Here are what KSU coach Scott Stricklin, pitcher David Starn and shortstop Jimmy Rider said after Saturday's 8-1 loss to Arkansas in the College World Series.
(Courtesy ASAP Sports)
COACH STRICKLIN: Obviously disappointing we didn't feel we played our best baseball game. No disrespect to Arkansas. DJ Baxendale was outstanding. He kept us off balance. Fastball was sharp and throw the breaking ball behind the count. He really competes.
I know that coming in, knowing him from the summer, we told our guys he's really going to compete, and he was on, too. So when you compete like that and you've got great stuff, it's going to be really, really difficult to hit.
So he was outstanding. He was the reason why we struggled a little bit, no question about it.
But just overall, it's disappointing. We felt like we had a shot of 3 to 1. And I take credit for that 5 to 1. David had pitched really well against Vincent. Vincent struck out twice. And that's why he stayed in there.
That was his last hitter. And Coach Birbeck was ready to bring him out, bring Ryan Mace, right on right, and I told him this guy hadn't had a good look on David all night. Let's keep him in there. And Wise had had a couple good swings against David. That was going to be the last hitter, and just unfortunately, he hit that double and made it 5 to 1. But I take credit for that. That's on me.
But I know David wanted to stay in the game, and he battled his rear end off, gave us a chance, like he always does. He's done for four years.
And overall, it's disappointing. But we got another crack at somebody on Monday. I told the guys in right field, we either play the number one team in the country or the two-time defending national champion. So we've got a tough task ahead of us. But overall, it's disappointing.
Q. David, could you talk about the start, just the control issues?
DAVID STARN: It was basically just a flaw in my mechanics. I wasn't really finishing my pitches. And I was leaving them arm-side, and that's basically what happened with the control issues and everything.
And then Coach Birbeck came in after the first inning, and we talked about it, and I felt like I got a little bit better control as the game went on. But Arkansas is a great hitting team, and they took advantage of the pitches that I made mistakes on.
Q. Coach, Arkansas really hasn't hit much this postseason, especially the bottom of the order. Did they maybe do a little bit more than you anticipated today?
COACH STRICKLIN: They hit in some pretty positive counts. What David's really good at is getting ahead and working ahead. When you looked at it, David faced 26 hitters. Only two of them struck at the first pitch. I think that was the key.
They got ahead in the count. When I looked at the chart when David came out, they only swung at the first pitch twice. They had the plan to play patient and get a lot of strikes. David gets a lot of swings on misses on first pitches that are balls. They had a good scouting report. They were going to make sure that David threw a strike on the first pitch. If he didn't, they were taking it. 24 out of 26 guys took that first pitch and I think that was the key. Their approach was really good today.
Q. David, were you nervous? Or do you think that contributed to any of the mechanical part of it?
DAVID STARN: I wasn't really nervous coming into the game. Even when I got out there, I felt fine. It was just that I had a flaw in my mechanics, really, and it's just running away from me a little bit.
Q. Jimmy, from a hitter's perspective you took what Baxendale did well and what did you do on the home run?
JIMMY RIDER: He just threw strikes, threw a lot of first pitch strikes. Good scouting report. Couldn't execute on some of the pitches he made.
On that swing, I was just looking for a fastball, and that was probably the one pitch that he left up all night. He had been low and at the knees right over the outside corner, tough to hit, but one pitch he left up I was able to take advantage of.
Q. Coach, could you talk about what positives you're going to take away from this game headed into Monday?
COACH STRICKLIN: Well, I told the guys to look around. We're in Omaha. That's the positive. This team has battled so hard and no one expected us to be here.
I mean, we hoped to be here. But I don't think one guy would, before the season, would have said we're going to be here. And so I think that's the positive that we're in Omaha. We have an opportunity to show the world we're a really good baseball team.
And I know our guys are disappointed that we had a lot of people watching, a lot of people came out here and we want to play well for those people. We want to play for the people back home and the ones that made this trip.
So our guys take a lot of pride in what we do. And it never tastes good to lose. And especially when you didn't play your best game. We knew we'd have to play our best to win.
And that's what we've been doing. To get here, we've played really good baseball to get here. And we've earned the right to be here, and we feel like we belong here. And we just want to make sure we play a little cleaner.
If we do that, we'll have an opportunity to win whoever we play on Monday.
