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June 17, 2018

Dave Van Horn

Heston Kjerstad

Blaine Knight

Luke Bonfield

Omaha, Nebraska

Arkansas - 11, Texas - 5

COACH VAN HORN: We're joined by Coach Van Horn and student-athletes Luke Bonfield, Blaine Knight and Heston Kjerstad. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH VAN HORN: We did a good job of swinging the bats early. I thought Kingham did a really nice job of getting out of some jams. We just couldn't get, really, that big hit, you know? Heston got one in the first, which you look up, we've got six hits and one run and start to get a little nervous as a coach because you feel like you're leaving some opportunities out there.

Blaine just kept getting them out. And I think he would tell you that he didn't have his best stuff. But he really competed hard. And he gave us what he had. Hot out there.

And like I told the team after the game, the big swing of the day was Luke Bonfield. We went from down 2-1 to up 3-2 and it happened with two outs. That was the swing we were looking for to get us going a little bit. And then obviously we set up the big inning, had a couple of runs in, had a rain delay, and came out and really just did a nice job scoring some runs there in the sixth inning that gave us an opportunity to relax a little bit.

So proud of the guys. They hung in there. They stayed focused for five or six hours.


Q. Luke, can you talk us through the at-bat that gave you guys the lead? And also what was it like going through the rain delay and having that big inning in the middle of that?
LUKE BONFIELD: Yeah, I mean, he started me off -- all day long they were kind of trying to throw me in, so he started me off like a sinker in, swung over the top of it.

Then he went slider away. Laid off that. Then he left a sinker up and I put a good swing on it and wasn't quite sure it's going out. I knew I hit it well, but you never know with this stadium and with the wind and everything.

And as far as it goes, rain delay-wise, the guys did a really good job of just staying loose, not trying to, I guess, sometimes with rain delays you can, like, get a little lethargic after them. And we kind of stayed loose, didn't eat a ton, and took some swings in the cages down there and came out. And we put up, I think, like, eight on the board after the rain delay. So it was awesome.

Q. Blaine, can you speak to what you had today? And also you got 13 wins, which ties a school record. Your thoughts about doing that?
BLAINE KNIGHT: Yeah, stuff-wise, it was okay. Fastball command was average for me. I had the big breaker working a little bit. Slider was working and change-up a little bit as well. And did enough to keep them off the board and enough to keep them off the board enough for us to come back and get a win.

And the 13-0 thing, I just chalk it up as another win for the team. And I'm just going to do what I can the next outing to get another win for this team and keep going.

Q. Did you know it tied a school record?
BLAINE KNIGHT: Yes, somebody told me in the dugout. But I guess that's cool and all, but I'm just more about getting this team where we need to be.

Q. Luke or Heston, obviously the eight runs was big in the sixth. But how much momentum did that sequence in the fifth inning give you, with Heston, you beating out that play at first, and, Luke, you hitting that one out?
LUKE BONFIELD: I think Heston hustling down the line was huge for us. I mean, if he doesn't beat that ball out, the inning's over and I never get the opportunity to put us ahead.

That just shows you what type of ball player he is. He's always running hard down the line. He's a great kid. And it was something that maybe the average person didn't see, but definitely us as his teammates really appreciate.

HESTON KJERSTAD: Luke swinging the bat put us ahead in the game and gave us a lot of momentum going forward. And after we took that lead we never looked back from there.

Q. Heston, the play at first, when you beat the throw out and came back and hit the bag with their first baseman McKenzie, what kind of happened there? Can you describe it?
HESTON KJERSTAD: I'd ran past, ran through the bag trying to beat out a double play. And then they'd overthrown it. I turned around and they were fielding it. And they thought I was committing to second base, which I hadn't. But I didn't want the call to be left up to that. So I made sure I hustled back into first, so no matter what they didn't have to go back and look at it.

Going into first, I was going full speed and he was on the backside of the bag. And I tried to brace myself going into first on him, and then he ended falling over.

