Diamond Hogs face formidable schedule in 2023

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2023-01-21 12:47 PM

BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

With less than a month left until a season-opening College Baseball Showdown in Texas  against three of the nation’s elite programs, Arkansas’ baseball squad got back in school and back to work this week.

The Razorbacks will face Texas (7 p.m.), TCU (7 p.m.) and Oklahoma State (2:30 p.m.) respectively, in single games on Feb. 17-19 inside the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Stadium in Arlington.

That means weather will not be an issue since the stadium has a retractable roof.

“Well, first off, what I like about it is we know we’re gonna play,” Van Horn said. “…It’s a really, really nice venue. The facility is second-to-none and the big leaguers feel that way. It’s 72 degrees in there and the lights are incredible and the field is… From the stands it looks like it’s grass, but it’s turf.”

Van Horn also likes the fact the stadium is connected  to a hotel and Texas Live, which features numerous eating spots and gives it more of a College World Series in Omaha feel.

“And then the hotel we get to stay in is connected right there to the facility,” Van Horn said. “There’s food, restaurants right there. That gives you a little bit more of a feel like being up in Nebraska, just walking around. 

“And if you play the night game, as a player you can walk over with your pass and just go watch a few innings of the game that’s two ahead of you or whatever. It’s just a great setup. More than anything, we know the weather’s going to be nice when we step in there, no matter what it is outside, so that’s a really good feeling.”

The first weekend’s tough slate is part of a 2023 non-conference schedule that Van Horn and his staff intentionally beefed up after having just a 41 RPI in 2022.

The Razorbacks (46-21) made to the College World Series in Omaha last season, but had to go on the road in both the NCAA Tournament Regionals and Super Regionals because of that low RPI.

“We’re trying to schedule RPI situations a little better,” van Horn said. “You know, if you take care of business in the league, and probably this year more than ever -  I mean, we’re on the road against the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the No. 2, (No.) 3-ranked team in the country. Because when you’re on the road, obviously, if you beat people it helps you more than winning at home or at a neutral site. It’ll take care of itself. 

“But the more non-conference games you can find and you win them against teams that obviously are in the top 100 or top 50 or they have a winning record in their league or a winning record overall, that’s how they add all that up. It helps you. 

“Last year, we won our non-conference games, but the teams that we played didn’t do very well, and so it didn’t help us. We had a good team last year, but our RPI wasn’t very good. And we had a pretty good record in league as well. It helped us, but it didn’t really, really help us.”

That’s opposed to the 2021 when Arkansas (50-13) was the top-ranked team in the country and also had the top RPI, but the Razorbacks ended up losing in the Super Regional.

“The year before, a lot of the non-conference games that we played in ’21, and we won them, those teams did really well in their leagues, and it really helped us,” Van Horn said. “ And then obviously we won in league play as well. That’s why we had the No. 1 RPI and nobody was even close to us, really…But last year was a little different.”

Arkansas is hosting Louisiana Tech March 10-12 and UNLV on March 14 and 15 before opening SEC play that weekend at home with Auburn.

“This year’s non-conference with Vegas coming in here and some of these guys coming in here, non-conference on the road the first weekend,” Van Horn said. “I know they’re neutral site games, but you win those games, it’s really going to help your RPI down the road when they start beating people.”


(Last updated: 2023-01-21 12:47 PM)