FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn saw two very good power hitters in Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin leave in the draft, but he still feels confident about the ability of the Hogs to go deep this season.
The Razorbacks just completed their fall season and Van Horn saw enough to know the team is still capable of hitting home runs.
“Well, you know what’s amazing, you lose a guy like Heston Kjerstad that hits a bunch of home runs and Martin that hits a bunch of home runs and a few others … we hit more home runs this fall than we did the last two falls,” Van Horn said. “So we have some athletic kids that can still leave the yard. They’re strong. So I still think the home run will be a part of our offense. But I do feel we have enough speed that we should get some doubles, turn singles into doubles. I just want to be able to go from first to third and second to home when we hit a hard single in certain situations. But we are going to have some guys up and down that lineup who have a chance to hit 10 to 12 to 15 home runs.”
One such player is outfielder Christian Franklin though Van Horn doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the standout when it comes to power hitting.
“Well, the leadership is already there,” Van Horn said. “You don’t really want to try to ask somebody to do what Heston did. That’d be tough shoes to fill. Obviously Franklin has power. He has power to all fields. This fall, he hit five or six home runs and two or three the other way, one on top of that building just about. He can hit them anywhere. He had a really good fall. He had some games he didn’t feel good about, but as far as the overall fall, I thought it was outstanding.
“Really good defender, throwing the ball better than ever. Defensive ability just seems to get better and better. Works hard and Christian’s a leader. He’s a leader probably more by actions than verbally. He can get with you a little bit, but for the most part, he’s just going to show you how to do it. He hustles and works hard and he’s a good teammate. He’s definitely followed in the footsteps, I just think they’re a little bit different type of player, but I think he’s definitely going to pick up some of that slack.”
Freshman Cayden Wallace also has made a strong impression on Van Horn since arriving on campus.
“Cayden Wallace is obviously a very talented, right-handed hitter,” Van Horn said. “He runs well. He’s got a tremendous arm. He’s played third here, he’s played first here. He’s played right field. Yes, he’s going to work at all three of those positions from now until we open up, and probably throughout his freshman year. He probably will play all three of those positions. We’re going to find a way to get him in the lineup.
“He’s very mature, very strong, very serious. … I wish all freshmen had the same approach. They plan on playing now and a lot of the time you get the freshman and they’re like, ‘well I’m only a freshman, I’ll just kind of take my time with this.’ Some guys get in here and are like, ‘Man, I’m not going to waste any time,’ and we love that.”
Van Horn also is working on the 2021 schedule though due to COVID there’s still a lot of questions remaining.
“As far as the schedule, just real quick, I’ve got a zoom meeting with some coaches tomorrow,” Van Horn said Wednesday. “Some ADs, so to speak, from the SEC offices that are in charge of baseball. There are a couple of committees out there working right now. We’re trying to figure this out.
“But I think the bottom line is we want to play a full schedule. We want to probably control our schedule a little bit. If we knew that we were going to play and people weren’t going to cancel games or were going to be able to afford to test their student-athletes before they came to our campus, I’d feel like we’d play the schedule that we already have in place. But if we don’t feel confident with that, I think you might see where we’re playing more conference games where we can control what’s up.”