Q. Luke and Heston, seems like this offense has kind of a history of putting up a lot of crooked numbers in big innings like that. What do you think it is about the character of this team that makes you guys so likely to do that? And can you feel it coming, can you feel that momentum building and does it kind of feel like it's just racing downhill at that point?
LUKE BONFIELD: Yeah, you know, we have such a balanced lineup. And it's a very -- we all know what we're doing at the plate. We all have a certain approach.

And once Casey Martin hit that lead-off hit after the rain delay, everything just kind of snowballed on them, and we got a ton more momentum. We just never let up on the gas. So it was good for our offense.

HESTON KJERSTAD: Luke hit the nail on the head right there. It's a deep lineup, 1 through 9, and nobody is an easy out. And everyone's always fighting every at-bat and we're not giving away pitches.

Q. Blaine, obviously you deciding to come back this year, wrote the letter about wanting to get to Omaha. Now you finally got to Omaha, you got out there on the mound. What was the feeling like? Was it everything you thought it would be? What was the atmosphere like? What was going through your mind?
BLAINE KNIGHT: It's everything that I thought it would be everything that Shaddy and Luke had told me before, what it's like and the atmosphere. A lot of fun. Tried to enjoy it as much as I can, but I still have a job to do. It was a blast, and I look forward to doing it again.

Q. Luke, you played here as a freshman, so you probably have a little bit of an appreciation for this. Wonder if you can touch on what your thoughts were about the games that Kjerstad and Martin had in their first time in Omaha?
LUKE BONFIELD: It's special. That's all you can say. The way they go about themselves is just special. They don't act like freshmen once they get on the field. They're very respectful off the field to the upperclassmen which you don't really see a lot with guys that are that good as freshmen, they're never scared. It's something I've never seen here. And it's pretty cool.

Q. Luke, were you surprised after the rain delay they brought in Chase Shugart, their number two pitcher, concerning the circumstances?
LUKE BONFIELD: No, that guy has really good stuff, runs the fastball up to 95 with a lot of sink. They were trying to stop the bleeding right there, keep the game at, I think it was a 5-2 ball game at that point. They felt if they could keep our offense at bay with that guy, they could get back in the ball game.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. On the freshmen, Kjerstad and Martin, could you touch on what they did for you offensively; and Martin, three of the last four games, he's made a pretty incredible play for you at third base. What have you thought about plays defensively at that position?
COACH VAN HORN: Start with Heston, came up with a big hit for us there in the first. He was down in the count 1-2. Fastball, down and away, really, really good pitch. Stayed through it, drove in the first run, gave us a chance to catch our breath a little bit.

And just Heston all day. He was just a force at the plate. Tough out. Fouled off a lot of pitches, even his last at-bat. He struck out but I think he saw seven or eight pitches at a minimum.

Casey didn't get off to a good start offensively. First couple of at-bats were frustrating for him. But he made that nice play, got up and threw the ball real accurate, threw it across the grass a little bit. But it was a perfect throw. And who knows, but it might have saved a really big inning there. He's been playing outstanding defense. Making all kinds of plays.

And he felt bad about the bunt, didn't get it out of his glove on the first try and allowed the runner to beat that out. And he kind of made up for it with his bat a little bit later and just being Casey. He's a good player.

Q. Obviously Texas is a team that feeds off Kody Clemens and when he's going, the offense is really going well. When he's not, like it was tonight, they're just not. What did you think about the way your pitchers handled Kody?
COACH VAN HORN: I thought they did a really good job with him. He's been on fire obviously. And hitting a long ball, doing everything.

And the at-bat he got the hit, he was ahead in the count, either 2-1 or 3-1, pitch was kind of away, up in the zone a little bit, smoked it over the second baseman's head.

And the other at-bats, got him to fly out a little bit, struck out on a couple of changeups and new pitcher, hadn't seen him. And I think that's one reason why we had some success. I think he might have seen three different pitchers.

