The Razorback baseball team had the season everyone felt like the basketball team had.
For all the frustration and moaning and occasionally disastrous performances on the hardcourt this year, the team still finished .500 and tied for 8th in the league with a 9-9 record, which is actually better than pretty much everybody expected.
The baseball team, on the other hand, despite losing most of their firepower from last year's Omaha squad, was ranked in the top 25 early on in the season and set expectations sky high following a 3-0 trip to Houston with wins over quality teams. They ended up 7-23 in SEC play, two fewer wins than than the basketball team had in an SEC season with 12 more games.
And the baseball team didn't just lose because they played against some really good SEC teams each week. They lost spectacularly. There was the dropped fly ball with two outs in the season finale that cleared the bases. There was the 9-1 lead over LSU that evaporated in part due to errors in the 9th inning. There was Chad Spanberger striking out 8 times in a single day when the Hogs hosted Texas A&M for a doubleheader. Zach Jackson, once thought a potential 1st overall pick in this year's MLB Draft, gave up go-ahead grand slams and other home runs. There were wild pitches and hit batters. There was a triple play (essentially). Any way the team could have possibly lost a game, they did.
So what does this mean for the man responsible for all of it?
Dave Van Horn is an all-time great coach at Arkansas. Every Razorback baseball player who has signed with the program since 2006 and played three seasons went to Omaha at least once. Thirteen straight NCAA Tournament appearances and four trips to the College World Series in that span are elite accomplishments. We've written our share of praise on this site.
He absolutely has earned the opportunity to get the ship turned back around. No one sober is asking for job changes. Any coach should be allowed to have a bad season once in 14 years.
But that doesn't mean he's immune to criticism.
Arkansas hasn't hosted a regional since 2010. The Razorbacks hosted three times in Van Horn's first six seasons but only once in the last nine years.* That's an indication that the program hasn't been always great in the regular season. It hasn't been uncommon for Arkansas teams to suffer through slumps at various points in seasons (not as bad as this season obviously, but they have happened). It seems to be a recurring theme in recent years that the pitching would be fantastic but the Hogs wouldn't be able to support them at the plate or vice versa.
*Fayetteville hosted the super regional last year because of a fluke in the scheduling at Missouri State, who would have hosted it in Springfield under normal circumstances.
Of course, in the end what matter most is how far the team advances in the postseason, and the fact that Van Horn has led the Hogs to the CWS three times since 2009 without hosting a regional is a great accomplishment. And the team that actually got the farthest in Omaha, the 2012 team that won their first two games at the CWS, was the team least likely to get through the super regional. You might recall Baylor's meltdown in Game 2 of that series that ended with errors and a walk-off hit-by-pitch following a game-tying hit-by-pitch. A crazy game, that baseball.
While it's true that occasionally the CWS winner is occasionally a team who wasn't a national seed and gets hot at the right time (see Virginia last year), most of the time it is one of those national seed types of teams left standing at the end. And the fact of the matter is that Arkansas has been at a level just below that for most of the last decade or so.
It's hard to imagine the program staying this low for too long. Arkansas' recruiting classes are consistently highly-touted by the college baseball media outlets. But how far back can Van Horn lead the Hogs in one season next year? How long until they're back among the nation's elite? Can he put Arkansas back in contention for an SEC championship and a national seed conversation?
All that remains to be seen. His upcoming decision on who will replace longtime pitching coach Dave Jorn is surely a critical part of it. But as of now, he certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt.
As they say, never count out Dave Van Horn. Unless, apparently, a possum runs on to the field when you have a 9-1 lead on the road. Then things go haywire.