Arkansas

Arkansas has chance to go ‘Hog Wild’ once again

Razorback baseball has fans hoping to party like 1994

By Bart Pohlman

When the final buzzer sounded inside the Charlotte Coliseum on April 4, 1994, and the scoreboard read “Arkansas 76, Duke 72,” the Razorbacks were in Hog Heaven. For the first time since 1964, the University of Arkansas and its fans were celebrating a national championship in a major sport.

In the first edition of Sports Illustrated after the championship game, Corliss Williamson adorned the cover, and the headline was simple, yet appropriate:

“Hog Wild.”

It’s been 24 long years—undergrad students at Arkansas weren’t even born in 1994—but Razorback fans finally have the chance to experience that Hog Wild feeling once more.

Instead of Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck and Dwight Stewart, it’s Heston Kjerstad, Casey Martin, Dominic Fletcher and Carson Shaddy.

There is one thing the teams have in common, though: a Hall-of-Fame head coach.

Nolan Richardson is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s a legend and a trailblazer in the game.

No, Dave Van Horn isn’t in a hall of fame. But he will be. He’s made 15 NCAA Tournament appearances in 16 years at Arkansas. He’s been to the College World Series seven times. He’s built the Razorbacks into one of the premier programs in college baseball.

And now, he has Arkansas on the precipice of winning the school’s third national championship in one of the major sports.

“When we got back (to Omaha) in 2004, it was my second year at Arkansas, and they hadn’t been in 15 years,” Van Horn said. “So it was big for our program. It kick-started it a little bit. It helped us probably get some recruits. It just felt like that was the year a lot of things went our way. I mean in 2004, we were picked 11thin the SEC out of 12 teams, and we won the league. That’s how crazy it was. It was just one of those years. I thank God all the time for that year, let me tell you that…

“When you get to Omaha for the first time in a long time with your program, you just appreciate it and there’s no doubt that it really, really jumpstarted us.”

Van Horn isn’t wrong.

Beginning with the freshman class of 2007, every player that has stayed through his junior year at Arkansas has made the College World Series.

That’s impressive, for sure. So is this: The Razorbacks are one of nine programs nationally with five or more CWS appearances since 2004.

And now, Van Horn and Arkansas have a chance to add the crown jewel of college baseball to the trophy case.

It couldn’t come at a better time for Razorback fans.

This is a fan base that’s hungry for anything good. Anything at all.

The Arkansas football program has struggled since the 2011 Cotton Bowl. The basketball program hasn’t made that deep run yet in the NCAA Tournament.

But baseball has been the one constant. It’s been the sport Razorback fans have been able to count on time and time again to deliver successful seasons and memorable moments, and to keep alive the dream that maybe, just maybe, there might be a championship one day—not at the end of a rainbow, but of a school-record 98 home runs.

There have been near misses in the major sports. The basketball team lost in the national championship game in 1995. The football team lost back-to-back games to LSU and to Florida in the SEC Championship Game to dash its hopes in 2006. Bobby Petrino had the Hogs a win away from playing for a championship in 2011, but lost at LSU. And the baseball team needed just one win to advance to the championship series in 2012, but lost two in a row to South Carolina.

But this is the best chance of realizing that dream since 1995. And while Oregon State maybe surprisingly (given recent results) comes in as the favorite, these Razorbacks are every bit as good as anyone in the country.

It might just be time for Razorback fans to go “Hog Wild” once again.