Hoover, Ala. — Two days after clinching the Southeastern Conference and SEC Western Division titles a bevy of Razorbacks earned individual honors in the SEC’s postseason awards.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn was named SEC Co-Coach of the Year, while junior shortstop Scott Hode was named to the All-SEC Second Team. Junior catcher Brady Toops was named the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year and was also named to the SEC Good Works Team.
Danny Hamblin and Jake Dugger rounded out the honors by being named to the SEC All-Freshmen Team.
“I think what these awards signify is that we were successful as a team” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “Everybody on the team contributed significantly in order for us to receive these honors. I can’t say enough about the job our coaching staff did everyday from beginning in fall practice until now. The players worked hard and got better throughout the season.”
In his second season as head coach with the Razorbacks, Van Horn guided the Hogs to a league and division championship after Arkansas was picked to finish 11th overall in the league and last in their division by the coaches in the preseason poll.
Despite a roster that consisted of 20 first-year players, Van Horn led the Razorbacks to a 14-6 record during the first month of the season. After losing two of three games in the SEC series opener against No. 12 Florida, the Razorbacks quickly rebounded to win seven of their next nine league games.
That stretch included a series sweep of second-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge that marked the first home sweep of the Tigers by a conference team since the 1988 season.
Van Horn has a 72-41 record as head coach of the Razorbacks and a career record of 657-281 in 16 seasons as a head coach. It is seventh Coach of the Year award at the Division I level.
A third-year starter from Crystal Lake, Ill., Hode was among the league’s best in hitting throughout SEC play. Hode led the Hogs with a .377 batting average in league play and with 28 RBI. His defense at shortstop played a key role in the Razorbacks season as he committed only nine errors for a .920 fielding percentage in SEC games.
“This is a well deserved honor for Scott,” Van Horn said. “He led our team in hitting in SEC games, which is when it really matters most. He is a hard worker who never stops trying to get better and that is what you want as a coach.”
One of the SEC’s best defensive catchers, Toops led the league in base runners thrown out with 23 and with runners picked off with six.
A native of New London, Minn., Toops holds a 4.00 grade point average in marketing management and has never made a grade below an “A” in his collegiate career. Earlier this season Toops was named to the Verizon Academic All-District VI Team for the second consecutive year.
This season, Toops was also recognized for his community service by being named to the SEC Good Works Team. In addition to school and baseball, Toops devotes time to Arkansas Athletes Outreach.
“This is a credit to Brady and the kind of person he is,” Van Horn said. “He is a team leader. He is a dedicated young man who puts as much effort in the classroom as he does the practice field. He’s the best defensive catcher in the league in our mind’s.”
As freshman, Hamblin and Dugger made an immediate impact in the Razorbacks’ lineup. Hamblin was fourth on the team in hitting with a .322 average and tied for the team lead in home runs with seven. He also drove in 36 runs and led the team in doubles with 16 and runs scored with 45.
Dugger hit .302 during the season and also tied for the team lead with seven home runs. He scored 40 runs during the season and 9-for-9 in stolen bases.
“I’m happy that a couple of our younger guys have been recognized for their hard work,” Van Horn said. “It’s good to know the league coaches recognized their ability this season. Hopefully they will continue to improve and get better as they go along.”
Arkansas opens the SEC Tournament Wednesday at 8 p.m. as the No. 1 seed. The Razorbacks will play eighth-seed Tennessee in the first round of the tournament.