By Robbie Neiswanger
By Robbie Neiswanger
Arkansas News Bureau
OMAHA, Neb. — Arkansas outfielder Matt Vinson holds one dubious distinction at the 2012 College World Series.
His batting average entering the first-round games (.208) was the lowest among any of the 72 players penciled in as starters.
But after two games, it’s hard to find anyone with two more important hits.
“He’s been big for us,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Vinson, batting near the bottom of Arkansas’ order, has driven in three runs with a pair of two-outs hits to help the Razorbacks start 2-0 in TD Ameritrade Park.
He lined a double to left field in the opener against Kent State, which scored two to give the Razorbacks some much needed breathing room in their 8-1 win. Vinson added a two-out single to right field Monday, giving Arkansas a 2-0 lead in the fourth which held up the one-run win.
His batting average (now .212) is proof the junior from Alma has had his share of struggles at the plate. But Vinson said it didn’t shake his confidence, which has been evident by his performance this week.
“This is where you want to be as a college player and a kid,” Vinson said. “There have been struggles, but I tend to forget pretty easy. I don’t remember all of them.
“I remember the good stuff and this is definitely one of the good things.”
Vinson has started 33 games and played in 46 this season, but has gotten his opportunity late this season largely because of Jacob Morris’ season-ending injury on May 12. Van Horn told Vinson at the time he was sliding from left field to center field to become Arkansas’ every-day starter.
He now hits in the bottom of Arkansas’ order, which was criticized earlier this season for its struggles. But Vinson and catcher Jake Wise have been big in the past three games, driving in seven of Arkansas’ 10 runs dating back to the 1-0 win against Baylor in the Waco Super Regional final.
“It’s what we need,” first baseman Dominic Ficociello said. “We need the bottom of the order to start producing just like the top of the order has done for the most part this year. If they can keep doing it for the next couple of games we’ll be tough to beat.”
Vinson entered the season as a .212 hitter and has stayed true to form most of 2012. It hasn’t stopped him from contributing when he’s on the field, though, like the fence-scaling catch to steal a home run from Alabama in Arkansas’ conference opener.
Vinson said he plans to keep doing his part defensively, but believes he’s starting to find comfort at the plate as well.
“I just feel like lately I’ve been seeing the ball well,” Vinson said. “The pitches have been slowing down and I’ve been able to pick up pitches better.”
Vinson hit .300 in three starts during the Houston Regional. He didn’t enjoy the same success in Waco, but has been valuable so far in the College World Series.
The two big hits in Omaha has led to plenty of phone calls from friends from Alma. Vinson joked that he is hearing from a lot of people when “things start getting shiny.”
But he appreciates the notoriety for his work with the Razorbacks. He also enjoys what it means for the people of Alma.
“It’s good for my hometown because nobody has really ever heard of it,” Vinson said. “It’s good to get some exposure down there.”
Vinson will be in the Arkansas lineup once again at 8 p.m. Thursday night, when the Razorbacks can secure a spot in the best-of-three championship series with a win against the South Carolina/Kent State survivor. There will be more opportunities for timely hits and key RBIs as well, something Vinson said he’ll be prepared to deliver again.
“I go up with the same approach every time,” Vinson said. “There just happen to be some guys on base and I happen to get a hit. “I guess they call it clutch, but I’m just taking the same approach I always do.”