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June 28, 2018

Dave Van Horn

Heston Kjerstad

Grant Koch

Carson Shaddy

Omaha, Nebraska

Oregon State - 5, Arkansas - 0

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, student-athletes, Heston Kjerstad, Grant Koch and Carson Shaddy. Coach, give us an overview.

COACH VAN HORN: Well, you know, first off, I'd like to thank the city of Omaha for putting on an incredible tournament and the NCAA. It was just so well run, and so appreciative of everything that y'all have done for us.

Tonight will be our 15th night in a hotel. And it's just been a great experience to be here this long.

Just about the ballgame: I thought that obviously Abel was incredible, mixing that fastball, 90, 92 miles an hour, with that plus changeup. And just showing that fastball enough that kept us out front, breaking ball was good. Didn't throw it a lot, but it really had depth. Just kept us off balance.

And he got ahead of hitters. Some of it is we were chasing. Some of it he just spotted it up pretty good. And we had one opportunity to get him, really, when you look back at the nine innings, I think it was in the third, we had the bases loaded, we were down 2-0.

I think we had a lead-off double, and then we end up getting an infield hit and a walk. And the coaching thing, we've got to score one, let's tie it up, let's break this thing open, get a little momentum. Maybe we can get him out of the game.

He did just a great job of pitching to 3 and 4 hole. Got a strike out and got ahead in the count and 4 holer hit a sinker liner that got caught. Other than that I don't know if we challenged him at all. I don't know if they hit any balls out of the outfield. And that was the story of the game.

On our side, I thought Isaiah gave us a couple of good innings, and Reindl was a little bit wild, but effectively wild, and Scoggins came in, did a tremendous job. And Ramage, the freshman, I thought gave us an opportunity to chip away.

They all did. You hold the team down to four runs, five runs, whatever, I thought it would take eight or nine. I thought we'd score some runs, I thought we'd break loose. They didn't give us an opportunity. They pitched us extremely well three days in a row. Hats off to them in the two-out-of-three series this week, and they were the better team.

Q. Great year, what will you think of this year, remember about this year?
CARSON SHADDY: Just the group of guys that we had, you know, we're very talented. But the mental toughness was incredible. That was tested at the first couple of weeks of practices with all the pushups we had to do at 6:00 a.m. in the morning and all the blood, sweat and tears we put into this program.

I'll remember the guys around me, you know, helping me be my best. Two freshmen that were just incredible and had the most amazing seasons I've ever seen out of two freshmen. And then our captain that we love so much, Grant, and how he led this team to the finals.

GRANT KOCH: For me, it's the same thing. It's the bond that -- that's all there is. It's not really about wins and losses at this point. I'm going to remember the guys. I'm going to remember everything about them.

We have a bond that's going to last forever. I know that. And I think we did a really good job of just, I think, portraying to the younger guys what it means to be a Razorback. And the weight that that carries, not performance, not accolades, not anything but about the team and what it means to the state and wear that chest armor forever.

HESTON KJERSTAD: The season kind of came to a bitter end. Left a little bitter taste in our mouth, not the way we scripted it. But at the end of the day, there's no group of guys I'd rather go out on that field and play Game 3 in the national championship with.

Everyone has my back on this team. And going forward we have a bond that will last a lifetime. I know if I need anything, I can call any one of these guys and they'll have my back. The same for them, too.

It's amazing to be around a group of guys this great.

Q. Could you all talk about what Abel so effective today?
HESTON KJERSTAD: Abel was commanding them well and keeping us all off balance, as Coach said, with his fastball, but he would also challenge you with his off-speed changeup or flip a breaker in there for a strike every once in a while and kept the hitters off balance the whole game.

GRANT KOCH: It's the same thing. He used his fastball just enough, and I think we had a lot of (indiscernible) and seen his off-speed stuff, changeup or breaking ball. He kept us off balance just enough to where we couldn't have a big inning or anything.

CARSON SHADDY: You couldn't predict what he was going to do. He had command of all three pitches, and you gotta credit him. He pitched lights out today. And, again, he just -- he was on. He had command of all three pitches which really helped them.

