Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn Pleased to be Back Home, Still Pondering Options for Sunday Starter

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Arkansas Razorbacks pitcher Caleb Bolden (31) pitches against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Jeff Blake/USC Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn and his Razorbacks will play host to Georgia this weekend in a three-game series beginning on Friday night.

Van Horn and the top-ranked Razorbacks are still searching for a consistent third starter. He talked about his rotation plans for this weekend as he once again goes with Patrick Wicklander and Peyton Pallette the first two games.

“It will be TBA on Sunday,” Van Horn said.

Jaxon Wiggins is among the possibilities for that third start. Van Horn talked about that on Monday at the Swatter’s Club.

“You might even see Jaxon Wiggins out there a little bit more,” Van Horn said. “We’re starting to build his pitch count and maybe give him a an opportunity to start here shortly. So we’ll see how that all shakes out. We haven’t used him at all the last couple of weekends because we’ve finished with Kevin (Kopps) and gone with the hot hand. Jaxon has got a really good arm. He’s had some good saves for us and we’re working on trying to get him in there a little bit more. I think you’ll see that in the future.”

Van Horn said again on Thursday Wiggins was among the possibilities for that spot.

“If we don’t have to use him I think he would be a candidate,” Van Horn said. “(Caleb) Bolden would be a candidate and (Zebulon) Vermillion would possibly be a candidate. Yeah that’s kind of where we’re at probably.”

Wiggins has appeared in 12 games, all in relief, is 3-0 with an ERA of 5.11 and has earned four saves. In 12.1 innings he has allowed 10 hits, walked nine and struck out 16. He was the closer to begin the season before Kopps took over that role.

Bolden is 2-0 with an ERA of 4.34 in 12 games, including six starts. He has worked 29 innings, allowed 23 hits, walked 17 and struck out 29. He has earned one save though when used in relief it’s usually in a longer role earlier in game.

Vermillion has a record of 2-0 with an ERA of 4.38. He has one save as well. In 10 appearances, including six starts, Vermillion has pitched 37 innings, allowed 35 hits, walked 14 and fanned 23.

Van Horn talked about asking Wiggins, who is a freshman, to possibly start this late in the season and in an SEC game.

“I guess it’s all difficult,” Van Horn said. “But it’s either you can or you can’t in my opinion. The fact that it’s late in the year he’s been facing our hitters in scrimmages and facing our hitters in live sessions in recent weeks since he hasn’t thrown on the weekend. We feel we can hit with most teams and it’s still baseball. Really up the individual being able to handle it. It’s more about seeing what he can do. If he can’t do it we’ll get him out of there pretty quick.”

Van Horn said Wiggins threw 60 pitches the other day in case he’s needed to start.

“We’ve been working him out in case we need him,” Van Horn said. “He would throw 20 pitches, take a 10-minute break, throw 20 more, take a break and then throw 20 more. Simulating throwing four or five innings. You do pace yourself a little bit starting as opposed to closing. But if he starts it’s not like we’re expecting him to go five, six or seven innings. We want him to go three or four innings.”

Van Horn was asked if he prefers the TBA or have a known third starter each week?

“I think in our situation this year it’s (TBA) the right thing to do,” Van Horn said. “If I had another guy who was throwing like those first two I would plug him in there and say, ‘here you go 1-2-3 just go get them. Rest of you guys are coming out of the pen.’

“But I don’t feel we have that luxury yet to announce all three. That’s why we feel we should just leave it open. Take each game one at a time obviously and use whoever we have to try to win that day. Then move on to the next day. We’ve told our players let’s just try to win that’s in front of us. As far as the coaching part of it we’ll make the decision for that third game after the second game on what we feel is our best option.”

Connor Noland had a rough outing last weekend against LSU, but Van Horn said he has bounced back this week.

“He has thrown a couple of bullpens,” Van Horn said. “A regular bullpen which is 60 feet, six inches bullpen which is normal distance. Then he throws what is called a short box. Where you shorten everything up and you’re working on location. And he’s been fine. Hopefully when he gets out there this next time he does a good job and has the confidence he can get the job done. We know he has good stuff. It’s all location.”

Arkansas and Georgia will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night. It will be on the SEC Network+.

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