FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn threw his own curveball Thursday regarding the No. 6 Razorbacks’ pitching plans for their SEC series opener against Auburn today at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Van Horn said left-hander Hunter Hollan (3-0, 2.18 ERA) would start the opener, with the first pitch now at 4 p.m. due to weather concerns, while Friday normal ace Hagen Smith was a wild card pitcher over the weekend would be .
Van Horn said Smith (3-0, 1.40) is feeling “better than ever” and could fill any number of roles over the weekend, including Sunday starter, if necessary, for the Razorbacks (15-2), who Won 10 games in a row.
“Wild card, closer, long reliefer, finisher, whatever you want to say,” said Van Horn, describing how Smith could work against the Tigers (13-3-1). “Good pitcher in the bullpen. His numbers are great. He knows how to do it. He just wants to help the team win in every role and I appreciate that.”
Smith worked in a similar role as a freshman in the postseason last year.
Hollan begins a four-day hiatus after throwing 77 pitches in a 15-6 win by Louisiana Tech. Van Horn said he and pitching coach Matt Hobbs made the decision to pull Hollan off a little early in view of the weekend schedule against Auburn.
“He actually likes to throw for shorter breaks,” said Van Horn. “He’s told us that many times, so I feel good about it.”
Hollan will take on 6-foot left-hander Tommy Vail (2-0, 0.63 ERA), who went 12-innings with a one-inning opener from midweek to weekend starters in Tuesday’s 12-11 win over Georgia Tech changed.
Arkansas junior Will McEntire (3-0, 3.48), who hit a three-hit jewel in a 6-1 win over Louisiana Tech, is selected for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game against the 6-3 freshman Left-hander Zach Crotchfelt (0-0, 4.41). Both teams left their Sunday starters in the air.
Auburn coach Butch Thompson noted that this will be the Tigers’ first real road trip after he dubbed a “switcheroo” that brought Southern Cal to Auburn on Feb. 24-26 in a series originally slated for Los Angeles .
Arkansas took two out of three games from the Tigers last season in Auburn, Alabama, and then eliminated them from the College World Series with an 11-1 win.
“A good start, playing in a competitive environment, cold temperatures, all those things you’re trying to prepare a team for,” Thompson said of the Fayetteville challenge. “It will be good to see how we fare. This team finished our season in Omaha last year so it will be good to work with them again.”
The Tigers have three of the hottest hitters in Division I in first baseman Ike Irish (.465, 17 RBI), shortstop Cole Foster (.442, 2 HR, 17 RBI) and third baseman Bryson Ware (.435, 7, 21). Ranked 18th. , 38th and 48th in the nation, each in batting average.
Arkansas has six regulars batting over .313s, led by Jace Bohrofen (.436, 5, 17) and Jared Wegner (.387, 8, 29) and part-time starters Harold Coll (.333, 1, 6) and Peyton Holt (.333, 1, 5). Coll went 5 for 9 with 5 RBI in a two game sweep of UNLV this week.
“I thought [Coll] played great,” said Van Horn. “He swings the bat. I guess I’ll probably put it in there.”
Wegner will carry into the series a 10-game hit streak, the longest by a Razorback this season, while Bohrofen has hit in eight straight hits and designated hitter Kendall Diggs (.333, 6, 20) in six straight hits.
Hogs infielders Peyton Stovall (.345, 3, 15), Holt and Caleb Cali are struggling with sore muscles and various notches, leaving outfielders Bohrofen, Wegner and Tavian Josenberger (.333, 2, 10) and the first baseman Brady Slavens (.313, 1, 13) have borne much of the offensive load lately.
“In the video I watched, it looks like … big arms, lots of left-handed bats,” Thompson said to describe the hogs. “Bohrofen, I’m still trying to figure out what our pitching strategy is to get the joker out.
“But just up and down their lineup you continue to see athleticism, left-handed power, switches and it looks like another typical Daye Van Horn Arkansas ball club.”
NO. 6 ARKANSAS BASEBALL
WHEN today 4 p.m
WHERE Tree Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS Auburn 13-3-1, 0-0 SEC; Arkansas 15-2, 0-0
START PITCHER LHP Tommy Vail (0-2, 0.63 ERA); Arkansas LHP Hunter Hollan (3-0, 2.18)
SERIES Arkansas leads 51-49
LAST MEETING Arkansas won the College World Series on June 21, 11-1
COACH Butch Thompson (235-167-1 in his eighth year at Auburn); Dave Van Horn (811-425 in 21st year in Arkansas; 1,131-584 in 29th year overall)
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
STREAMING SEC Network Plus
The first pitch was moved from 6:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. due to weather concerns. … Arkansas SS John Bolton has reached base in all 16 games he has played in, while OF Jace Bohrofen has reached base in 15 straight games. … Auburn has not won a series against the Razorbacks since April 2017. … Arkansas has held a 17-6 advantage in the series since Auburn won two of three games at Baum Walker Stadium on April 25-26, 2014. … The Razorbacks, 13-1 during an 18-game home game, have won 10 straight games for their third straight season. … Arkansas is #34 in batting average (.310), #83 in pitching (4.74 ERA), #94 in fielding (.972), and #25 in scoring (9.1). …Auburn is No. 24 in batting (.318), No. 115 in ERA (5.15), No. 19 in fielding (.982), and No. 58 in scoring (8.1). …
TODAY Auburn, 4 p.m
SATURDAY Auburn, 2 p.m
SUNDAY Auburn, 2 p.m
TUESDAY Southeast Missouri, 3 p.m