For the third time as the head coach at Arkansas, Dave Van Horn has been named SEC Coach of the Year.
At the beginning of the season, many wondered how Arkansas would fare this season after losing a mass of production to the MLB Draft, and losing starting pitcher Jaxon Wiggins for the year. LSU was expected to run away with the conference title after bringing in a loaded transfer portal class, and Tennessee was thought of as a rising powerhouse. Doubters never stopped Van Horn however, as the Hogs clinched a share of the regular season title and are predicted by many to have already secured a top eight national seed.
Injuries were a big storyline for this year’s Arkansas team, as eight key players have missed an intermediate amount of time, with four not able to return this season. Dave Van Horn, though, adapted.
First team All-SEC pitcher Hagen Smith was pulled from his role as the ace and used as a wild card, throwing when Van Horn needed him the most. Freshman pitcher Gage Wood seemed to have had just a limited role from the bullpen to start the season, but through injuries got a chance to turn into one of the best relievers in the SEC.
Second baseman Peyton Holt has been the player thriving off the bench most recently. After starter Peyton Stovall went down for the year, Holt is hitting .455 with eight RBIs and one homerun. Dave Van Horn said it best on the SEC Network broadcast this weekend, “you’re not a backup, you’re a future starter.” The Arkansas skipper seems to have established that mindset in all of his players’ minds throughout this season, as the substitutes haven’t skipped a beat after being inserted into the lineup.
Obviously, the main goal is to win a national championship, but based on the regular season alone, there hasn’t been a coach in the nation more worthy of recognition than Van Horn. Through the ups and downs, he adjusted; and the adjustments are still paying off to this day.
Another Coach of the Year title may not move him as much as it would’ve years ago, but the national championship he’s been ever so close to, would. Arkansas seems primed to go on yet another run to Omaha this year, but without Van Horn, who knows where this team would be.
This year’s triumph is just another testament to why Dave Van Horn will go down as one of the greatest college baseball coaches of all time.