Arkansas fans are certainly living up to their reputation. If you've been on a message board over the last few weeks, where the most obsessive among us kill time mitigating their helplessness with rants and snide remarks, you've noticed a hardening fringe. Some of these folks just want to be on the right side of an argument a few years ahead of time. Others display the fickle impatience so bandied about by national media come any coach's reckoning.
This has been a tough stretch for all, and while the more casual Hog fans have the option of retreating into apathy, these most passionate fans — the ones who take their obsession as a matter of pride — are always apt to issue a flamboyant prognosis. However, if coaches and administrators were capable of exercising the same histrionic reasoning as message boarders when making program-related decisions, they would be message boarders themselves.
John Pelphrey is in his second year as head coach of a Division I program. He probably has no idea how best to deal with the kind of season we're experiencing. The win column says his season has tanked, but he can see more every week the things he's been doing right. He's pushing that boulder up a steep hill. Under tremendous pressure, he must 1) Overcome bronchitis, 2) Maintain the morale of a young team, 3) Quash mutiny, 4) Pacify fan unrest, 5) Hold on to his current roster, 6) RECRUIT, 7) Choose best among advisers and 8) Find a way to win. He can't know how it's done until he's done it. It may be a shame that he has to cut those teeth with us, but he's the man we hired.
The Hogs follow two games against the two best teams in the conference with two more against the two worst teams in the conference. Let the healing begin.
Last Friday inaugurated both the NCAA baseball season and a blessedly long home stretch for the Diamond Hogs. While I rarely miss a home game, I almost always miss the first inning or two, thanks to a no-account buddy who has to be dragged from bed to attend games no matter what time of the day. On this particular opening day, however, inclement weather necessitated an impromptu double header, so we missed the first game completely and managed to catch the entirety of the second. For the first and probably last time this season, I caught a full nine innings.
The Diamond Hogs didn't disappoint. Coach Van Horn's style of play is usually a slow, unassuming crowd pleaser: well-executed small ball in a beautiful setting. This past weekend had plenty of fireworks to go around. In the game I made, we witnessed a beautiful diving catch by fleet frosh Brett Eibner in center, a game-saving leap above the left field wall by senior Andrew Darr and a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th by Darr again. JUCO transfer TJ Forrest struggled in his first start, but, unlike last year, our long relief is a strength, with seniors Stephen Richards and Justin Wells coming out of the bullpen. And our lineup is a monster, the heart of the order pinned down by freshman Zach Cox and sophomore slugger Andy Wilkins. We went on to sweep the series against a strong Pac-10 opponent.
Conference play will bring some epic battles. (While we're ranked in the top 25 nationally, we're only fourth in the SEC West, which runs very deep.) Once the days warm up, Little Rock fans should think seriously about taking a weekend on the Hill at Baum Stadium.