Arkansas Set for 2015 College World Series – What They’re Saying


The OmaHogs Head to 2015 College World Series

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas baseball team used three first-inning runs and stellar pitching to knock off No. 8 national seed Missouri State 3-2 at Baum Stadium and advance to the 2015 College World series. The trip to Omaha is the third College World Series appearance in the last seven years and the eighth time in program history.

The Arkansas lineup came to life in the top of the first inning with three runs. After Joe Serrano flew out to start the game, Bobby Wernes singled and Andrew Benintendi walked. Junior outfielder Tyler Spoon then singled past the shortstop, scoring Wernes and moving Benintendi to third. After a sacrifice fly by Rick Nomura plated Benintendi, Brett McAfee singled through the left side to plate Spoon for the third run of the inning.

That would be all the runs the Razorbacks would need as the James Teague, Lance Phillips and Zach Jackson combined to allow just two runs, one earned, on eight hits the rest of the way. Jackson, who entered the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and gave up a run on a hard grounder to the first batter he faced, then went on to lock up his ninth save of the year by retiring the next 11 batters, including six by strikeout. In total, Arkansas struck out 12 Missouri State batters in the game. Phillips earned his second win of the season.

Missouri State chipped away at the Arkansas lead by scoring single runs in the third and sixth innings.

The attendance for Sunday’s finale of the Super Regional drew 11,694, bringing the three-game total to 35,730, the largest three-game weekend total in Baum Stadium history.

The NCAA College World Series opens up play Saturday, June 13 in Omaha, Nebraska at TD Ameritrade Park.

The University of Arkansas received a limited amount of tickets and will not be able to take orders from the public.  For those wishing to purchase single-game tickets please visit for more information.

Game Notes
• The Razorbacks have clinched a spot in their eighth College World Series in program history.
• Arkansas is one of seven teams in the country to advance to the College World Series three times in the last seven years.
• The Razorbacks have advanced to the College World Series in four of their six Super Regional appearances.
• Arkansas has advanced to Omaha in both Super Regionals at Baum Stadium.
• The Razorbacks have reached the 40-win plateau for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
• Arkansas improves to 71-59 in the NCAA tournament and has 17 tournament wins in the last four years.
• Head coach Dave Van Horn makes his sixth College World Series appearance overall, the most by any head coach in the SEC.

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From Missouri State

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Missouri State’s dream season and bid for the 2015 College World Series berth, which would have been the team’s second, came to an end Sunday afternoon at the Fayetteville Super Regional, as Arkansas made a three-run first inning stand for a 3-2 victory in the deciding game of the best-of-three series.

With the loss, the Bears (49-12) conclude their 2015 campaign with a school-record 49 wins, including 40 in their last 46 games since March 15, while UA advances to an opening-round matchup with Virginia next Saturday in Omaha.

Three Arkansas pitchers, led by Zach Jackson’s 3.2 innings of shutdown relief, limited the Bears to single runs in the third and sixth innings. Jackson allowed an RBI single to the first batter he faced after taking over for Lance Phillips (2-3), then retired the final 11 batters of the game–six coming via strikeouts–to lock up the Razorbacks’ eighth trip to the College World Series.

Tyler Spoon singled home the first of UA’s three first-inning tallies and finished the day 2-for-4 to lead Arkansas, which pulled out the victory despite being outhit by the Bears, 8-7.

Justin Paulsen paced the Bears’ attack with a pair of hits and an RBI, while Dylan Becker singled home a run and drew his school-record 55th walk of the season for MSU.

After being held to one hit in Saturday’s Game 2 loss, the Razorbacks (40-23) wasted little time in kicking their offense into gear in the deciding contest, striking for three runs on three hits in the first against MSU starter Jordan Knutson. Bobby Wernes’ one-out single got the ball rolling for the Razorbacks, before Andrew Benintendi coaxed a four-pitch walk. Spoon followed with a base hit through the left side to chase home Wernes, and Rick Nomura’s sacrifice fly to center brought in Benintendi. Next, Spoon recorded what would prove to be a key steal of second, setting up Brett McAfee’s run-scoring single to right that stretched the UA lead to 3-0.

