, but we’ve done an unbelievable job getting to this point, putting us in this position to take control of the West and hopefully the overall SEC.”
Tennessee, Vanderbilt (17-9) and Florida (17-10) are also in contention for the conference crown.
Arkansas has won the SEC championship twice, but not since 2004. The Razorbacks have won the SEC West six times, including in 2018 and 2019.
Mississippi State 17-10
Ole Miss 16-11
Week 10 schedule
Florida at Arkansas
Tennessee at South Carolina
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
Mississippi State at Alabama
Ole Miss at Georgia
LSU at Texas A&M
Auburn at Missouri
Arkansas didn’t take the lead until the eighth inning of either of its wins at Tennessee.
Brady Slavens doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Robert Moore to give the Razorbacks the lead in the eighth inning Friday, and Zack Gregory doubled to score Casey Opitz after Opitz drew a leadoff walk in the eighth Sunday.
Opitz’s run gave Arkansas a 2-1 lead. The Razorbacks tied the game an inning earlier.
It was the 11th time this season Arkansas scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later. Six of those wins were over Texas Tech, TCU, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss and Tennessee (twice) — teams that were among 20 announced by the NCAA as potential regional hosts.
Arkansas finished the regular season with a 13-5 record in six road series, and a 16-5 record in all games away from home.
The Razorbacks won series at Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee. Of that group, only LSU is not among the teams being considered to host a regional.
Arkansas opened the season with neutral-site victories over Texas Tech, Texas and TCU — teams that are also in the mix for a regional host.
The about face on the road comes three years after the Razorbacks failed to win a road series during their national runner-up campaign in 2018.
Kopps comes close
Arkansas reliever Kevin Kopps allowed a two-out run in the ninth inning Sunday, which snapped a streak of 28 consecutive scoreless innings.
Kopps was one inning shy of tying the school record of 29 consecutive scoreless innings, which was set by David Walling, a starter, in 1998.
Kopps’ previous run allowed came during an April 17 game against Texas A&M when Brett Minnich hit a home run off the right hander to lead off the seventh inning.
Kopps had an earlier streak of 19 2/3 innings without allowing a run this season. His ERA of 0.68 is the best in the NCAA, and his SEC-only ERA is 0.58.
Lockhart run support
As has been the case several times this season, Arkansas did not provide run support for left hander Lael Lockhart on Sunday.
Lockhart left the game in the fifth inning with the game scoreless. The Vols scored a run later in the inning to take a 1-0 lead.
It was the second time this season Lockhart pitched into the fifth inning of a scoreless game. He also did so at Louisiana Tech on March 14, and he pitched during games against Alabama on March 21 and Mississippi State on March 28 that were scoreless going into the fourth inning.
Lockhart, who struck out seven and allowed four hits in 4 1/3 innings, had his second strong outing in less than a week. He pitched two scoreless innings against Arkansas State last Tuesday.
Prior to the Arkansas State outing, Lockhart had struggled, including a 1/3-inning start at LSU on May 1 when he allowed three runs.
“It was good to see him bounce back,” Van Horn said. “We’re going to need him down the stretch.”
9 series wins
Arkansas won nine SEC series for the first time and became the third SEC team to win its first nine series in a season.
Vanderbilt in 2013 and Florida in 2018 were the first SEC teams to win their first nine series. The 2013 Commodores are the only SEC team to win all of their conference series.
The Razorbacks’ record for SEC series wins was previously eight, set most recently in 2015 when Arkansas won its final eight series after a 1-5 start against Vanderbilt and LSU.
“I’ve been there,” said Tennessee coach Tony Vitello, an Arkansas assistant for four seasons from 2014-17. “They approach every series the same way, and then it’s up to our guys to match what they have going on.”
Arkansas also won eight series during its 1999 SEC championship campaign.
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