Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Razorback Baseball Notebook: Van Horn joins short list with third title
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is shown during a game against South Carolina on Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Fayetteville.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Saturday, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn became the 11th coach to win at least three SEC baseball championships in the regular season.
Arkansas shared this season’s SEC title with Florida after Vanderbilt beat the Razorbacks 7-6 on Saturday and the Gators beat Kentucky 5-2.
The Razorbacks and Gators both finished 20-10 in SEC play.
Van Horn, in his 21st season at Arkansas, also led the Razorbacks to SEC championships in 2004 and 2021. The 2004 team shared the championship with Georgia.
The 19 years between Van Horn’s first SEC championship and his latest is the third-longest stretch by an SEC coach.
Ron Polk won his first of four conference titles at Mississippi State in 1979 and won a fifth 22 years later at Georgia in 2001. Tilden Campbell’s nine SEC championships at Alabama spanned from 1935-55.
Other coaches who have won at least three regular-season SEC championships are: Skip Bertman at LSU (7 between 1986-97); Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida (6, 2010-23); Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt (4, 2007-19); Paul Mainieri, LSU (4, 2009-17); Paul Gregory, Mississippi State (4, 1965-71); Paul Nix, Auburn (4, 1963-78); Tom Swayze, Ole Miss (4, 1959-69); and Ray Tanner, South Carolina (3, 2000-11).
O’Sullivan and Corbin are current coaches.
It was Van Horn’s sixth regular-season championship in a Division I conference, dating to his time at Northwestern (La.) State, where he won the Southland Conference twice in three seasons from 1995-97. Van Horn also won a Big 12 regular-season championship at Nebraska in 2001.
Van Horn also coached conference tournament champions at Nebraska from 1999-2001 and Arkansas in 2021, meaning 8 of his 29 teams at the Division I level won either a conference regular-season or tournament title.
Van Horn coached the Razorbacks to a division championship for the seventh time. In addition to its conference championship seasons, Arkansas won the SEC West in 2007, 2011, 2018 and 2019.
Arkansas shortstop John Bolton missed Saturday’s game because of a left ankle injury he suffered making a catch of a fly ball in shallow center field while colliding with second baseman Peyton Holt in the eighth inning of Vanderbilt’s 10-8 victory on Friday night.
X-rays taken of Bolton’s ankle were negative and he has a sprain, coach Dave Van Horn said.
Van Horn said Bolton could miss the SEC Tournament and might not be ready to play again until an NCAA regional in two weeks.
Arkansas plays its SEC Tournament opener on Wednesday at Hoover, Ala., when the double-elimination portion starts after Tuesday’s first-round games.
“As of now I’d say he’s definitely not playing on Wednesday, Thursday, maybe not at all,” Van Horn said. “He should be ready in a while, though. A week or so. We’ll see.”
Van Horn said Bolton iced his ankle and kept it elevated while sitting in the dugout Saturday.
“They’re doing everything they can to accelerate [the healing process] and get that right,” Van Horn said of Bolton and trainer Corey Wood.
Harold Coll started at shortstop in place of Bolton and went 1 of 4 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Coll figures to be back in the lineup for the SEC Tournament.
“He played really good today. I thought he had some good at-bats and that was a big sac fly he had for us,” Van Horn said. “He works hard every day, takes his ground balls, does his work. I’m good with him. It’s fine.”
Saturday was Coll’s 16th start of the season and first since May 2 against Lipscomb. He made his eighth start in an SEC game.
Bolton, a transfer from Austin Peay, has been increasingly sure-handed, with a fielding percentage of .970 in SEC play. He has also improved his hitting from the nine hole in recent weeks.
Beginning with an April 27 game against Texas A&M, Bolton is 8 for 29 with 7 runs and 5 RBI in SEC play. His on-base percentage during that time is .432.
Arkansas junior left-hander Hunter Hollan had his shortest start of the season (22/3 innings) on Saturday after having his longest last Sunday with a complete-game performance in the Razorbacks’ 5-1 victory over South Carolina.
Hollan threw a season-low 55 pitches with 37 strikes against Vanderbilt. He had a season-high 113 pitches with 80 strikes against the Gamecocks.
In 14 starts, Hollan has gone at least five innings nine times.
Slavens stays hot
Arkansas senior first baseman Brady Slavens went 3 for 5 on Saturday and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
Slavens was 8 for 14 in the Vanderbilt series and during his hitting streak is 16 for 44 (.363) to raise his season average from .269 to .303.
“Season comes in waves,” Slavens said. “You’ve got to ride the wave when you’re doing well, and fight against it when you’re not. So feeling pretty good.”
Holt hot, too
Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt went 2 for 4 on Saturday to finish 7 for 11 in the series after going 6 for 10 against South Carolina last week.
Holt, a junior from Greenwood, has taken over as the starting second baseman with Peyton Stovall set to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
On every fly ball that went foul Saturday, Vanderbilt fans yelled, “Home run!”
It was meant to mock the umpires for their call of Jace Bohrofen’s home run during the first inning of Friday’s game. The home crowd thought the ball was foul down the right-field line. The call was upheld after a replay review.
After Arkansas was called for two balks during the Commodores’ decisive sixth inning Saturday, the large contingent of road fans yelled “Balk!” on every Vanderbilt pick-off move.
Arkansas and Florida are the first SEC teams to share a regular-season championship since Florida and LSU split the 2017 title with 21-9 records.
The Gators have split three of their six regular-season championships under coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Florida also split with South Carolina and Vanderbilt in 2011, and won outright in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Arkansas split the championship for the second time. The Razorbacks split with Georgia in 2004 when both teams went 19-11 — tied for the lowest number of victories by a league champion since the SEC expanded to a 30-game schedule in 1994.
LSU also won 19 games and won the league in 2012.
All three of Arkansas’ games in Nashville were played in under three hours.
Saturday’s game was the longest of the series with a game time of 2 hours, 54 minutes. The teams played in 2:35 on Thursday and 2:34 on Friday.
The Razorbacks’ last nine games have lasted less than three hours. Arkansas and South Carolina had game times that ranged from 2:08 to 2:34 last week in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks and Mississippi State played games that ranged from 2:25 to 2:59 earlier this month in Starkville, Miss.
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