The Bears, who went just 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, generated a first-inning scoring chance of their own, as Joey Hawkins singled and Tate Matheny lined a double off the left-field foul line. But UA starter James Teague wiggled his way out of harm’s way, retiring Eric Cheray on a liner to shortstop before getting Jake Burger to bounce out to second to keep the Bears off the scoreboard.

MSU’s struggles with runners in scoring position continued in the second when a two-out walk to Becker loaded the bases after singles by Paulsen and Matt Fultz set up another threat. Teague came up with another big out, however, inducing a pop up to short with his first offering to Hawkins.

It would take a two-out rally fueled by an Arkansas error to break the scoring seal for the Bears in the third. After Teague dispatched the first two hitters of the inning, Burger’s tap to third scooted under the glove of Wernes to give the Bears new life. Next, Spencer Johnson drew a walk and Paulsen’s base hit to left bring in Burger for the first MSU tally of the day.

Then, with runners on first and second, Graham’s liner down the first base line initially appeared to sneak inside the bag, but first base umpire John Haggerty ruled otherwise, taking at least one MSU run off the scoreboard. Three pitches later, Teague froze Graham with a 2-2 pitch on the outside corner, ending the Bears’ threat with the potential tying run still on first.

Neither club threatened again until the sixth, as Knutson settled into a groove to retire 14 of 16 UA hitters after the first, and Teague worked a 1-2-3 fourth inning before yielding to Phillips in the fifth. In all, Teague would allow just one unearned run on five hits while fanning four batters, while Knutson (6-2) shut out the Razorbacks after the first, allowing three runs on six hits and a pair of walks in his 6.0 innings.

The Bears best chance to even the score came in the sixth after Graham’s one-out single landed clearly fair in right-center field, and Fultz drew a walk to force an Arkansas pitching change. Becker stroked a run-scoring single into right field to make it a 3-2 game and bring up Hawkins with runners on the corners.

Jackson delivered for UA, however, getting Hawkins to look at a called third strike, then inducing a fly ball to right on a 2-2 pitch to Matheny to escape the inning with the one-run lead intact.

The right-hander cruised down the stretch, striking out a total of four batters in the seventh and eighth frames, before working a perfect ninth that was punctuated by a game-clinching strikeout of Matheny.

In addition to setting school record for victories in a season, the Bears also surpassed previous program standards for strikeouts by a pitching staff (553), walks drawn (317), sacrifice hits (60) and team fielding percentage (.976).

* * *

From Steven Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald:

The College World Series moved closer Sunday to becoming an SEC-ACC challenge match.

Two Southeastern Conference teams — Arkansas and Louisiana State — clinched spots in the eight-team field with super-regional wins. The SEC’s Florida qualified Saturday, as did Virginia and Miami of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Six teams are still in contention for the final three spots. Two — Texas A&M and Vanderbilt — are from the SEC, while Louisville is from the ACC.

Arkansas secured its eighth trip to Omaha by knocking No. 8 national seed Missouri State out of the tournament with a 3-2 win on its home field. A .500 team in early April, Arkansas will bring a 40-23 record to the CWS.

“These guys know and I know that it’s really tough to get to Omaha,’’ Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “These guys persevered, and I’m really proud of them.’’

The CWS trip will be Van Horn’s sixth. He twice took Nebraska to Rosenblatt Stadium and has guided the Razorbacks to Omaha in 2004, 2009, 2012 and this season.

“It’s unbelievable for me,’’ Van Horn said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. It’s hard to get there, man, it’s tough.’’

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said he was as relaxed as he’d ever been entering this weekend’s super regional against Missouri State in Fayetteville, Ark.

He had reason to be, given how the Razorbacks had improbably recovered from a 14-14 start to the season and were two wins away from the College World Series.

Led by a three-run first inning and a dominating relief appearance from closer Zach Jackson, Arkansas capped its remarkable turnaround with a 3-2 victory over Missouri State on Sunday — sending the Razorbacks to their fourth CWS appearance in the last 13 seasons.

“I’m very proud of this team for hanging in there all year,” Van Horn said. “… We were 14-14 in early April, and we’ve got 40 wins. These guys know, and I know, it’s really hard to get to Omaha. It’s not easy, and these guys persevered and did it.”

The Bears had eight hits but left 10 runners on base. Jackson struck out six of the 12 batters he faced while allowing only one hit.

