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Going Deep with Nate Olson – June 5

Van Horn Makes Brilliant Pitching Change, Rotation Decision Next

One of the marks of a great baseball manager is mastering the art of a pitching change. Knowing when a pitcher has nothing left after a long start. Reading the matchups. Understanding when a starter just doesn’t have his best stuff that day.

It seems easy, but it’s not. Ask the likes of former Red Sox manager Grady Little. I screamed at the TV during the 2016 World Series when Cubs manager Joe Maddon rode Arlodis Chapman like a rented mule and nearly cost the Cubs the World Series (I still don’t know how Chapman made it through the 9th inning of Game 7 unscathed).

Pitching changes were key during the college baseball regionals last week. Florida State’s Mike Martin made a horrible decision and Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn rolled the dice and hit the jack pot.

Speaking of riding a rented mule. During a regional game with Mississippi State Saturday, Martin kept Drew Parish in the game to pitch the ninth inning after a 150-minute rain delay. Parish had thrown over 100 pitches but still Martin left him in the game. Mississippi State rallied for three runs and won the game on a walk-off home run. Just like that, Florida State’s season is over.

Much like when Maddon left Chapman in the game, this move defied the manager’s handbook. Almost no manager, or in this case coach, would go back to a starter who had thrown that many pitches after a long delay. Does FSU not have a closer? What a head scratcher, and the folks in Tallahassee will be talking about that for a long time.

Then, a day later in Fayetteville the opposite. Van Horn saw No. 3 sophomore starter Isaiah Campbell struggling mightily against Dallas Baptist in the regional final. Campbell walked the bases loaded in the opening frame on 13 pitches. It’s not an ideal situation to yank your starter in the first inning. If you polled managers/coaches on what to do here, it would be split. Even if you’re talking a postseason situation. However, not every team has he bullpen that Arkansas has. A bullpen that was fresh after two easy wins earlier in the weekend.

So, Van Horn brought in junior Jake Reindl. Brilliant move. Reindl escaped the inning with a 1-0 deficit and pitched through the seventh inning. Matt Cronin came on in the eighth to old off DBU 4-3.

Some may have stuck with Campbell fearing that if Arkansas didn’t win the game, he’d be unavailable for an elimination game on Monday. Sometimes you can’t worry about tomorrow and have to do what you can to adjust to the current situation. Van Horn didn’t want to risk the chance of Campbell giving up a grand slam and digging a big hole. It’s not an ideal spot for a reliever, even a long reliever, to enter the game, but it shows the confidence Van Horn has in Reindl.

When you are a great coach you understand your team. He knew Campbell probably wasn’t going to regain his composure or his stuff. He knew that Reindl could pitch deep into the game, and he knew if Reindl could escape with little damage the Hogs’ bats could pick up the slack. The entire scenario worked the way he envisioned when he walked to the mound to relieve Campbell.

Could this have gone terrible awry? Yes, and it could have cost them on Monday if things didn’t work out, but Campbell’s woes really didn’t give him much choice. Not necessarily a slam dunk, but Van Horn sensed a lot more risk waiting to see what Campbell would do.

When decisions like that work, those are the seasons you win big. Like the Cubs in 2016. You need breaks along the way to win in the postseason. Arkansas got one Sunday night. 

The question now is, what does this mean for this weekend’ Super Regional against SEC foe South Carolina? Did the early exit signal the end of Campbell’s starting role? Will Reindl take his spot? Hogs fans are hoping there won’t be a Game 3, and the way Blaine Knight and Kacey Murphy are pitching a sweep is possible. After what happened last week fans have faith that Van Horn will pull the right strings.

Going Deep with Nate Olson – May 31

Five Reasons Arkansas Will Win the College World Series

I know this headline alone made some of you cringe. Some maybe wouldn’t even read the column. I recall when I wrote a column predicting an Arkansas rout in the Liberty Bowl against K-State that comments ranged from me giving the Wildcats bulletin board material, to me jinxing the Hogs to making the Arkansas players over-confident reading it. No, I am not making this up. 

So, I write this knowing the paranoid portion of the fan base, which is more of you than you want to admit, will freak out in one way or another. I don’t really care. I’m not sure how you can watch this team and not expect a deep CWS run. The expectations have been high all season and have now hit a crescendo with a dominant regular season.

Below are five reasons the Hogs will win the CWS title.

  1. Home Field Advantage: Before a team wins in Omaha, they have to get there. Arkansas has only lost four times at Baum Stadium. Securing the No. 5 National Seed guarantees the Hogs will play at home for the first two weekends of postseason play. Baum has been ranked as the No. 1 college baseball venue. Fans will wait hours to get in and will pack every square inch of the place. For those that have seen a regional or Super Regional there, know the atmosphere is electric and imposing.

This regional field is a good one, and some pundits look to Dallas Baptist as a dark horse, but this is what the Razorbacks have played for all season to earn this right. I’d be very surprised if they don’t cruise right through both weekends with a capacity crowd fueling it.

  1. Pitching: I don’t care that junior Blaine Knight (2.78 ERA) was second team All-SEC, there isn’t any other pitcher in the country that is as clutch as Knight. He’s 10-0 and has beaten No. 1 National Seed Florida twice. Having Knight in the rotation, especially if the Hogs get to the Super Regionals, is big because he is as close to automatic as any hurler in Hogs history with his unblemished record.

Kacey Murphy (7-4, 3.15 ERA) has developed into a reliable No. 2 starter and Isiah Campbell (4-6, 4.01 ERA) has pitched well late in the season in a starting role. The bullpen is always important in the postseason, and the Hogs have a reliable one. Barrett Lohske has a 3.31 ERA in 22 relief appearances this season. Jake Reindl boats a 2.97 ERA in 21 appearances with five saves.  Closer Matt Cronin slams the door shut with a nasty fastball and 11 saves.

In a series, Knight and Murphy are capable enough to pitch in later innings to ensure the bullpen is fresh in case Campbell needs help. That’s a great luxury for Coach Dave Van Horn.

  1. Battle Tested: The Hogs played seven ranked teams this season, including six on the road. Critics pointed to the Hogs’ sub-.500 road record, but a majority of the losses came against ranked SEC teams. The SEC is brutal, and all of the teams that qualified for the tournament are better for it. The regular-season schedule will help all compete well against teams from lesser conferences, and it seems very likely that at least four SEC teams will make the CWS.
  2. A Potent Lineup: Arkansas has hitters 1 through 9. The team hits .299 and has belted 84 home runs. Four Hogs have hit more than 10 or more homers and four are hitting .325 or better. This lineup went from good to great with the emergence of freshmen Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin.

The top of the order is especially dangerous, but pitchers can’t really relax throughout the order. Arkansas is a threat to score runs in a hurry, and many times this year has given their stellar pitching staff early leads to help bolster confidence.

  1. Dave Van Horn: He’s the best coach of any sport on the Arkansas campus when you figure recruiting, winning big games and postseason appearances. He is also among the top college baseball skippers in the country. When it comes to big-game decisions and strategy fans can be confident Van Horn will push the right buttons. A CWS title would only cement his status as a legend at Arkansas and college baseball.

Pet of the Week – May 29

Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse presents



Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse presents Darby! Darby is a 6 year old absolutely adorable 25 lb mix breed. Her previous owner surrendered her to the shelter, and we don’t know why they were no longer able to care for her, but we do know that Darby isn’t holding any grudges, and she’s ready to be someone’s new best friend ASAP!

Don’t let that little grey muzzle fool you! Darby still has plenty of spunk left! She’d be keen to go on adventures if you’re up to it, and she’s great on a leash too! 
She let us know that belly rubs are her favorites, and she sure as all heck appears to be house trained!

Since Darby is already spayed, she’s available right away, so you can take her home TODAY! Y’all could be chillin’ and Netflixing together tonight!
Just $90 covers all of her fees, including her shots and her city license.

To inquire about Darby call 376-3067 and ask about Pet ID # 47351.

The Little Rock Animal Village is at 4500 Kramer Street off South University, right behind Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse. The Village is full of wonderful dogs, puppies, cats, and OODLES of kittens, all waiting for homes today!

Thank you so much to Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Malvern for helping The Little Rock Animal Village save homeless pets like Darby!