FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn has a new rotation for this weekend’s three-game series against Murray State at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Van Horn talked about his rotation during a zoom conference on Thursday.
“Yeah, the rotation is (Peyton) Pallette on Friday, then (Caleb) Bolden Saturday and (Lael) Lockhart on Sunday,” Van Horn said.
Pallette and Lockhart have started in both series thus far while Bolden worked out of the bullpen against Texas, but then started again Southeast Missouri State. Bolden threw four innings against Texas allowing no hits and striking out seven. He did walk one Longhorn and hit another. However, on Thursday against SEMO Bolden was only able to retire one hitter in the start. Bolden faced five hitters, allowed one hit, walked two and hit one while allowing three runs. Van Horn talked about why Bolden will get the start basically replacing Zebulon Vermillion in the starting rotation.
“Probably just how well he pitched against Texas and then we didn’t give him enough time to get ready,” Van Horn said. “Unfortunately he kind of talked us into that. The way it turned out he didn’t have the stuff or command that he had against Texas down there in a tough spot. It’s a tough call but we felt you take all fall and early spring he just deserved the next shot at it. Because he was probably the one left off down there in Texas. We’ll see if he can throw somewhere close to what he did out of the bullpen hopefully this weekend.”
Pallette is a sophomore who has pitched well against both Texas and SEMO. Van Horn feels he can handle being the Friday starter.
“I think it’s still a work in progress, but I think he’s very confident, very athletic,” Van Horn said. “He can really field his position. He wants to goof around out there, try to take ground balls with the guys every now and then and I have to run him off. It’s always going to be a work in progress, as far as the mental part of being able to handle pitching Game 1, if that’s where he ends up. I think he’s ready for it. We didn’t just give it to him. He had to earn it. He’s thrown well his first two outings. So here we are week 3 and we just put him up there.”
As far as Vermillion, he’s likely going to pitch out of the bullpen.
“He’s definitely available,” Van Horn said. “You hope so because normally he’s a strike thrower. He usually throws with a little more velocity than he’s thrown with in the first couple of outings. It’ll give him a chance to see the game and realize exactly what he needs to do when he goes in. I hope when he gets in there he has a good outing or two this weekend.”
Arkansas will be at Louisiana Tech next weekend for three games. Van Horn talked about how important the Murray State and Louisiana Tech series are for the starters?
“We need to see those guys throw well,” Van Horn said. “Anybody that’s out there needs to continue to prove they’re a guy we need to put out there in conference play. I’m thinking they will. One of them keeps struggling we can always go to the next guy. We even have the luxury if a team is really right handed or left handed we can always make a change just for that game and flip them around there. But there’s other teams that have the same options this year. Pitching staffs are deep and we’ve got a lot of returning guys. Some older kids that came back because they could. I think it will work itself out and we’ll be fine.”
Van Horn has mentioned left field as a position he’s still looking to settle in on. Braydon Webb started the season there even hitting cleanup. However, in six games he has one hit in 16 at bats for a .063 average. He does have two runs batted in. Van Horn was asked about the left fielder for Friday?
“I’ll start Webb tomorrow on Friday, try to get him going,” Van Horn said. “He’s our best defender out there. He can really run. He had some arm soreness. But when he can throw he’s one of our best arms out there. So he got off to a really slow start in fall baseball, finished strong. He was really swinging the bat well in January, early February. Hopefully he can get it going for us because it would be a big addition to us if he could get going.”
Matt Goodheart didn’t make the trip to Arlington due to a stomach illness. He started the final two games against SEMO and had three hits in six at bats including a home run and three runs batted in.
“He’s good to go,” Van Horn said. “We have some pretty good left-handed hitters in the lineup, and I’m keeping him in the lineup. We’re not really in a platoon situation because of lefties pitching against us. We’re going to see lefties. I know we’ll see at least one starter against Ole Miss, maybe a couple against Mississippi State and one against Alabama for sure. So we need our left-handers to play. They’re some of our best hitters. So we’re going to just go with them.”
Goodheart is expected to be the designated hitter again with Brady Slavens at first base and Cullen Smith at third. Jacob Nesbit is also in the mix at third base.
“As far as first and third, it’ll probably be the same guys that have been playing out there,” Van Horn said.
Catcher Casey Opitz left Sunday’s game following a collision with the SEMO first baseman. Van Horn talked about his availability for this weekend.
“Going into Wednesday’s practice, we weren’t sure if he was going to be available for Game 1 or not,” Van Horn said. “A lot better yesterday. He didn’t do the defensive drills yesterday, but he did hit. He hit early, and he hit in the hitting groups later in the day. I was told that he was a lot better. He told me he was a lot better.
“He had a sore neck, to be honest with you. Kind of like being in a car wreck, you might not know what all is bothering you for a couple of days. That was kind of the situation. Really kind of stiff and sore Monday, Tuesday and then a lot better yesterday. I feel like he’s full go today. If not, we won’t play him Friday. If he is, we will.”
If Opitz can’t go, who gets the start?
“Dylan Leach is out backup right now,” Van Horn said. “After that, Charlie Welch, who swings the bat really well. Leach just throws a little better. So, that’s what we’ve seen from our workouts for the most part. Feel good about having a couple guys who can help Casey out throughout the season and give us some innings.”
As far as the pitchers, the pitch count will continue to increase as the Hogs get deeper into the season.
“Pitch count goes up 5-10 pitches every weekend,” Van Horn said. “I would say around 80. Maybe a little bit more. But we haven’t done that much here over the last six, seven years, where we’ve stretched them out too far this early. If it was a smooth 80 pitches, that’s not a problem. If there was a 30-pitch inning worked in there, that could get somebody out a little quicker because they were stressed out for an inning or two. But if a guy’s rolling along and getting strikeouts and the pitch count gets up there, but nobody’s really on base too much and there’s not long innings, then 80’s not a problem.”
Arkansas and Murray State will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday and then 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.