FAYETTEVILLE - Dave Van Horn thinks he has one of the best middle infields in college baseball.

FAYETTEVILLE - Dave Van Horn thinks he has one of the best middle infields in college baseball.


Considering his Arkansas teams plays in the SEC, the best league in the nation, are a top 25-type team and return the double-play combination, he might be right on cursory looks alone.


Senior leadership plus superb ends to 2015 and Van Horn has more reason to believe, even beyond the usual coach’s backing that would standard.


That’s probably the biggest comfort area for the coaches. Two players back, they’re both seniors," Van Horn said. "Having those two guys, they know the signs, they know the crowd, they know what’s up. They’re not intimidated or scared. That’s a major plus."


It’s a team otherwise lacking some experienced leadership. And while it’s true that most of the elite players in college baseball don’t stay long enough to see their senior year, the two are not just bodies. They have legitimate SEC talent.


Bernal is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league and hit .269 with 30 RBIs last year while also being named to the Stillwater Regional All-Tournament team. Nomura, in his first year from junior college, his .299 with 11 doubles. The two will probably begin the season in the No. 5 and No. 8 spots in the lineup, but expect Bernal, the No. 8, to shift up sooner rather than later.


"He is definitely a leader. Mike is a gamer. He is one of those guys that is just OK in practice. He has his good days and his bad days. But he shows up every day on game day. He gives you everything he has," Van Horn said. "But he could be a guy that is sneaky there towards the end of that lineup when maybe that pitcher thinks he can catch his breath a little bit and Mike might pop one."


Not New New-Face


The most likely clean-up hitter for Arkansas opening weekend is likely a player often forgotten.


Cullen Gassaway was on the team last and even had 15 starts. Ask around circles in the fall, though and his name was hardly mentioned as a likely starter at first base come spring. Clark Eagan, who played there last year, and Chad Spanberger, who saw several more at-bats than Gassaway, were the two most experienced.


Yet less than a week out from Central Michigan arriving at Baum Stadium, Gassaway is the guy there. And Van Horn said it’s pretty clear. The starting job, anyway, maybe not the spot in the order.


"He seems to get two hits a game," Van Horn said. "He needs to be a run producer obviously. He needs to drive in runs. He’s another guy who we could hit him fourth, we could hit him eighth. But we want to balance that lineup and we need somebody to drive in some runs and that’s his job. If we started tomorrow, he’d start at first base."


Gassaway, a 6-foot-2 and 220-pound senior, hit three doubles and three home runs in 24 games last year. He looks the part of 4-hole and grinned on Media Day when told Van Horn was going to put him there in the team’s intra-squad scrimmage later that day.


"It definitely helps playing everyday, just knowing you come in the locker room and you know you’re going to be in the lineup," Gassaway said.


A Giant Scoreboard


As if Baum Stadium needed a facelift.


It was already one of the nicest college baseball stadiums in the country and the university went ahead and upgraded it, anyway. A new videoboard, the biggest in college baseball, will debut to the public on Friday at 3:05 p.m. The 25-by-71-foot board will feature everything the old board had digitally and manually, but combined into one format.


The Diamond Hogs are also beginning to engage more with their past. A concentrated effort began last year with the Sports Information office during former Arkansas pitcher Dallas Keuchel’s Cy Young run with the Houston Astros. Acknowledgement will continue in-person around Baum as fans will notice several banners plastered across the stadium honoring former players.


"We have been behind in that as far as recognizing our former players, professional guys and guys who have just played well here. That’s been exciting to watch all that go up," Van Horn said.


Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin