Arkansas sophomore shortstop Casey Martin thinks that the Razorbacks may have overlooked Florida State a bit going into Saturday’s College World Series matchup with the Seminoles. As the game progressed Martin said the Hogs may have gotten a little uptight.
“I’m not for sure,” Martin theorized following a Sunday mid day practice at an Omaha area high school, “but you can definitely see a difference today between how loose we were and the fun we were having during BP and everybody running around and yelling. It was a fun environment. That was awesome to see again, how loose we were. There’s no reason we should press. We’ve been in this position before.”
Head coach Dave Van Horn echoed Martin’s comments in a brief session with the media following that practice.
“You gotta move on. You’re still here. You’re in Omaha,” Van Horn noted. “I told the guys after practice, go back. Take a shower. Go downtown. Look around. Go through some of the tents and try to be a fan a little bit. It would be really cool to go to the late game and walk though the crowd for a few innings. See what they’re a part of so they don’t walk away without that, win or lose.”
“We’ve had some times this year when we were challenged mentally,” Van Horn continued. “Whether we were going to keep fighting or throw in the towel. Or hope something good would happen instead of making it happen. Hopefully tomorrow they’ll make it happen against a really good team and a really good pitcher.”
Almost on cue applause broke out as a few of the players continued to take extra batting practice. Looking back at the batter’s cage Van Horn joked, (Casey) “Optiz must have hit a ball out of the park the way they’re laughing.”
Van Horn announced that Connor Noland will get the start against Texas Tech. Noland recorded just three outs in a 13-5 loss to Ole Miss in game two of the Fayetteville Super Regional but the head Hog noted that his freshman left-hander has a history this season of bouncing back after a tough outing.
“He just told me to forget about that one and move on to the next one,” Nolan said of the advice his head coach gave him. “I wasn’t pitching with intent. I was trying to get ahead in counts and not throwing my best pitches. I learned a lot from that game. I’ll be anxious but once I throw that first pitch I’ll be good.”
“He’s had a lot of rest,” Van Horn pointed out when asked why he picked Noland for the start. “They have mostly a right-hand hitting lineup. If he goes out and gets a few innings that’s all we’re looking for. Get us two good ones, three good ones, that’s fine. We’ll go with the next guy.”
If Noland does bounce back what can we expect to see from him?
“He’ll locate that fastball that has some sink on it,” Van Horn answered. “Get some ground balls. He’ll have some quick innings because they’ll swing at it and hit it and we’ll field it. Pretty simple. He’s also got a good change up and a slider and a curve ball with more downward action. He can use of all of them. When he gets it rolling he can get into a little bit of a grove.”
Texas Tech enters Monday’s elimination game in a similar situation. A national eight seed, the Red Raiders were bounced into the losers bracket by a Michigan team that was one of the last four picks by the NCAA selection committee. Like Florida State, which swept through the Athens, Georgia Regional and the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Super Regional, Michigan was a late pick but emerged from a regional hosted by defending national champion Oregon State before taking the Los Angeles Super Regional from top national seed UCLA.
The similarities don’t stop there.
“Their statistics are a lot like ours,” Van Horn said of the Red Raiders. “The home runs. The batting average. The ERA. Good arms on the mound. Basically we’re both in the same position. We gotta win or go home.”