Quotes from Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, designated hitter Joe Serrano, catcher Jake Wise and starting pitcher D.J. Baxendale after the Razorbacks' 8-1 victory Saturday in the College World Series. (Courtesy ASAP Sports)
COACH VAN HORN: First off, I thought it was a very clean game. Both teams played very good defense.
The ball up the middle that they scored an error on Carver, that was a really tough play because the bag got in the way, and I didn't know if he was going to throw him out anyway.
But other than that, there were some -- I think they turned four or five double plays on us. It was just a well-played game. That's probably why it only lasted two and a half hours.
We got off to a good start offensively. We had a good plan against Starn. We had a chance to see his videos, and he's just really crafty. But that's the third pitcher that we've seen that style of in the last month. And we've done a good job with three in a row now.
So I was proud of our hitters for doing that. If it hadn't been for the double play, I think we could have got him out early. But give him credit, he knows how to entice that and did a good job.
And just a lot of clutch hitting. I thought we did a good job of hitting with two outs, two strikes, just kept adding to that lead.
And obviously, from our standpoint, I thought DJ was incredible. I knew after the first inning he had it because he threw every fastball right where he wanted it in the first inning, and that's a tell tale sign for him. Been watching him pitch for three years. It's been a big pleasure. And hopefully we'll get him out there again before this is over with.
Q. Dave, can you talk about Jake's home run in the second inning, and what that did for the tone of the game, getting to Starn like that early? And also, Jake, if you can comment on that show of power you had there.
COACH VAN HORN: We scored a run in the first. We also hit in a base-loaded double play with one out. And I was looking to at least get two.
And you think about the play that he made, the pitcher made the pitch before when he just threw his glove hand back there. That ball's going to center field two runs there, probably runner at first and third and one out.
So we were a little disappointed. Happy that we made him throw a lot of pitches but disappointed with the number of runs we scored. Two quick outs in the bottom of the second. I think 1-0 count. I don't know if they thought we were taking it or just going to -- they tried to go in, throw it down the middle or whatever. Looking at the replay, it was kind of on the inner half and he hammered it.
When it left the bat, I thought it was a double. That ball just kept going, made it to the seats. It was a big -- that was big for our psyche, our confidence.
JAKE WISE: Like he said, when I hit it, I thought it was a double. I thought I hit it well, but I thought it was a line drive. The wind was blowing out, I think, a little bit, so it helped it and got out.
But I was just ahead 1-0 and I was looking for something elevated against 'em, something to hit it out of the way. He left it over the plate and I was able to square it up.
Q. DJ, you struggled in your last outing. Talk about getting out there again. How nice to come through today?
DJ BAXENDALE: It was huge. Against Baylor, I really felt like I let the team down. And to come out here at this stage and be able to get us through game one with a victory, it was huge for not only my confidence, but I think for the team's as well, because we know any time you can win the first game, just keeps building off that.
So to be able to come out there and pound the zone like I did and allow my defense to work, it was big for us.
Q. Coach, last weekend, bottom of the order really didn't produce for you guys. Stricklin was up here really commenting on their approach to the plate and what was different for you guys? And, Jake, also if you could comment on that.
COACH VAN HORN: Well, again, give credit to the hitters. I thought Coach Butler did a great job of breaking down some video and discussing it with our hitters and just analyzing everything and just -- they worked on it. Practiced. Worked on it in pre-game again today.
It's nice when you've, like I said, when you've faced some guys that throw that style. And we've had success. So kind of built off of that.
And I don't know, the end of the order, you know, I just -- they did a great job because you can think about it my three- and four-holer didn't get a hit today and we scored eight runs. Somebody got it going. It was two-hole and then Vinson and Wise those guys down there, they produce. That's a good sign.
JAKE WISE: Like coach said we had a good game plan wanted to lay something off the plate and get something elevated. Did a great job early. Got bases loaded and 30 walks, I think. That was our game plan was to get something elevated, hit the other way. And Coach Butler came in with a good game plan and we were able to execute as hitters.
Q. Coach, did this pitcher today, did it set up good for you or overall do you have -- do you think your hitters have more confidence at the plate or have developed that here in the postseason?
COACH VAN HORN: I think it's a combination of both. I mean, when you win, you're definitely going to gain some confidence. And then, again, the second part of the question I think it's the fact that we've seen that style of guy, because he's good.
And if you don't -- if we had walked into this stadium and we didn't know anything about him, except for what people told us, it takes two or three or four innings to figure it out. And by then it might be too late.
So I think it was both. I think it's both, confidence and that we can handle that type of guy.
Q. You moved the runners a lot today. Started the runners a lot. Is that a function of game plan or maybe just having a lead the way the game was going?
COACH VAN HORN: It was a little bit of both but late in the game you feel you have more confidence to be able to do that if you have someone picked off or thrown at or hit with a run, it's not as bad as if you're down 4-2. But it was part of the game plan. If we could, we were going to try to get moving a little bit in certain counts. And it was nice to have the lead.
Q. Joe, I haven't seen the numbers yet, but I know you had a great game at the plate. Given that all this weekend means to you from four years ago with what you dealt with your grandfather, your emotions through that and how you feel to perform on this stage. And Coach Van Horn, if you could piggyback on his recent success.
JOE SERRANO: I have just been seeing the ball real well. Against lefties, I get the opportunity to DH against righties, Mahan comes in. Just whatever has been helping the team win. I've been seeing it well against lefties and putting a good swing on the ball.
COACH VAN HORN: Joe's been swinging the bat extremely well. He's the kind of an on-base type of guy. I think his role down the road next year, when he's a sophomore, he'll be hitting in somewhere where he's hitting now, which is in the 2 hole, 1 hole. He knows the strike zone. He's a good bunter, but he's been wearing out left-handed pitching. His average has gone up probably 70, 80 points in the last ten games, because he's getting two and three hits a game. And it's been a big part of us being here.
Q. Coach, Scott Stricklin said that obviously everybody understands your pitching staff, but if you guys have that approach at the plate, he thinks you can win the national championship. What would be your reaction to that statement?
COACH VAN HORN: I appreciate that from Scott. But I think we did have a great approach. We need to take that against right-handers and left-handers. And it's different -- it's like anything else. If you get hot at the right time, you get over the hump, you get a big win. Anything can happen. We're here. So we're going to just play them, so cliche-ish, one game at a time and see what happens.
Q. DJ, you're familiar with South Carolina and Florida. I know you won't see them on the mound Sunday but you could later in the week. Can you comment on the strength of the SEC with -- now assured to have two teams 1-0 in this bracket after tonight, and just what it says about the league again after three straight national championships?
DJ BAXENDALE: The SEC is always tough. We know that going into it every year. We know it's going to be a grind all the way through.
And evident this year by having three in the College World Series. Florida and South Carolina are both great teams. It's going to be an interesting game tonight. Whoever we face in our next game and possibly later on in the tournament, we know it's going to be a tough game. And we're just going to attack it like we normally do.