Isaiah Campbell, Arkansas

Arkansas RHP Isaiah Campbell is making big waves this fall. (Arkansas photo)

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Fall Report: Arkansas

Analysis

Arkansas has been one of the nation’s most consistent programs under the direction of long-time head coach Dave Van Horn. In all, the Hogs had reached the NCAA postseason 14-straight seasons before hitting a snag this past spring.

ArkansasLogo90X90The Razorbacks didn’t look like their usual selves after the first few weeks and Van Horn knew it. The Hogs started the season with a bang, beginning the year with an 8-0 record and earning much recognition for their performance at the Shriner’s Houston College Classic. There, the Hogs continued their hot start by sweeping through Rice, Houston and Texas Tech.

Make no mistake, Van Horn was happy to start the season in such torrid fashion. However, he thought something was missing from a team approach standpoint after that 3-0 showing in Houston, and his hunch proved to be right as the season progressed and the Hogs ended the year with a 26-29 overall record and no postseason berth.

“Last season was definitely a roller coaster. We started out 8-0, played three really good teams at Minute Maid and I can remember telling the team after that win that I hoped that wasn’t going to be the highlight of their season,” Van Horn said. “Our guys seemed really excited and they seemed to be celebrate a little more than I am used to. I didn’t want that to be the best thing about our team, and I felt like that wasn’t usually the way our teams handled things.

“Usually, we kind of build our emotions up but also keep them in tact,” he continued. “Having that approach and keeping emotions in check had allowed us in the past to play well down the stretch and find our way to Omaha when a few people didn’t think we’d get there.”

That optimal approach that Van Horn aspired for never arrived last season. The Hogs were inconsistent throughout the year, getting swept by South Carolina to begin SEC play before also getting swept by Ole Miss and Florida. Arkansas seemed to potentially turn a corner in the series opener against then No. 2 Texas A&M in Fayetteville. The Hogs won the opener 9-5 and seemed to be in good position to win Game Two and the series. If you remember, the Hogs turned the tide in 2015 by taking two of three from the Aggies on the road. At any rate, A&M ended up winning that Game Two 11-8 and the Aggies cruised to a 6-2 victory in the series finale. Just a week later, the Hogs simply couldn’t get anything to go their way in a tough series at LSU.

It was just an uncharacteristic year for Van Horn’s Hogs. Arkansas typically had impressive weekend rotations. Yet, last season, no full-time weekend starter had an earned-run average below five and even All-American righthander Zach Jackson had a season to forget with an ERA north of five. The same inconsistencies were found on the offensive side of things.

Though we won’t get a 100-percent accurate snapshot of this team until they start playing other teams in February, the prognosis for the 2017 Hogs looks promising as fall workouts come to a close in Fayetteville. The Hogs appear to have a two-headed monster in the weekend rotation in righthanders Isaiah Campbell and Blaine Knight, while newcomers galore will help both on the back-end of the bullpen and from a positional standpoint.

“I think this team could really surprise some people. We’re a work in progress and we’re going to need some of these younger guys to contribute. We were embarrassed last year and our guys came in and worked really hard this fall,” he said. “This was a very challenging fall for our team and all the guys were competitive. I’ll say this about the team: We’ll be a lot more competitive.”

It’s time to take an in-depth look at the Hogs this fall with scoop, notes and more.


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