FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas ace DJ Baxendale could think of only one word to describe the talent level, from top to bottom, of the Razorbacks' pitching staff.
"Ridiculousness," Baxendale said.
The talented staff has carried Arkansas this season, all the way back to the College World Series for the first time since 2009. And now that the trip to Omaha, Neb., is secured, the Razorbacks (44-20) plan to stick around a while.
Arkansas opens play on Saturday against Kent State (46-18). Baxendale is expected to get the ball in the first game, just as he's done each of the past two weekends as the Razorbacks have advanced on the road in both the Houston regional and the super regional at Baylor.
The right hander, however, is far from the only outstanding option on the mound for coach Dave Van Horn. In fact, Baxendale's 3.18 ERA is actually higher than Arkansas' overall team ERA of 2.90 — the seventh-lowest overall in Division I this season and the best of any of the eight remaining teams.
The pitching talent begins with Baxendale and fellow starter Ryne Stanek, but it hardly ends there. Seven regular members of the Razorbacks' bullpen sport sub-3.00 ERAs, and it was the bullpen that threw six scoreless innings in Arkansas' 10-inning, 1-0 win over Baylor in Monday.
Colby Suggs finished off the win with two scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.22 in 37 innings this season.
"There aren't many teams that can bring out guys who haven't thrown all weekend and throw like that, pumping it up there in the mid-90s, in Game 3 of a super regional," Baxendale said.
The Razorbacks started 22-3 but suffered through a 5-8 midseason stretch and went two-and-out at the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Much like last season, when Arkansas hit an SEC-worst .270 as a team, the lack of hitting this year played a significant role in the struggles. They were 160th in Division I with a .273 batting average, and 159th overall with an average of 5.3 runs scored per game.
Baxendale said last season that a rift developed between the team's pitchers and hitters, and that the Arkansas coaches went out of their way early this season to put an end to any problems. Third baseman Matt Reynolds, a second-round draft pick of the New York Mets who is hitting a team-best .338, said they did so by forcing the team to spend more time together.