FAYETTEVILLE — It appears the State Farm Classic at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, will be played according to Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn.
The start of the event was moved from Friday to Saturday on Wednesday. Some feared the entire event might be canceled due to power outages and frozen weather in Texas and surrounding states this week.
“First off, just glad to have an opportunity to play,” Van Horn said Thursday. “It was kind of an unusual scheduling situation this year where we start on the road. I think we’ve done that one other time here, maybe none, I can’t really remember off top of my head. Usually we start at home, but we hit the road. This year we might be very fortunate obviously with the weather our schedule to play on the road in a domed stadium.
“Hoping to get out of town in the morning, get to Arlington and have a workout tomorrow afternoon. Then we get all three games in and we’re off and running. I know the players are really excited to start the season after losing last season as I’m sure every team in the country is. Looking forward to watching our guys play and figure out what we need to work on and go from there.”
Van Horn was asked if he is confident the event will still be played?
“Well, we haven’t been told anything different,” Van Horn said. “We talked to some of the administrators of the tournament a couple of times yesterday and they said they’re still ready to go. I know some of the teams are having issues in their home-town areas so to speak on getting out of town. As far as the tournament, electricity and power in the ballpark they are good to go. Obviously that could change throughout the day. Right now we’re planning on heading out.”
The Razorbacks open against Texas Tech on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Then they face Texas on Sunday at 7 p.m. and wrap up their stay on Monday night facing TCU at the same time as the other two games. Van Horn feels good about his starting rotation.
“First game we’re going to go with Zebulon Vermillion, second game we’ll go with Peyton Pallette and third game we’re going to go with Lael Lockhart a left hander,” Van Horn said.
That trio started no games for Arkansas last season. Two starters last year, Connor Noland (3) and Patrick Wicklander (4), combined for seven starts in last year’s abreviated season due to COVID. Have they slipped on the depth chart or what is the situation with them?
“I think it’s more about depth and just going with the guys that have been more consistent at the beginning,” Van Horn said. “I think both of the guys you just mentioned are going to be a huge part of our coaching staff whether they’re starting or coming in for long relief.
“You know some roles are still out there. I mentioned that to our team yesterday when we announced. Things change throughout time, it’s a long season and we’ve got to see where we’re at by how guys perform against other teams. All we have to go on right now is what we’ve seen in the past, how the guys pitched and played in the fall and how they’re practiced the last month. We’re just trying to go with the guys we feel like, as of right now, maybe just a step ahead of some guys. That doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s going to be the whole season obviously.”
Lockhart transferred into Arkansas from Houston. Van Horn talked about what he has shown the coaches.
“You mentioned a little bit, he brings pretty good experience,” Van Horn said. “I mean he’s pitching Friday and Saturday a lot for the University of Houston last year and the year before. Very versatile. He could pitch out of the pen, be a spot guy, middle reliever. Obviously we’re starting him. His last outing was really good. There’s two or three guys we could’ve put in that spot. One of them’s a freshman (Jaxon Wiggins) if we really wanted to. If you really go on how guys have performed, maybe we should throw a freshman there. But we just decided with the whole situation, maybe let the younger guys watch a little bit. Obviously we have four games next weekend so we’ll need another starter there. We’ll go to the pen as soon as we need to. We won’t have to wait a batter or two longer or try to squeeze another inning out of a guy because we have depth there and guys that are ready to go. I just saw that Lael threw extremely well this past weekend and sometimes it’s good to see what you’ve got from the left side.”
A couple of positions have been up for grabs in preseason as well. Right field was one of them.
“We’ll go with (Cayden) Wallace right now,” Van Horn said. “He’ll be the only freshman who starts in Game 1 as far as position-player wise. He’s been very consistent. I think Zack Gregory is going to see a lot of time. He hits left-handed, Wallace hits right. I’m not saying they’re going to platoon. I think both can hit left on left and right on right obviously. I think Wallace brings a little more power to the lineup. We need that. Where we plan on hitting him, maybe sixth or seventh in the order, and brings a little bit of power there.”
Also, first base is another spot that has featured some good competition in the practices.
“At least this opening weekend it will be Cullen Smith, Brady Slavens and (Matt) Goodheart,” Van Horn said. “All three of them can play over there. All three hit left-handed. Smith is a guy I’ve mentioned can play two or three infield positions. Slavens is a couple of infield positions and maybe outfield. He brings a pretty good bat. Smith is probably ahead of him a little bit defensively right now. Goodheart’s arm is a little bit of the issue. It comes and goes. That’s what the other guys have on Matt right now they can throw a little better.”