When Will Bolt was a player at Nebraska a decade ago, he never tried to purposefully emulate the personality and demeanor of his head coach, Dave Van Horn.
Simply put, Bolt hated to lose. So he and Van Horn got along quite well.
“I just played the game the only way I knew how and that was getting the most out of my ability. I knew I had to play harder than the next guy,” said Bolt, a Husker from 1999 to 2002. “Those were all the things he stood for as a coach. Effort and attitude. Getting after it, the intensity, the fire, the willingness to compete in any situation.”
Bolt’s bringing that same passion as an NU assistant now. He’ll sit in the opposite dugout from his old mentor for the first time ever Tuesday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on the same field with him since the last time I played for him,” Bolt said. That final game was a 10-8 loss to South Carolina in the College World Series.
The Huskers won one regular season Big 12 title and three league tournament championships, reaching the NCAA tourney four times and earning two CWS bids during Van Horn’s five years.
Said NU coach Darin Erstad after Sunday’s game at Haymarket Park: “(Van Horn) basically built what we have, what we’re standing on today. … The man just knows how to win, knows how to put a team together. He’s going to build his team with pitching and defense, and they’re going to be scrappy.”
Some notes about Tuesday’s doubleheader (3:05 p.m. and 6:35 p.m.) are below…
At the plate: Right fielder Tyler Spoon — who leads the team in batting average (.333), home runs (three) and RBI (37) — redshirted last season. Crazy, right? Van Horn thought so too at about this time last year (with the offense struggling), when he sat Spoon down and nearly pulled him out of that redshirt. They decided to wait, though. Spoon didn’t even make the trip to Omaha for the CWS last June. He was already at summer ball. But he’s been on fire ever since.
On the mound: Arkansas opponents have scored more than four runs just six times this year — and two of those were extra-inning games (seven runs are the season-high). … Every member of Arkansas’ pitching staff has an ERA under 3.00. … The Razorbacks’ bullpen is 9-3 with nine saves and a 1.16 ERA. Arkansas is 20-1 when leading after six innings.
Dugout chatter: The Razorbacks sit in second place in the SEC West Division, four games behind No. 3 LSU. … To start the season, Arkansas was ranked first in three different polls, second in another and third in one other poll. The Razorbacks were picked by league coaches to win the SEC. … Arkansas is 6-5 away from home this year.
At the plate: One drawback to the Huskers’ aggressive approach at the plate was revealed Sunday, when they couldn’t knock a savvy lefty out of the game before digging themselves a huge hole. Seven innings and just five base runners for NU. Not good. The fifth and sixth innings were especially troubling. Ohio State’s Brian King seemed to be wearing down. But Nebraska’s hitters didn’t make him work. He retired six straight and needed just 21 pitches to do it. He threw five first-pitch balls in those six at-bats — bailed out because the Huskers harmlessly put the ball in play on three 2-0 counts and one 1-0 count.
On the mound: Junior Ryan Hander might be Nebraska’s new middle-inning reliever (Zach Hirsch likely out for the year with a broken arm). He was NU’s Saturday starter, but he often lost velocity about four innings into those outings, Erstad said. Possibly because of the hip surgery Hander underwent this offseason.
Dugout chatter: This is the third season in a row where Nebraska has hosted a team coming off a College World Series appearance. NU split with California last year and took two of three from UCLA in 2011. … The Huskers are 1-9 against ranked opponents this season. … Coming into this week, Nebraska’s strength of schedule ranked 15th nationally, according to BoydsWorld.com.