Q. Did you guys ever feel like you recovered mentally from last night carrying into the game today?
GRANT KOCH: Yeah, absolutely. I think we did. I think the message was really good. We came in this morning and once we got to the field it was still light and it was still -- we remembered the message from the night before. And you just gotta get that sour taste out of your mouth the night it happened and show up to the ballpark and play the same game you have all year.

70th game or whatever, you learn to flush things pretty quick, and I don't think we had any negativity at all going into that game.

Q. Carson, summarize the three games in what they did pitching-wise that kept you all down, because you hit all year?
CARSON SHADDY: They kept us off balance. Like Abel did today, just enough fastballs, located their fastballs inside on hitters. And they just kept pounding us away and keeping us off balance. They did a great job.

Q. All three, if you could comment on the fans and the run it's been and just embracing everybody's passion and excitement as you guys made a run for a national championship?
CARSON SHADDY: That was absolutely incredible. The amount of support that we've had throughout this whole entire College World Series and even the Super Regional, 15,000 showing up at Baum Stadium is incredible.

And you get here, Game 1, it feels like it's Baum Stadium again, and carried all the way through to the finals.

The fans just have such a passion for this program, and the whole reason behind that is just because we don't have a pro team and we are the team.

And because of that, we are expected to be excellent. And that's what we were this year. We came up a little bit short. But it was a heck of a run. And we are so thankful for all the people that have helped us and have supported us.

GRANT KOCH: It was incredible. I don't think I could have come into college, asked for any more from a fan base. They keep you honest. They're so passionate.

That's what you want at the end of the day, win or lose. And I'm glad to know that I have no regrets. There's not a place I would have rather been and a fan base that I would have rather played in front of.

So it was incredible coming to Omaha, making this run, and hopefully through this we laid a foundation for the future.

HESTON KJERSTAD: They both said it pretty well right there. I feel like it's the best fan base in the country. Playing a Super Regional through Baum each game, we're packing out 12,000-plus through a three-game series, and showing up here playing in College World Series finals and the fans make the trip up to Omaha, thankful to have a fan base like that.

And on top of that, it's exciting as a player to show up at a game play in front of a fan base like that. It makes your experience a lot better through college because coming to Arkansas, that was one of the things that made me want to come here is how much the fans love the Arkansas Razorbacks, and they honestly taught me a lot this season on what it means to be a Razorback and how passionate they are about Arkansas baseball.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. What did you see from your guys from the time they got up this morning? Did you feel they had flushed away last night, or were you seeing things that gave you concern?
COACH VAN HORN: Well, I don't know if I would be able to tell by just looking at them what's going on in their mind. There was probably still a little bit of that what if and disappointment. It's only human, human nature for that.

But at the same time we had a good hitters meeting and guys showed up for breakfast. Gave them a window, let them sleep in a little bit.

Pregame was good. Seemed like they were locked in. I just think that we just -- we never got that hit. We never got anything going.

So, yeah, who is to say. I don't think we'll ever know. If Abel hadn't thrown it so well, maybe it's a little different story. But he just didn't give us a chance, really.

Q. I know it takes some distance to get there, but what's your initial thought on putting this season in perspective? Obviously any season that ends here in Omaha is a good one. Can you just talk a little bit about what your team accomplished this year?
COACH VAN HORN: We talk about that in the fall. When the season ends, you want it to end on that field right there. And, you know, when you make it here, you're down to the final eight and you've got a chance.

And we thought we were going to have a good team. We knew the SEC was a league that was going to be older and it was going to be a battle to even win our division or league.

But we did feel like we had a chance to play in Omaha. And we stayed healthy. We didn't have a lot of depth. We didn't have enough depth in our pitching staff or position players, to be honest. We played the same outfielders pretty much every game all year and same DH. Had a few guys there we mixed in and out early.

But I guess it will probably take me a little bit of time to sit and evaluate it. Because I'm already thinking about how are we getting back here, thinking about the roster for next year and who is going to sign, things that are going on in your head, when you are still trying to win a championship.

But just proud of the way they played. Won 48 games playing the schedule we played, one of the top two schedules, strength of schedule that was played. And we won a lot of games, a lot of close games. And we learned how to get here. We learned how to battle and get through some things.

