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Same expectations: Arkansas opens regional with Santa Clara

by Tom Murphy | May 30, 2023 at 7:31 a.m.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn (center) talks to his team during warmups, Thursday, May 25, 2023, before the Razorbacks’ game against the LSU Tigers at the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex in Hoover, Ala. Visit for today's photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas baseball Coach Dave Van Horn made sure he didn't take earning the No. 3 NCAA national seed and hosting at Baum-Walker Stadium right through to the College World Series for granted in his talk to the Razorbacks on Monday.

"For some it seems like it's just what we do, but it's really hard to get here," Van Horn said on a video conference. "And I made sure the players heard that from my mouth and I think the other coaches chimed in a little bit as well."

The NCAA selection committee slotted the University of Arkansas (41-16) at No. 3 and paired the Razorbacks against West Conference Conference Tournament champion Santa Clara (35-18) in the first round.

The Razorbacks will face the Broncos at 2 p.m. on Friday, followed by TCU (37-22) vs. Arizona (33-24) at 8 p.m. in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional.

Arkansas will host a regional for the 10th time in school history and the fifth time in the past six NCAA Tournaments.

The Razorbacks persevered through a succession of injuries to pitchers and hitters to share the SEC regular-season championship with Florida at 20-10.

"We've had a lot of things happen to us this season as far as injuries and sickness," Van Horn said. "Other teams have as well, but it just seemed like ours hit all kind of at the same time and our players found a way to get through it."

ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson said on the NCAA Selection Show the Razorbacks simply did what they do under Van Horn, the SEC coach of the year.

"They're so consistent," Peterson said. "I think the most impressive thing for Arkansas this year is the way they've done it. They've battled through a ton of injuries and still wind up in the same spot they are every year."

The Razorbacks have advanced out of home regionals five out of eight times under Van Horn, including the past three in a row in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

The NCAA Fayetteville Regional is paired with the NCAA Terre Haute (Ind.) Regional hosted by No. 14 national seed Indiana State.

The Razorbacks had a day of recovery Sunday after being eliminated from the SEC Tournament with Saturday's 5-4 loss to Texas A&M. That capped an 11-day road trip for the Hogs, who left on May 17 for a three-game set at Vanderbilt. Arkansas has played four consecutive one-run games and five in a row decided by two runs or less as a solid prelude to the NCAAs.

"I think that mentally we're in a good place," Van Horn said. "We went 3-3 against some really, really good teams on the road. We did what we needed to do to get where we are today.

"I hope they take a little time to sit back and realize what a good season we've had and that we've put ourselves in position to play here as long as we win. But I think the mood's good."

Van Horn said he and the coaching staff would do extensive scouting and research on Santa Clara, Arizona and TCU before settling on a starting pitcher for the opener. Left-handers Hunter Hollan (8-2, 4.06 ERA) and Hagen Smith (8-1, 2.69), who combined for a 5-4 win over No. 3 LSU last Friday, would be the most likely choices on full rest. However, Van Horn said right-hander Brady Tygart (2-1, 3.20), who started and threw 64 pitches in the 5-4 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, could also be a possibility on five day's rest.

Santa Clara, under sixth-year Coach Rusty Filter, enters its first NCAA Tournament since 1997 on an eight-game winning streak. The Broncos tied for second in the WCC with Portland and San Diego with 17-10 records behind Loyola-Marymount (21-6) then outscored opponents 42-8 at the conference tournament in Las Vegas, including a 6-0 wipeout of Portland in the title game.

"I know that they're a champion," Van Horn said. "They won something. They're a championship team. We'll look into them right now."

The Razorbacks have a long history with the Horned Frogs with a 48-20 edge in the series since 1960, including an 18-6 loss in the second game of the season at the College Baseball Showdown on Feb. 18 at Arlington, Texas.

Arkansas would like to get some of its top-of-the-order bats back in gear as the lineup tries to settle back in with the recent returns of outfielders Tavian Josenberger (.290, 7 home runs, 28 RBI) and Jared Wegner (.308, 13, 48) from injuries.

Josenberger hit over .300 for the bulk of the season but is 4 for 30 (.133) since his return three weeks ago. Wegner is 2 for 22 (.090) with a home run in six games since returning from a broken thumb.

Additionally, right fielder Jace Bohrofen (.318, 14, 48) is in a 3-for-37 skid (.081) in the past 9 games after carrying the Razorbacks for a lengthy stretch.

"They need to mentally clear their head, try not to do too much, because I think that's what's going on a little bit with some of those guys," Van Horn said without naming a player. "They're swinging a little too hard, a little too aggressively or swinging at pitches they normally don't swing at and gotten themselves behind in the count.

"Sometimes just a day or two off can help that a lot and then some instruction. But really more just going back to what they normally do and that's staying within kind of the pass-the-baton mentality, just do what you can do and let the next guy do what he does. It's called a team, it's team offense, and if we do that, we'll have a good weekend. If we don't, it's going be a fight."

NCAA Fayetteville Regional

Santa Clara at No. 3 Arkansas

WHEN Friday, 2 p.m.

WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium Fayetteville

RECORDS Santa Clara 35-18; Arkansas 41-16, 20-10

TV None

RADIO Razorback Sports Network



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