LINCOLN — Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn didn’t allow himself to soak up the moment during his last trip to Haymarket Park in 2008.
He had spent five seasons in Lincoln as Nebraska’s coach, but instead of reminiscing or embracing some nostalgia, Van Horn remembers spending most of his time worrying about a weekend trip to Baton Rouge, La.
“We left right from (Haymarket) and played down at LSU,” he said. “I was so concerned about the series. My mind was on that.”
This time around, it’s Texas A&M that awaits Van Horn and the 12th-ranked Razorbacks after they play at NU. Arkansas’ top 10 showdown with LSU was last weekend — the No. 3 Tigers won two of three.
And even though Van Horn’s still focused on the SEC race, he said he’ll be making more of an effort to enjoy the experience in his old stomping grounds this week.
He wants to check out the new indoor practice facility. He’ll reconnect with NU assistant Will Bolt, who played for Van Horn at NU. The two still do text message back and forth every now and then. Curtis Ledbetter, the Huskers’ director of baseball operations, played for Van Horn as well.
“I’ve been looking forward to coming back, just seeing the ballpark and seeing friends again,” said Van Horn, who took over at Arkansas in 2003 after five seasons with the Huskers. “Every time we’ve been to the College World Series (with the Razorbacks), Nebraska fans have always been incredibly nice to myself and my family.”
Arkansas (25-12), which split with NU back in 2008, is set to play two games against Nebraska (14-19) on Tuesday, the second of which will be televised by BTN. The two teams rescheduled to play a doubleheader this week, instead of risking that Wednesday’s game might be canceled because of bad weather.
The Razorbacks’ weekend starters won’t be available, Van Horn said, but just about every other member of a pitching staff that ranks first nationally in team ERA (1.72) has the potential to pitch Tuesday. They also rank first in hits allowed per nine innings (6.3) and 35th in strikeouts (7.9).
They’ll start with freshman right-hander Trey Killian in Game One. Nebraska will counter with sophomore Kyle Kubat, who hasn’t pitched yet this year because of arm soreness. Kubat took over the Huskers’ top starting job toward the end of last season, finishing the year with a 5-1 record and a 2.36 ERA.
Tuesday’s challenge isn’t unfamiliar for this NU team. The Huskers’ three close losses — and a blowout defeat — against No. 4 Cal State Fullerton earlier this season will help them against the Razorbacks, Nebraska junior Michael Pritchard said.
“We’re not intimidated by them,” Pritchard said. “It’ll be a good thing, to see where we’re at as a team this week.”
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