Q. Scott, could you talk about Jimmy, and it could have gotten out of hand earlier without some of the plays he made defensively, and on top of it he didn't seem nervous. Did you sense any nervousness from the guys at all today?
COACH STRICKLIN: No, I really didn't. I thought our guys were pretty loose. And, again, we were right in that game. It's 3 to 1. They're late. And we had a chance all the way through, even though DJ was locked in and we knew their bullpen was going to come in and lock it down pretty good too.
But no, I didn't sense our guys being nervous. But Jimmy Rider, that's what he does. We've had the privilege of watching that for four years.
I said that before the game, when people watch Jimmy Rider play, they're really going to appreciate how good of a player he is. He's fun to watch. And I'm going to miss him. I hope we have a few more games with him. But he's the best shortstop I've ever had, and he just makes every single play, makes it look easy, and when it's hit to shortstop, we know it's an out.
And, again, credit David Starn. He made some really good pitches to get those ground balls and get those double plays. But Jimmy and Derek up the middle are really, really good, really athletic and make a lot of plays.
Q. Jimmy, I think it was against Kentucky you guys were no-hit for five innings or something. When you finally broke through, did you get anything cross your mind about, oh, this is just like that or anything?
JIMMY RIDER: No, not really. I think we were more of a sense of relief, all right, we cannot get a hit, let's start rolling a little bit. We were able to come back and make it pretty close, but we kind of let it slip away.
Q. Coach, I think you've covered most of it. But summarize what you see in Arkansas that might give them a chance to continue winning here.
COACH STRICKLIN: If they have that kind of approach at the plate, they're going to be tough outs. We all know that pitching is what's got them here. I know Coach Van Horn is very fond of his pitching. He should be.
But if they have that kind of approach, I mean, they were tough outs today. David Starn is an All-American and he's given people fits all year. They had a really good approach. They got on base. They worked counts. Got ahead in the count. Got clutch hits when they needed them. Played clean defense for the most part. I think one ball was an error, almost hit the base and had a lot of spin.
Defensively they played clean. If they play like that, they have the chance to win a national championship. No question about it, with their pitching, if they have that offensive approach and play clean defense with that pitching, they have a chance to win it all.
Q. Jimmy, what was it like playing in front of a crowd the size that it was, over 23,000?
JIMMY RIDER: That was obviously unbelievable. That was probably one of the most -- that's the biggest crowd we've ever played in front of, by far, and in probably the nicest stadium. So that's always nice.
Q. David, I know you're not used to giving up home runs and haven't given up any for quite a while. Can you describe that second inning home run? Maybe a little bit unexpected coming from the bottom of the Arkansas order, and if you thought the ball was going to carry the way that it did on that, and then just the impact that that had on your pitching going forward.
DAVID STARN: If I can remember, it was -- I think it was a two-seamer and I left it up. Right over the middle of the plate. He put a good swing on it.
And I wasn't sure if it was going to go out or not. But it did. And I just tried to come back and forget about it and trying to get the next out.
And I think it didn't impact me too much. I just try to do what I always do and just focus on the next pitch.
Q. Scott, can you talk a little bit -- you talked about who you're going to have to play. It's a daunting task. But the fact that those teams have so much experience here in Omaha, how much tougher that makes it?
COACH STRICKLIN: Well, I mean, the experience is one thing. But the talent's the other. Experience helps you but those teams are loaded. Look at Florida up and down that lineup and that pitching staff, it's just unbelievably talented, but the experience is the thing that gives both those teams the edge. And I know it's tough. That's a really tough matchup, those teams playing against each other.
But I mean, like you said, it's a daunting task in front of us. We've got one or the other. You can't wish for one or the other. You can't say, man, I hope we play them.
So we'll be ready to play. We'll have an off day tomorrow, enjoy it. That's what we told our kids, enjoy it. Get it out of your mind. Get ready to play on Monday night again in Omaha, Nebraska, which our kids are thrilled to be here.
But that's the thing. We've got to make sure that we're not just happy to be here. We want to compete and get some wins and make a run at it. It's still possible. We're still here. But playing those two teams, lots of talent, lots of experience. And it's going to be a tough task.
Q. Jimmy, kind of the same question but from a player's standpoint as you look ahead to the next game.
JIMMY RIDER: We know both those teams are going to be very tough, very difficult. But that's the reason why we play, that's the reason why we want to go up against the best.
You want to make it to Omaha, to show that you're the best, you've got to play against the best. So we look forward to the opportunity.
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