OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arkansas' DJ Baxendale bounced back from one of his worst starts of the year to turn in his best.
The junior right-hander held Kent State hitless into the fifth inning and combined with Brandon Moore on a four-hitter Saturday in the Razorbacks' 8-1 victory that spoiled the Golden Flashes' first appearance in the College World Series.
Baxendale's performance was a lot different than his previous outing, when he was hit for five runs in four innings in an 8-1 loss to Baylor in the super regionals.
"Against Baylor, I really felt like I let the team down," Baxendale said. "To come out here at this stage and be able to get us a victory in Game 1, it was huge for not only my confidence but I think for the team's as well. We know any time you can win the first game, it just keeps building off that."
Baxendale and Moore got some unexpected help from the bottom of the lineup. No. 9 batter Jake Wise homered for the first time since February and also hit a two-run single. No. 8 batter Matt Vinson hit a two-run double that gave Arkansas (45-20) a 5-1 lead in the sixth.
"My 3 and 4 holers didn't get a hit today and we scored eight runs. Somebody got it going," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "That's a good sign."
Kent State (46-19), the first team from the Mid-American Conference to make it to the CWS since Eastern Michigan in 1976, couldn't get much going against Baxendale.
Baxendale didn't allow a hit until Sawyer Polen's infield single with two out in the fifth. He held the Flashes scoreless until Jimmy Rider homered in the sixth.
"DJ Baxendale was outstanding," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "He kept us off balance. His fastball was sharp and he throws the breaking ball when he's behind in the count. He really competes."
Baxendale (8-5) allowed three hits, giving way to Moore with one out in the seventh. He struck out five and walked one. Moore pitched the last 2 2-3 innings for his third save.
Baxendale retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced before Polen ripped a hard grounder up the middle for a base hit. Second baseman Bo Bigham made a great stop, but his throw to first was wide and late.
"I knew after the first inning he had it because he threw every fastball right where he wanted it in the first inning, and that's a telltale sign for him in watching him pitch for three years," Van Horn said. "It's been a big pleasure, and hopefully we'll get him out there again before this is over with."