FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn and the No. 1 Razorbacks will travel to Columbia to face South Carolina.
Since Arkansas played a Saturday (DH)-Sunday series this one starts on Thursday Van Horn has opted to go with Caleb Bolden as the game one starter. The normal starter for the first game in SEC series is Patrick Wicklander, but he started the game one on Saturday this past weekend. Due to bad weather on Friday the Hogs and Texas A&M played a doubleheader on Saturday.
“Yeah it is a real short week, so we’re going to, I think as of right now we’ll start Bolden,” Van Horn said. “We’ll start Bolden Thursday. Friday we’ll go with (Peyton) Pallette and then we’re going to TBA for game three.”
Bolden is 2-0 with an ERA of 4.63. He has appeared in 10 games with five starts and earned a save in one of his relief appearances. In 23.1 innings, Bolden has allowed 20 hits, 15 runs (12 earned), a dozen walks, struck out 26 and allowed two home runs. Van Horn talked more about why he’s chosen to go with Bolden Thursday night.
“Well, he’s our freshest guy, really, if you look at our starters, unless we decide to go with (Zebulon) Vermillion, but we’re not sure about that,” Van Horn said. “He could come in right off of Caleb. Caleb’s started some games for us over the last few weeks and he threw pretty good the other day. We just feel like we need to start a right-hander and that’s what we have against their team. I don’t know. He’s had some games where he’s thrown really well. If he can get us off to a good start, that would be big, but we have a lot of guys that are ready to go. We just need to eat up some innings and get into that game a little bit.”
After playing a doubleheader at home on Saturday, Van Horn is looking at possibly another one this week.
“And as you guys know, the weather’s pretty crazy down there,” Van Horn said. “There is a definite possibility for a second game on Friday. We won’t know that until tomorrow. But we’ve been in contact with them and that could happen. So it will be a real short week for a lot of our guys.”
The Gamecocks haven’t played since Saturday so they have an extra day’s rest on the Hogs. Van Horn said that is just the way baseball works at times and talked about what he needs from his pitching staff this weekend.
“Yeah, I think what it’s going to take is somebody like Bolden to step up and give us some good innings on Thursday,” Van Horn said. “If we have a chance to win the game we’ll do whatever we need to do to win with our pitching staff. We’ll have, it looks like we’ve got Vermillion back this weekend.
“Looks like Connor Noland is gonna be available, possibly Friday. But who knows? If we play Saturday for sure. We’re still in the bullpen with him, building him up. He feels great, so he says, and he looks good. So maybe we’re going to get some guys back to help us down the stretch with a little bit of experience. You know we didn’t play a game last night, so we didn’t have to maybe dip into some of our weekend relievers to try to win a game. So they got a little bit of rest there. That’s just the way it is. That’s why you’ve got to have a lot of pitchers. You’ve got to have a team and not just a few guys that can help you. We’ve got to have some guys that maybe haven’t been a big part of it yet, whether it’s because of an injury or just they haven’t been pitching well or whatever, it’s time for them to help us out.”
Is Noland and Vermillion something you will play by ear or have an idea of a plan for each?
“Vermillion is good to go,” Van Horn said. “We rested him basically two weeks. He pitched a little bit down at Ole Miss. He had some soreness, so we didn’t mess with it. He seems to be 100-percent now. So he’ll either start or be out of the bullpen. I would guess he’d be out of the bullpen tomorrow or Friday early. If we don’t use him or we feel like right-handers do better against their right-handed hitting lineup than our lefties would, we could go that route, too.
“Then with Connor, obviously he hasn’t pitched in a couple months, so we’re just going to try to pick the right situation for him. We’re not planning on starting him. But we would definitely bring him out of the pen.”
Van Horn was asked if Wicklander is injured since he didn’t list him as one of the starters for this season?
“Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with him at all except he’s had short rest,” Van Horn said. “We could use him out of the pen on Thursday for an inning, we could save him to start on Friday if we played two or we could just save him until Saturday. If Saturday is iffy or we’re not sure, we don’t know how we are going to use him yet. But he’s fine. He threw really well last week. He’s just short rest. That’s why he’s not starting tomorrow. Could see him out of the pen tomorrow, but he’ll pitch on Friday if he doesn’t pitch Thursday for a short stint. We’re just trying to figure out how to use him right now due to playing (A&M) not until Saturday, and then playing on Thursday.”
The normal Sunday starter is Lael Lockhart, but his role is definitely changing this week.
“He’ll definitely be out of the bullpen,” Van Horn said. “He’s going to be out of the bullpen. We’re not starting him this weekend. We’re not sure who we’re going to start the third game, but he’s out of the pen, and he knows that, and he’s good with it.
“This is the way it’s all worked out. With him throwing Sunday, short week, probably the best thing. So hopefully he can come in and give us some quality innings or come in and get a good left-handed hitter out. Whatever it takes to help the team win.”
Heston Tole made his first appearance in an SEC game against Texas A&M. Van Horn noted he could be used in the South Carolina series.
“Well, we’re traveling him again and we did pitch him in that game to see how he would do, Van Horn said. “What we see is he throws strikes. He’s got a good slider. I don’t feel like he’s all stressed out, out there. I feel like he just goes out there and competes. He’s on the roster. He’s traveling. We could use him, for sure.”
Van Horn noted that Tole has been having some good practices in recent weeks thus making them feel much better about pitching him on weekends.
“We all saw it,” Van Horn said. “He came in and we’d go play or get back from a trip and have a little bit of time at the end of the next practice where we throw some guys or let guys who haven’t hit much or haven’t played on the weekend get some live at-bats. Heston has been one of the guys we’ve been throwing. He’s been getting after our hitters pretty good. More than that, he’s throwing a lot of strikes. He looks like a guy we can trust to come in the game and make them swing the bat. A lot of times when you get into late in games it’s more about not giving guys free passes, especially if you’ve got a four or five run lead. Make them earn it. The way they get back in the game is if you walk them or hit them or make errors. We just felt like Heston could help us out. It’s been interesting just watching his demeanor and watch the way he handles it and it looks like he’s good.”
Thursday night’s game will start at 6 p.m. CT. The Gamecocks are 24-10 on the season, 10-5 in the SEC and 16-3 at home. They swept a very good Florida team while at home on March 26-28.