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Andy Hodges

Winning West nice, but Van Horn has bigger goal in mind

Winning SEC West nice, SEC Tournament better, but Van Horn is working toward a bigger goal and he’s just taking it one game at a time.

Dave Van Horn probably won’t say it publicly, but he might send Missouri a thank-you text after downing Tennessee on Sunday to win another series.

The Tigers went to Starkville, took two of three games from Mississippi State and now the Razorbacks have a two-game lead in the SEC West with a series against Florida at Baum-Walker all that’s left before the tournaments.

“I want to win the West,” Van Horn said after a 3-2 pitchers’ duel in Knoxville to stay perfect on every series the Hogs have played this season. “We play everybody in the West and went 15-3 against the West.”

Arkansas has a one-game lead over the Vols now for the SEC overall title, but that doesn’t mean much to Van Horn.

“If we win the overall that’s awesome,” he said. “Let’s win the West, let’s win Thursday.”

That’s how championship coaches talk. Van Horn’s goal every year is to win in Omaha, which has been agonizingly close. He has built the Hogs’ baseball program into something similar to what Nick Saban has done at Alabama.

He just needs to hang a couple of national championship banners in a sport that is very difficult to win a title doing.

“I haven’t talked to the team one time about winning a championship,” Van Horn said. “They know where we’re at and they want to win.”

But he does acknowledge the obvious — the Hogs are in the best position.

“We’re in a good position,” Van Horn said. “We’re right where we want to be. We’re at the top of the standings going into the last week.”

People that follow baseball a lot closer than me have said in the past few days the Hogs probably could drop the series against Florida and still be No. 1. The SEC Tournament is for lower-seeded teams to haggle over their spot in the pecking order.

Arkansas will be right in one of the top spots around June no matter what happens over the next couple of weeks.

It might be a good bet the Hogs are already putting some thought into a couple of weeks down the road in terms of lining up pitching and things like that.

Don’t get that wrong. Van Horn wants to win every game but he’s not going to jeopardize anything for what matters, which is the NCAA.

He knows the fans would like to win down in Hoover at the league tournament and he wouldn’t mind adding that trophy, either, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

Winning in Omaha is.


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