Great hitter. We've talked about it all week, how we were going to handle it if the game was on the line. And Zubia is pretty good too. He's strong now. Just missed hitting it out oppo on a 1-2 count against the wind.

Feel good about the way that Blaine kept them off balance. And then Loseke came in there; and once he kind of got it going a little bit, we had the rain hit. And he stayed loose, played catch about every 15 minutes in the tunnel down there and just kind of -- we thought, okay, we're going to let you go back out. And he actually threw really well. And then he looked like all of a sudden he lost it and went and got him and Ramage came in and did a nice job getting that strikeout. Not bad.

Q. Casey was just saying that you looked at him after the delay and just said: It starts with you. Can you guys take us through what was going through your mind, the opportunity you guys had with that at-bat and how important that at-bat was with the way the inning played out?
COACH VAN HORN: My thinking was I think at that time we already scored a couple. We had a three-run lead. Worst case for us I wanted two of those. I wanted to get at least two more runs there.

And just getting Shugart, they basically told us, just everybody, how important this game is, to go out and get one of your top pitchers -- we were thinking they would probably start the next ball game -- to try to keep it at three runs.

Told Casey, it's one of their guys. And he's going to attack you. He got just enough of that high pitch to try to get in on him and he dropped it in left field.

And obviously we had a left-hander coming up to face the righty. And he got down two strikes and he got the ball, the ball was elevated a little bit, hit a long hard drive into left center.

I just wanted Casey to be aggressive. With bases loaded, you don't want to get down to the count to the middle of the order type hitter.

Q. Could you speak to Blaine Knight, what he's meant to the team, now he's got 13 wins on the season that ties a school record?
COACH VAN HORN: Seems like every time he goes out there, I say it every time, he gives us a chance to win. We usually play pretty good behind him.

Whether he's pitching with his best stuff or average stuff for Blaine Knight, and today was more of average stuff for him. And they took some good swings at him, but he had just enough to get him out. Hit a couple of balls to the track.

He worked his way out of a jam or two and just didn't give up that big inning. And he's meant a lot to the team obviously. You got to have somebody that you can depend on every weekend at this level and especially in our league.

And he's a guy that really, when I look back on it, every weekend he gave us a lot of innings and gave us a chance to get in the ball game a little bit. And he had a couple three no-decisions. And obviously I wouldn't be sitting here right now if it wasn't for Blaine Knight.

Q. You mentioned going with Chase Shugart. The appearance of the game, was it pretty obvious. Would you have been able to gamble like that and go with two of your top pitchers in a game like this in Game 1?
COACH VAN HORN: It's hard to second-guess anybody trying to win their first game. Because if you don't win the first game, who will you get? You get Florida or Texas Tech and someone is going home.

So I don't blame David at all. But I guess to answer that question, we talked about it, if Blaine got in trouble early and it was tight, we talked we could go with Isaiah Campbell or go with Murphy. These are guys that start for us because that's how important it is. But I would say I would definitely consider doing it.

Q. Dave, when you have a rain delay that long, having the lead was obviously nice when you're in that situation, but is there anything in particular you try to do? Do you try to have them kind of gear down for a little while until you kind of know it's time to step back up? How do you deal with that?
COACH VAN HORN: Once we realized it was going to be at least an hour and a half, just talking with all the officials out there, we came up into the locker room and they're air conditioned, they're laying around, goofing around. Eating some snacks and that kind of stuff.

And I just don't want them eating too much. And I think they were kind of -- I kind of laughed because we had a doubleheader early, early in the year, and we won the first game and somebody ordered us a smorgasbord in there and I didn't like it and we got whipped in Game 2.

The running joke after that was you're going to get a banana and a Snickers. (Laughter) When I walked in, that tray full of food. You're not eating it. Knight, you can have some; you're out of the game. Coaching staff can have it. I didn't have any. They said, no, we get Snickers and bananas.

You're right. They get it. Like Luke said, we didn't want to be sluggish. But it was nice for them to bring up the food, cheese and crackers and bread and stuff. Slowly disappeared a little bit.


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