That's why I kept thinking maybe the fourth or fifth inning we're going to break this thing open and it's all going to change. And it just never happened.

Q. The players talked about laying a foundation. The bar's already pretty high for Arkansas baseball. Do you think this maybe takes it up a notch to where --
COACH VAN HORN: Whenever you play for a national championship, I think, I mean, you only have one more step. And that's to win it.

And I think that we will one day. I think we'll be back soon. That's our goal and that's what we're trying to do every day. We walk in the door, the ballpark, working to get back here to play for a championship.

I think the foundation was laid with Coach DeBriyn and all the great players, and we continue to elevate year to year. And there's been a step back here and there, that's normal with draft and injuries, just the way the ball bounces sometimes, but for the most part we've been pretty solid for a while now.

And we feel like we're one of the top programs in the country year in, year out. We're a team that if you fall into the same Regional with us, you're not happy about it. And that's what we want it to be.

Q. Carson mentioned the inside fastball, just their ability to command that the last two, three days, was that the key for you in terms of keeping the guys off balance at the plate, or what did you see?
COACH VAN HORN: I think they did try to pitch in, but they also threw a lot of off-speed pitches. I think about their No. 2 starter, he was topping out about 88. So 84, 85, 86, that was his fastball, cut fastball, changeups and sliders. The first lefty he'd get up to maybe 93, 94, but then he'd throw you a lot of change-ups and sliders, and they're out of the zone.

We finally figured it out, laid off and got him out of the game. I just think they threw a lot more off-speed than we've probably seen in our league. But we kind of knew that. It's just the key for them was they got ahead of us and we swung at some pitches that were out of the zone when they were ahead of us.

And, I mean, they fooled us a little bit.

Q. In between innings, when you're not hitting the way you think you -- do you coach them or do you kind of don't want to get in their head? I know it's a big-time game here. What was that process tonight?
COACH VAN HORN: It varies. We had a couple little meetings there. Maybe go up to one or two guys there when they come back by. Coach Thompson is basically our hitting coach. So he's working with them all the time and talking to them. He's got charts, the way they're being pitched. They have meetings.

You do your best you can to adjust. This game is about adjusting throughout the game. And it just didn't happen. They just couldn't figure him out.

Q. Would you go through kind of what Carson has gone through this year and what he's meant to this team and just his performance up here, too?
COACH VAN HORN: Carson had a really good year. Last couple of years started out doing really well and then he tapered off. Two years ago he had eight home runs the first month of the season almost and didn't hit another one. This year he's just been steady. Batting average stayed in, I don't know, .330 something most all year, and that's hard to do.

Just been a very good defender, made most of the plays all year, and really good job for a guy that came here as a catcher and an outfielder. Then he played some shortstop, third base, second base, and we settled in on second last year and he learned the position this year. He was SEC First Team infielder.

Did a good job of leading players, and gets excited every now and then, gotta calm him down, but rather have it that way than a guy that doesn't show much in certain situations.

So it's been a real pleasure to have him in the program for really five years now and watch him grow up and develop into a young man.

He's going to get married this January, and I told him I was looking forward to being in his wedding. It's bittersweet when you have guys that you've been around that long.

Q. How do you take in what happened last night, being that close, and then when you're walking out of there today, just being here seven times as a head coach and knowing how hard it is to get here? How are you processing all that right now?
COACH VAN HORN: I'm okay. I feel bad for the kids. If I don't win another game, life's going to go on. I wanted those guys to have that championship. I wanted to win that championship for Coach DeBriyn, the former players, the state.

I'm good. My life's great, to be honest with you. I'm a lucky individual.

So, yeah, I mean, it makes me want to get back, take another shot at it. Like you said, I'm on the phone recruiting this morning. And talked to Coach Johnson about it after the game. It never stops. I mean, the phone's usually on. And how are we going to get back here? We've got to fill some holes. We've got to get better.

I could break every player down. Some kids have to learn what an off-speed pitch is, some guys gotta learn how to steal a base, some guys have to become better athletes. I've got a list of it. We've got to mix the new in with the old and take a shot at it again in '19.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.

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