FAYETTEVILLE -- Warm thoughts fill Dave Van Horn's head when he thinks of purple-and-orange-clad Northwestern (La.) State of the Southland Conference.
Van Horn, in his 17th season as head baseball coach at the University of Arkansas, led the Demons to a 106-65 record and two Southland Conference titles in three seasons from 1995-97 in his first stint as a Division I coach.
vs. Northwestern (La.) State
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS Northwestern State 23-15; Arkansas 30-10
PITCHING MATCHUP Northwestern RHP Kyle Swanson (0-1, 5.14 ERA); Arkansas RHP Kole Ramage (6-1, 5.35)
COACHES Bobby Barbier (81-73 in 3rd year at Northwestern State); Dave Van Horn (673-374 in 17th year at Arkansas)
SERIES Arkansas leads 17-2 overall
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
INTERNET SEC Network-Plus
Arkansas is ranked No. 7 in the USA Today coaches poll. … The Razorbacks are No. 22 in batting average (.299), No. 67 in pitching (4.07 ERA), No. 96 in fielding (.972) and No. 23 in scoring (7.6 runs per game) in the nation. … The Demons rank No. 200 in batting average (.256), No. 54 in pitching (3.92), No. 9 in fielding (.980) and tied for No. 154 in scoring (5.7). … The Demons’ lone road victory over Arkansas came in an 8-4 decision on Feb. 27, 2001. … The teams have four common opponents, with Arkansas going 2-2 vs. UALR and Louisiana Tech, and with pending games against LSU and Grambling State. The Demons are 4-1 against UALR, Louisiana Tech and LSU, and have a pending three-game set against Grambling.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TODAY Northwestern State, 6:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY Northwestern State, 3 p.m.
FRIDAY Tennessee, 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY Tennessee, 6:30 p.m.
SUNDAY Tennessee, 4 p.m. (SEC Network)
"It was a really good spot for me," said Van Horn, a family man who equates his professional stops with the stages of life he and wife Karen were in at the time. "Just when you see the uniform, it brings back a lot of good memories because when we moved there -- I don't remember the year -- we had a 1-year-old, and when we left there we had a 4-year-old [Hollan] and an infant [Mariel] when we went to Nebraska.
"I really enjoyed my time in Natchitoches. It's a great town, the people are friendly. Just a good place to live."
Van Horn's fond memories of the Demons were discussed on a pleasant off day Monday. Tonight, he and the Razorbacks will be all business when Northwestern State (23-15) rolls into Baum-Walker Stadium for a 6:30 p.m. game as part of a two-game set.
The Razorbacks (30-10) moved up three spots to No. 7 in Monday's USA Today coaches poll on the heels of a five-game winning streak that included a three-game sweep of No. 2 Mississippi State last weekend.
Arkansas sophomore right-hander Kole Ramage (6-1, 5.35 ERA) is scheduled to make his first start of the year in his 17th appearance, while Northwestern State has announced 6-3 right-hander Kyle Swanson (0-1, 5.14) also would make his first start in his 13th game.
The Demons tout their program as the coaches' pipeline to the SEC for good reason. In addition to Van Horn -- who had a five-year stint at Nebraska before taking over at Arkansas in 2003 -- Northwestern State has seen former head coaches John Cohen (Kentucky, Mississippi State) and Jim Wells (Alabama) go on to have success, and former assistant coaches Mike Bianco (Ole Miss), Rob Childress (Texas A&M) and Mitch Gaspard (Alabama) helm SEC teams.
Cohen succeeded Van Horn at Northwestern State in 1998 and was head coach there for three years before taking a job as an assistant coach at Florida.
"I left at semester ... and I remember telling him, kind of kiddingly, 'John, don't mess this up. This is the best team I ever had,' " Van Horn said. "They went on and rolled to the conference championship."
The current Demons -- led by third-year Coach Bobby Barbier, a 2006 Northwestern State graduate -- are 23-15 with a 3-1 victory over LSU to their credit. They are a solid pitching team, and they have impeccable defensive credentials.
"They're having a good year," Van Horn said. "They're a good team and they have good coaches.
"They're not scared. They've already beat LSU this year. They play Lafayette. They play them all. This is just another game for them."
Van Horn lost his first game against Northwestern State by an 8-6 count in the Nebraska season opener of 2000 at the Crowne Plaza/Rice Invitational in Houston, but he's gone 5-0 since then, including 4-0 with the Razorbacks.
The game has a chance to hold even more personal significance for Van Horn. With a 673-374 record in his 17th season at Arkansas, Van Horn can go 300 games over .500 for the first time with the Razorbacks with a victory.
Northwestern State is in sixth place in the Southland Conference with a league record of 12-9. The Demons have a team batting average of .256 with an ERA of 3.92, and they rank No. 9 nationally with a sterling fielding percentage of .980.
Their top hitters are infielder Hilton Brown (.375, 2 HRs, 17 RBI), right fielder Austin Stegall (.320, 4, 13), shortstop Caleb Ricca (.303, 5, 25), left fielder Jeffrey Elkins (.290, 2, 22) and infielder Sam Taylor (.273, 1, 20). The Demons have made just 27 errors, 15 fewer than the Razorbacks.
Arkansas, hitting .299 with a 4.07 ERA, has three regulars hitting .300 or better in Matt Goodheart (.391, 1 HR, 25 RBI), Dominic Fletcher (.325, 6, 33) and Heston Kjerstad (.317, 9, 32).
Sports on 04/23/2019
Print Headline: Van Horn's past Demons resurface