Arkansas skipper Dave Van Horn may have the top rated team in the nation in a majority of the polls, but the head Hog is still in the process of mixing and matching his talented squad together two weeks before the start of SEC play.
In his heart of hearts, Van Horn may or may not be proud that his Razorbacks currently occupies the No. 1 spot in the polls, but he would never let his players or the media know either way.
He’s going to do his part to make sure that Arkansas’ ranking isn’t a distraction as he and his coaching staff work to find the best way to deploy his squad’s considerable amount of talent.
Next up for Razorback baseball
Opponent: vs. Murray State
When: 3 p.m. Friday, March 5
TV: SEC Network+
Saturday, March 6 – Murray State (1 p.m. SEC+)
Sunday, March 7 – Murray State (1 p.m. SEC+)
Van Horn said Thursday that’s he’s not mentioned the team’s ranking to the players and that he won’t as they get ready to host Murray State for a three-game series.
First pitch is at 3 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium. All three games are set to be televised on SEC Network + streaming channel.
Some roles are locked down tight like Casey Opitz at catcher if he is good to go after a collision last week in the Southeast Missouri series or Jalen Battles at shortstop, or Robert Moore at second base, or Christian Franklin at center field.
However, Van Horn has choices at other positions like first base, third base, and left field, where he is giving players to audition for starting roles. Van Horn wants players to step up and stakes their claim for starting roles at those positions. Play this weekend certainly will have a say in those deceions, one way or the other.
But, it is good to have a number of viable options to pick from instead of just having to plug a player into a role that he’s not suited or ready for. It’s best for players to win their role through their success on the field.
The Razorbacks will continue to look for their best options on the mound this series. Right-hander Peyton Pallette will start Friday’s game. He has 16 strikeouts on the year and has yet to surrender a run in 9 1/3 innings. Right-hander Caleb Bolden will open on the mound on Saturday, and lefty Lael Lockhart will get his third start in three weeks on Sunday.
The Razorbacks’ play individually and as a team this weekend should help Van Horn make some key decisions as the Hogs move another week closer to opening SEC play.