OMAHA, Neb. -- Matt Vinson said it was a low-key atmosphere for Arkansas before its College World Series opener with Kent State.
"Just business as usual, not anything special," said the junior outfielder. "We just kinda chilled."
The Hogs had a five-minute bus ride from their downtown hotel to TA Ameritrade Park. It could have been shorter, but the bus driver went slow so the pre-game video could play on the bus.
"That's what we have before every game, kind of highlights," Vinson said. "Stuff to pump you up. Big plays, that kind of stuff."
Vinson may have one on the ride Monday night in the next CWS game. He had a big blow in the sixth inning to finish off Kent State in a 8-1 victory. With runners at first and second and the Hogs only up 3-0, Vinson hammered a hanging slider into the corner in left field for a two-run double.
"I think maybe it was the nail in the coffin," Vinson said. "The guy had gotten me out with that same pitch my last time. He was trying to throw that backdoor slider by me again. This one hung up. It was a mistake and I got it. I was looking for it."
Maybe the Hogs were chilling before hand, but they were their typcial intense self during the game. Vinson said he was pretty pumped to get a CWS hit.
"That's what I was thinking when I was rounding first and heading to second," he said. "That's my first hit in the CWS and it was so huge."
Vinson remembers one other thing about that hit, the roar of the crowd -- a pro-Arkansas crowd.
"I kinda looked up in the stands when I got to second base," he said. "I never saw so much red away from Fayetteville. They were definitely cheering for us. I know the Nebraska people wore red for us today and it was pretty neat. I think some of them even called the Hogs. If they didn't, then our people were really loud."
Vinson said the pre-game video has been fun all year, especially in the postseason ride to the park in Houston and Waco.
"It's been different every time, different highlights," he said. "Maybe I'll be in the next one. that would be pretty cool."
Pretty cool was what Tim Carver said, too.
"I think we were just having fun, soaking it all in today," said Carver, who flashed some leather throughout the game.
"I think we are in a good zone right now. There wasn't much said before the game. It was just like another game for us. We know what our pitchers are going to do. DJ Baxendale set the table and then Brandon Moore came in and got us some ground balls."
Matt Reynolds couldn't even be bummed about grounding into three double plays.
"Just had to make sure not to take my at bats to the field," Reynolds said. "I think we made some solid plays behind our pitchers."
Moore said a big one was the soft tapper that Reynolds gobbled up with two runners on when he relieved Baxendale in the seventh.
"I came in trying to do the same thing, just throw a ground ball," he said. "I wanted to throw a double play ball. But it was a little too soft for that. Matt did a nice job with that one.
"Did DJ pitch great or what? I thought our defense was great behind us, too. The defense has been playing great for awhile now. I thought they did great today.
"I think our infield and outfield are playing great. You go up there knowing that it's a big part and you have the defense, so you just pound the zone. I try to throw ground balls, but anything is fine with this defense.
"As a team, we had a good mindset. We tried not to make the situation too big. I pretty much knew that I was going to go if it wasn't eighth or ninth, then it would be Barrett Astin or Colby Suggs. Earlier than that, it's me.
"It was great out there, like a home game. I can tell you one roar I won't forget soon. The ball that tipped my glove that went for a double play, when we turned that, this place was really loud. I heard our fans big time. It makes you feel good to be away from home and hear that."
The Hogs enter the dugout at the College World Series.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated
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