OMAHA, Neb. -- Few in the Arkansas clubhouse argued that South Carolina snatched momentum with two victories on Thursday at the College World Series, including 2-0 over the Razorbacks.
Catcher Jake Wise was among those who took exception. He likes the Arkansas chances with junior DJ Baxendale on the mound in an elimination game against the Gamecocks at 8 p.m. Friday night.
"I think momentum is already on our side with DJ going for us on the mound," Wise said after the Hogs were blanked for the first time in 24 appearances at the CWS.
"We just need to score early and really put momentum on our side. We've got our number one guy out there for us. He's done it time and time again. He will again."
The Hogs scratched for just three hits against USC freshman Jordan Montgomery in eight innings. And when they did get a hit, the Hogs made outs on the base paths.
The top two Arkansas hitters on the season, Dominic Ficociello and Matt Reynolds, couldn't solve Montgomery and have struggled in Omaha. Ficociello is 8 for 48 in two years of NCAA tournament play, just .167. Ficociell and Reynolds are 1 for 20 in the 2012 CWS.
If Ficociello is frustrated, he tried to hide it behind a smile in the Arkansas clubhouse. He said that will be his approach Friday morning when he awakes at 8:55. He said it matches what Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn advised the team in the post-game huddle.
"Breakfast is at 9 a.m., so I'll set my clock at 8:55 and when I get up, I'll have a smile on my face," Ficociello said. "We get another chance. We aren't done. We like our chances. We get to play again. All is not lost.
"That's what Coach Van Horn said tonight. Wake up with a smile. You want to win. That's frustrating, but it's not a worst-case scenario. We are still playing. We get to play.
"I'm going to wake up with a smile and get ready to go."
Baxendale didn't dodge that it's the biggest game of the year. But he reminded that it's dangerous to think that way.
"The only way to play this game is to keep it simple and stay focused," he said. "You cannot escalate it into something bigger than just that.
"South Carolina has a little bit of momentum. Give them credit. They won two today. But we have to stick to our plan."
Ficociello said the "team motto" hasn't changed.
"Our motto has been consistent, all year," he said. "We said after losing the first game in Waco in the Super Regional that it doesn't change. It doesn't change here. Just play. That's all you can do. It's a game and go play.
"I think that's what you do. Don't escalate the importance. I think this is the second time we've played South Carolina in a three-game series. They got us earlier. Now it's our duty to get them this time. We are going to scratch and claw, whatever it takes to win."
No one told Ficociello his numbers for the CWS, or the NCAA over the last two years. But he was asked several times about his frustration level.
"I don't feel that," he said. "You can't in this game. You just keep playing, keep bringing energy. You play the entire season the same.
"But I will say that this is going to be how we want it. We played all year to get to this and then we put our bulldog out there, DJ Baxendale. All our guys are good on the mound, but that's how you want it. He's been our guy and he gives us our best chance."
Shortstop Tim Carver said the Hogs "can't be down." He said the situation is too big to do anything other than to put the loss aside.
"We aren't out," he said. "Tonight, things just weren't our way. They may go our way tomorrow night. That's what we have to understand, that there were a couple of plays that just didn't work out.
"We had a couple of double plays that took away the energy. There were a couple of close plays. There were two bang-bang double plays that just really took us out of things and you can't help either one of them."
Bo Bigham tried to put some pressure on the Gamecocks by going from first to third on Derrick Bleeker's single to left. He made the third out at third base.
"I was trying to be aggressive," he said. "I tried to put some pressure on them and he made a great play. I wanted to get to third and have Bleeker at second.
"It didn't work out. We want to try to get on them early tomorrow night. But we'll keep fighting. We have gotten some breaks lately and we didn't get them tonight. We take the attitude that we will get them tomorrow night."
Baxendale said there will be energy in the UA dugout Friday night.
"We'll be ready," he said. "We'll be excited. Our fate is down to one game. You know we'll be ready. My job is to pick up the team and I'm ready. I've been ready for a couple of days. It's there for us."
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