But never has he looked as disgusted as he did following Sunday’s 4-3 loss against Tennessee in front of 1,006 in Nelson Stadium.
Normally oozing with confidence, Van Horn’s mouth cringed as he shook his head repeatedly while trying to figure out what went wrong in his team’s second straight loss, which gave the Volunteers the series win against the No. 10 Razorbacks (30-8, 8-7).
“Man, this is frustrating,” said Van Horn, who has won 110 games at Arkansas. “I just told the team that they can blame this one on me. I’ll take the heat.
“We had our chances ... We should’ve won the game.”
The rest of the Razorbacks (30-8 overall, 8-7 in Southeastern Conference play) seemed just as frustrated as most walked off the field with their heads down while others sat motionless in the dugout for several minutes watching the No. 23 Vols (25-10, 9-5) celebrate the victory.
“The whole game, we felt confident we were going to pull it out some way,” said Danny Hamblin, who was 2 for 5, but grounded out to third to end the game with the tying run on first. “We didn’t play well, but we had several chances to win. It’s really hard to accept when you really feel like the other team didn’t beat you.
“We let this one slip away.”
Two pitches proved to be the difference.
One came in the top of the sixth inning with the score knotted at 3-all and runners on first and second with one out. With a 3-1 count, Arkansas’ Clint Arnold popped out to right field on a pitch that was out of the strike zone.
If the freshman had taken the pitch, the Hogs would’ve had the bases loaded with hot-hitting John Henry Marquardt at the plate and sophomore sluggers Jake Dugger and Danny Hamblin to follow.
Instead, Marquardt grounded out to short to end the inning.
“We had them on the ropes,” Van Horn said. “The pitch was up and out (of the zone) and we fly out to right. At the time, the game was tight and if we take there and get a walk, we’ve got the bases loaded with the heart of our order coming up and it would’ve been a different game.
“Man, what a difference ... just one pitch.”
Van Horn nearly gave Arnold the take sign with the 3-1 count, but decided at the last second to let him swing if the pitch was a strike.
“Arnold was due to get a hit,” Van Horn said. “Looking back on it, right after he swung and hit it, I almost gave him the take (sign), but that doesn’t show any confidence in him. It was a tough, tough situation where you want to give guys a chance to get it done.
“I guess hindsight is 20-20.”
In hindsight, the Hogs probably should’ve intentionally walked Vols’ clean-up hitter Chase Headley with first base open and a runner on second with two outs in the fifth.
Instead, this is where the other costly pitch comes into play as Razorbacks reliever Josh Smith hung a full-count breaking ball that Headley tattooed over the right field wall. It was Headley’s third homer of the series and gave the Vols a 3-2 lead.
“We’re trying to pitch around a guy and it’s supposed to be a breaking ball in the dirt,” Van Horn said. “You don’t throw a 3-2 curve ball to one of their best hitters up and in, but I told the team they can blame that one on me, too.
“They scored three runs with two outs there when we should’ve gave them one (run) if we don’t give up that two-run homer.”
Dugger drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the third, Blake Parker hit an RBI single in the fourth and Craig Gentry had an RBI single in the fifth to account for Arkansas’ offense.
Defensively, the Hogs made some outstanding plays, but also committed three errors, none of which cost them any runs. Arkansas’ Charley Boyce (7-5) picked up the loss after giving up the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.
“That’s the difference between good teams and great teams,” Van Horn said. “Great teams execute the little things and that’s what makes this loss so frustrating.
“There were two plays in the game where we had a chance to do some things, but we didn’t get it done.”