Arkansas head baseball coach Dave Van Horn’s press conference Wednesday was set up to discuss his team’s Fall baseball performance, but it was a tidbit about next February that got the most attention.

Van Horn announced that the Razorbacks’ 2023 season opener would likely be against Texas on Friday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. inside the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Arkansas-Texas matchup is part of the third annual three-day College Baseball Showdown that has four other SEC and Big 12 teams in Vanderbilt, Missouri, Oklahoma State and TCU.  

“I think we’re going to play in front of some huge crowds for College Baseball, even though basketball season is coming down to the wire in mid-late February,” Van Horn said of the tournament that will be televised by FloSports.

“I believe, I think we play Texas on Friday night at seven. I think that’s where we’re scheduled right now. I don’t know if I was supposed to tell you that, but that’s kind of what I think. So, that’s not 100%. But if that’s the case, I think you could see 20-25 thousand. You may see more. I think it’ll be exciting.”

Van Horn, whose team finished 46-21 last season and in the College World Series,  noted that playing in early season events that guarantee a trio of game like this is exciting for the teams and the fans.

“I think the players are all excited,” Van Horn said. “I know that the fans are probably going to really like it. As a coaching staff, it’s a little nerve-racking honestly to go right out of the shoot. We don’t know if we’re going to come out of the snow or what the weather is going to be like. You know, playing some teams that maybe have played and prepared in a little nicer weather. 

“Bottom line, it’s the beginning of the season. You get to kind of find out where you’re at. You kind of look back on things.” 

Arkansas has played early season events the past few seasons at places like Globe Life Stadium, the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park and at the Karback Round Rock Classic in Round Rock, Texas.

“I remember two different times we played at Minute Maid Park and played a bunch of really good schools, mostly Big 12 schools,” Van Horn said. “I remember one year we went 3-0 and felt pretty good leaving there and didn’t have a great season. 

“I remember one year going down there and going 0-3, thinking ‘Wow. This isn’t good,’ and we went to (the College World Series in) Omaha that year. 

It’s nice to go down there. I want to play well, obviously. I’d like to win them all, a couple for sure. But so do the other teams we’re playing. 

“It’ll be great competition to start the season. The good thing is we know we’re going to play in comfortable weather. If it’s nice, they can open that roof. If not, close it up. We know we’re going to play.”

Arkansas will follow up the season-opening tournament with a four-game home stand by hosting Grambling on Tuesday, Feb. 21  and Eastern Illinois Friday through Sunday.

“I’m glad we play a lot of games early,” Van Horn said. “We actually have a game the Tuesday after the opening weekend. We haven’t been able to find one of those for a few years. If a guy doesn’t get to pitch or pitch very much opening weekend, we have a game on Tuesday and have three on the weekend, a couple the next week. So, we’ll play a lot of games early, and we just need to get it figured out before we open conference.

Van Horn said he learned a lot this fall about his team, which has 28 new faces on the roster.

“First off, I thought that fall went really well,” Van Horn said.  “No major injuries, just a few things here and there. So that was smooth. I thought the competition was outstanding. Made for some really good practices and some very good scrimmages. Guys were getting after it. This is a hard-working team. 

“What I saw is that the position players know that there’s a lot of spots open and they were fighting for them. I saw a lot of guys get better.”

Van Horn liked what he saw out of a pitching staff that has a nice blend of returnees and newcomers.

“Obviously with the returning pitchers that we have, we lost Connor Noland, but besides that we have a lot of guys back,” Van Horn said. “ And then we brought in some really good young pitchers, some really good transfer pitchers, junior college, four-year school. I feel like our pitching is going to be really solid. That’s one of the takes.”

Van Horn has an idea of starters, but also feels there are a lot of players who made a push this fall to get themselves in position to see significant action in 2023.

“A lot of competition to get on the field position player wise, which is really healthy,” Van Horn said. “I feel like we just continue to get better. And it hasn’t stopped. Guys are working extremely hard right now in the offseason. Doing a lot of group work, some team work, a lot of strength and conditioning. It’s been good.”