FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn knows the team will take a hit in the draft in July and some key players out of eligibility, but he still maintains the Hogs will be ready to go in 2022.
Van Horn did a Zoom conference with beat writers to put the finishing touches on the 2021 season and look ahead to 2022. In a season where the Hogs were ranked No. 1 much of the season and won both the SEC regular season and SEC Tournament only to fail to get to Omaha it was still a very good year.
“We achieved everything we wanted to do except get to Omaha and win the national championship,” Van Horn said. “We got beat by a really good team. An older, experienced team. I’m really proud of this team.”
Just like last year putting a roster together still has some major obstacles to it. Van Horn talked about that including the decision by Major League Baseball to move the draft to July from June.
“The rosters across the country are still in the same predicament as last summer,” Van Horn said. “There’s big rosters, a lot of kids in the transfer portal and kids here that are in.
Then you throw the draft on top of it. They moved it back so they could have it around the all-star game. They didn’t really think about Division I coaches too much. It has put us in a bind. There’s borderline kids as far as if they are going to sign or not. You don’t know if they are going to be here. Then there’s high school kids that we recruited. It’s definitely No. 1 on the list trying to get it straightened out. It’s going to be a rush after the draft let’s put it that way. Just trying to investigate, talk to kids to see what they’re really thinking….signing or coming to school. We’re working on it and the numbers are still up everywhere.”
Van Horn said as of right now right-handed pitcher Peyton Pallette won’t have surgery since the doctors didn’t find a tear.
“We finally got the report and he’s rehabbing,” Van Horn said. “He’s going to start throwing in a couple of weeks and if he pain free, which he’s pain free right now, we’ve got our fingers crossed he’s going to be OK.”
Van Horn said Pallette could be one of starters next season as could Jaxon Wiggins. Van Horn said that Brady Slavens is only 20-years old and hopes he returns.
“He’s very young and got two years of eligibility left,” Van Horn said.
Van Horn said Matt Goodheart wants to sign, but if not he could return. Van Horn also said Casey Opitz will sign, as of right now the plan is for Zebulon Vermillion to return. He also expects Connor Noland to return. He expects Christian Franklin and Patrick Wicklander to sign. Braydon Webb wants to return. Cullen Smith and Lael Lockhart have used up all their eligibility. Robert Moore and Dylan Leach are also players Van Horn considers the core. Zack Gregory also was someone Van Horn said wants to return. He would like to have Jalen Battles back, but expects him to sign. Van Horn expects Charlie Welch back as well and certainly part of the core. Ethan Bates is playing summer ball and hit a home run recently.
Van Horn couldn’t comment on Michael Turner, who is transferring in from Kent State. Turner is a catcher, first baseman and third baseman as well as possibly outfielder.
Van Horn said they are still recruiting some junior college players, transfers and grad transfers.
“You always need another hitter and another pitcher,” Van Horn said.