OMAHA, Neb. – Leading 4-0, Arkansas allowed two runs in the bottom of the third inning Saturday in the first round of the College World Series.
The scores cut the Hogs' lead in half and momentarily tamed the thousands of Razorback fans in attendance at Rosenblatt Stadium. But Arkansas never flinched and responded a half-inning later by scoring five runs of its own to put the game out of reach.
What's the secret? The Hogs are enjoying themselves more than ever.
"We're pretty dang loose," Arkansas pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. "We just go out there and have fun. We don't get down too much and don't worry about it. Having fun is the name of the game right now."
The Razorbacks' demeanor has been as steady as the heads on their shoulders during a six-game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament. Only LSU – playing Virginia tonight in the second game in Omaha – has a longer winning streak after Arkansas handed Cal State Fullerton its first loss in 11 games.
"Once we couldn't win the league and once we couldn't win the division championship, our (biggest) goal was still in front of us, and that was to win a national championship," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "The only way you can do that is to play in Omaha. That's all we had left.
"I kept asking them, ‘What do you want this team to be remembered by; the one that started great and faded or the team that finished strong?' They took it to heart and we've had our heads up since we went to the regional."
Arkansas has exuded confidence over that span. The Razorbacks have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 64-25.
Playing loose was one of the key reasons to their win over the Titans Saturday, but first baseman Andy Wilkins said the patches of cardinal red didn't hurt.
"It almost felt like a home game," Wilkins said. "The environment was awesome. Playing at Arkansas helps out a lot because we get a lot of fans.
"This team is focused on winning and we don't let a whole lot else distract us. We keep our minds between the white lines."
Clearly not affecting the team anymore is its eight-game conference losing streak to end the season or the talk entering the series that its coach had never won a game in Omaha.
"Nobody has given us much respect," Wilkins said, "but it doesn't matter to us. We could care less what anybody else thinks. We had a No. 1 ranking at one point and after that it went downhill. So I don't think this team minds being the underdog or the low seed."
Wilkins said the team's strength of schedule – widely regarded as one of the toughest in the nation – was beneficial in preparing for a postseason run.
"For a while we thought it was going to be a bad thing," Wilkins said. "We played pretty well up until the Arizona State series and after that it went south.
"We were thinking that we were tired and it was a struggle, but in the long-run it has helped us out. We're going to see No. 1 and No. 2 teams the entire time we're here and we've been playing them all season."
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