Dave Van Horn Names Starter for NJIT, Impressed With Middle Defense

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FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn has opted to start a righty on Friday against New Jersey Institute of Technology.

On his Zoom Thursday, Van Horn went into the reasons for starting Caleb Bolden.

“Mostly because their lineup is about all right handed and we thought it was a good matchup,” Van Horn said.

Bolden is 2-0 on the season and one save with an ERA of 4.43. He has appeared in 16 games with nine starts. In 42.2 innings, Bolden has allowed 36 hits, 24 runs (21 earned), walked 22, struck out 43 and opponents have a batting average of .234 against him.

Van Horn knows Bolden will face a scrappy team.

“They don’t strikeout much,” Van Horn said. “They’re going to do whatever they need to score whether it’s bunt, hit and run, they’ve got a couple of guys with power, one for sure. He has got a lot of power. The key for us, like it is every game, throw the ball over the plate and field the baseball.

“They’re hot. They’ve won eight or nine in a row. I don’t know, 18 out of 22. So they’ve won and they have a winning feeling. I’m sure they feel they can come in here and win.”

One advantage for Bolden or anyone else pitching is the middle of Arkansas’ defense which features catcher Casey Opitz, second baseman Robert Moore, shortstop Jalen Battles and center fielder Christian Franklin. Van Horn was asked had he ever coached a better group?

“I say probably not if you’re talking about four players,” Van Horn said. “You start with catcher Opitz, that middle infield is two guys and then you go with Franklin in center field it’s solid.

“They steal some runs. They make some plays. They all bring a lot to the game. I’ve had some pretty good shortstops and second basemen, catch (James) McCann jumps out at me and there’s others. I’ve had incredible center fielders who could really run and catch the ball even back to my Nebraska days with Jamal Strong and some of those guys. But as far as four athletic guys there in the middle I would say this is the best.”

Van Horn feels the group has had a big impact on the team’s success this season.

“I think it’s a huge part of our success. You always hear that defense wins you championships in football. If they don’t score it’s hard to lose. But it’s that way in baseball. If you’ve got guys in the middle and we’ve talked about it since fall baseball. We said we’re going to be as good as anyone in the country if we stay healthy and that’s kind of what has gone on.”

Arkansas and NJIT will play the opening game of the Fayetteville Regional at 2 p.m. Friday.

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