FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn had a half-fun, half-serious take about being picked to win the SEC West baseball title by his coaching peers Thursday.
"I appreciate it," Van Horn said. "I think there's a couple of things going on there. No. 1, they don't want the pressure on them. And No. 2, they think we have a pretty good team."
At a glance
SEC Coaches poll
The Arkansas Razorbacks were picked to win the SEC West in voting by league coaches released Thursday. A look at the polling in both SEC divisions:
Arkansas (12) 90
Texas A&M (1) 72
Ole Miss (1) 62
Miss. State 44
Florida (13) 91
Kentucky (1) 74
South Carolina 50
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
SEC champion Florida (12), Arkansas (1), Texas A&M (1)
The Razorbacks polled 18 points higher than Texas A&M in the voting and were the No. 2 pick to win the overall SEC championship behind preseason No. 1 Florida, the defending College World Series champion.
The Gators had 12 first-place votes to one each for Arkansas and Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks are ranked in the top 10 of several preseason polls, including No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
"They know that they've got a little bull's eye on them," Van Horn said. "It's going to start on opening weekend, but it's really going to intensify when we head to the West Coast. Because everyone of those teams, if they win one game in that tournament they want it to be against us. "
The anticipation for the Razorbacks' season, which starts Feb. 16 against Bucknell, was evident by the overflow crowd for Van Horn's appearance Thursday at the first meeting of the Swatter's Club at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Van Horn lightheartedly asked the fans to applaud the job he did in compiling the team's brutal schedule.
After the clapping died down, he replied, "It looked good when it was on paper, but now that the reality has hit, I can't sleep at night."
Van Horn indicated junior Keaton McKinney, who is coming off two injury plagued seasons since his starting role as a freshman in Arkansas' College World Series appearance in 2015, is likely to join junior Blaine Knight and sophomore Isaiah Campbell in the starting rotation next weekend. McKinney was scheduled to throw in Thursday's scrimmage as a final gauge on his readiness.
"McKinney's throwing today in just a little bit and if it goes well and he feels good ... I mean his velocity is 90-93," Van Horn said. "He didn't throw that hard as a freshman.
"His change-up is really good. If he throws his fastball for a strike, and he's got a better curveball ... The situation would be we'd start him because we don't want to bring him out of the pen right now, up and down, warming up. He might only go three innings. But if anybody deserves a start it would be Keaton."
Knight (8-4, 3.28 ERA) served as co-ace with the departed Trevor Stephan last season, splitting time between Friday and Saturday starts. Campbell, slated for a starting role on weekends, made only one appearance before being shelved and eventually undergoing surgery to remove 13 bone spurs from his right elbow.
Van Horn said he would like to use as many pitchers as possible during the opening weekend in advance of the Razorbacks heading west for four games in San Diego, three in the Tony Gwynn Classic.
"We'd like to throw as many guys as we can, just to gain a little experience before we head out to the San Diego area and playing four really good teams," he said. "Bottom line is we're going to try to win the games, so the score and how we're playing will determine that."
Sports on 02/09/2018
Print Headline: Poll: Van Horn's Hogs tops in West