Wood gets first start as Hogs’ Van Horn and Bears’ retiring Guttin match wits again

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-04-30 13:53 PM


Barring an NCAA Tournament match up, the end of a colorful era between Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn and Missouri State program boss Keith Guttin will come to a close this week.

Guttin is retiring this year after his 42nd season at the helm of the Bears, who he led to the College World Series in 2003 and three Super Regionals.

He’s also had six first-round Major League Baseball draft picks and 45 All-Americans during that time.

Van Horn is in his 22nd year at Arkansas and the two programs have met in 30 contest during that time with the Razorbacks holding a 19-11 advantage.

“So we’ve had a lot of good times, things we can look back on,” Van Horn said. “I’m sure Keith will do that when he retires at the end of the year.

“Hopefully he enjoys his kids and grand kids. Hopefully he gets to do what he wants to do, whether that’s fishing or gardening or golfing or pro scouting. Whatever he wants to do. So good for him.”

Missouri State (18-24, 7-11 in Missouri Valley Conference action) will visit the No. 2 and SEC co-leading Razorbacks (37-7, 16-5) for games Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 4 at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Arkansas right-handed reliever Gage Wood (2-1, 2.45 ERA) will gets his first college start on Tuesday against Missouri State left hander Brendan Beaver (2-2, 8.57) for the annual Bark in the Park game.

Van Horn is amazed at Guttin’s longevity on one spot after being hired 1983 at a school that was then named Southwest Missouri State.

Guttin has won 1,391 games, second only to Georgia Tech’s Danny Hall (1,405) among active managers.

Van Horn, whose team is trying to go 12-0 in mid-week games, has won 877 games and led the Razorbacks to seven College World Series appearances.

“He’s been there for an unbelievable amount of years,” Van Horn said. “It’s amazing. It’’ll probably never happen again anywhere, for one man to be at the same school for 40 something years. 

“(Arkansas hitting) Coach (Nate) Thompson worked for him for a few years and enjoyed him.

“Every time we play them it just seems to be a battle. We always get their best shot. I’m sure it’ll be the same Tuesday and Wednesday.”

The Bears have beaten the Razorbacks in each of the last two seasons, and Arkansas’ No. 2 ranking makes them the highest-ranked team the Bears have played since No. 1 Rice in the 2003 CWS.

“We’ve played some great games against Missouri State over the years,” Van Horn said. “All the way back to my first year here back in 2003, that was probably the best team they ever had there.

“I remember we played them in a midweek game late in the season and we beat them. They were highly upset. They ended up going to the World Series that year. I think it’s the only time they’ve ever been.”

Former Razorback two-way star Brett Eibner took center stage in one of the games.

“I remember Brett Eibner pitching in a midweek game up there and he threw a complete game and we beat them 2-0 and the wind was blowing in and Brett Eibner hit two solo homers,” Van Horn said. “I kidded the team after the game. I said, ‘We didn’t need y’all. We just needed to bring Brett.’”

• • •

Arkansas remained a consensus number two in the rankings after taking two of three games from visiting Florida over the weekend.

The Razorbacks will head to Kentucky this weekend to play the Wildcats, who lost 10-0 Sunday at South Carolina.

Kentucky is ranked form 8th to 11th in the polls after getting as high as No. 3 earlier this month.

The three games are set for Friday night at 5:30, Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

• • •

Van Horn appreciated new Arkansas head basketball coach John Calipari checking in with him before throwing out the first pitch before the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader with Florida.

“I talked to him between games,” Van Horn said. “He came up to my office when I was doing some lineups and we talked about a few things.

“He didn’t want to take away from our team or our game, and he asked if I was good with it. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m good with it. I’m glad you’re here. Go out there and build your brand a little bit and get people fired up about basketball. They’re fired up about baseball.’

“He seems excited to be here. So I’m excited he’s here.”

Image courtesy of Arkansas baseball

(Last updated: 2024-04-30 13:53 PM)