“He’s a big-leaguer,” Missouri State coach Keith Guttin said. “He’s got a breaking ball that very few people on earth can hit.”

A look at Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the bullpen next to the home dugout at Davenport Field, University of Virginia pitcher Brandon Waddell was too nervous to sit down. His work done for the day, Waddell paced.

“Back and forth,” he said later. “Head turned toward the field, away from the field. Didn’t really know what to do.”

It was the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday evening, and the Cavaliers, who had rallied to win the opening game of this best-of-three NCAA super regional Friday night, trailed Maryland 4-2 and were down to their final three outs.

Virginia didn’t need any of those outs in what head coach Brian O’Connor called “a magical bottom of the ninth.” After closer Kevin Mooney walked in a run with the bases loaded, UVa’s No. 9 hitter, freshman Ernie Clement, came to the plate, and the sellout crowd of 5,001 rose to its feet.

Moments later, the pleas of Virginia fans were answered. Clement smacked a 2-2 breaking ball from Mooney down the left-field line, scoring pinch-runner Thomas Woodruff and Joe McCarthy and lifting the Wahoos to a 5-4 victory that sends them to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., for the second straight year and fourth time in seven seasons.

“This is the greatest feeling ever,” Clement said.

His hit, naturally, evoked memories of the two-run single by Chris Taylor in the third and final game of UVa’s super regional with UC Irvine in 2011. Taylor’s two-out hit at Davenport Field that day gave the `Hoos a 3-2 victory and triggered a frenzied celebration among players, coaches and fans.

A similar scene unfolded after the final out Saturday at Davenport, and Clement did not escape unscathed. He was body-slammed by teammate Kevin Doherty — one of the heroes of the Cavaliers’ comeback win Friday — and then engulfed by teammates in a dogpile that even O’Connor leaped onto.

“I got dinged up,” said a smiling Clement, lifting his cap to reveal a patch of scratches on his forehead. “It’s completely worth it, though. I’ll take it any day of the week.”

So will O’Connor, who emerged from the dogpile with scratches on his left arm. His delight in what his team has achieved was palpable during the 30-minute press conference that followed the super regional.

“That’s why you come to the University of Virginia to play baseball,” O’Connor said. “You come here to get a great education, you come here to have great teammates and get better and have a chance to play in Omaha, and this team’s going to have that opportunity, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Virginia (39-22) will open play in the eight-team College World Series on Saturday against Arkansas at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. At last year’s CWS, UVa advanced to the championship series before falling to Vanderbilt in the third and final game.

From that team, the Cavaliers lost such mainstays as Mike PapiNick HowardDerek FisherBrandon DownesBranden CogswellArtie LewickiWhit Mayberry and Austin Young. Yet the Cavaliers never doubted that they could make it back to Omaha this year, sophomore catcher Matt Thaiss said Saturday, even when their postseason prospects looked bleak.

“All year we’ve known what we’ve had,” Thaiss said. “We know we’re a great team. We’re with each other every day. We see the talent that we had, and we just had to put it together at the right time, and I think we did so.”

This is O’Connor’s 12th season at Virginia, where his record is a staggering 553-199-2. Under O’Connor and his longtime assistants — associate head coach Kevin McMullan and pitching coach Karl Kuhn — the Cavaliers have made 12 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament. This latest team, however, has encountered more adversity than many of the other clubs combined, including injuries to such key players as Nathan KirbyJoe McCarthyJohn La Prise and Derek Casey.

He’s proud of every team he’s coached, O’Connor said Saturday, but “this one’s really, really special. Certainly you couldn’t be more proud of them, the way that they’ve handled themselves.”

Nothing came easily during the regular season for the `Hoos, who needed a late surge simply to qualify for the ACC tournament. In 2014, Virginia entered the NCAA tourney as the No. 3 overall seed. The Cavaliers entered this NCAA tourney on a three-game losing steak and seeded No. 3 in the four-team regional at Lake Elsinore, Calif.

None of that matters now. After going 3-0 in California last weekend and then adding two more victories in Charlottesville, the `Hoos will head to Omaha as one of the nation’s hottest teams.

“I think that just shows we can piece it together,” Waddell said. “We’ve been through adversity, we’ve been through ups and downs, and to be able to pull through and still be successful, it’s big.”

Each game in this super regional, in a sense, was a microcosm of the Cavaliers’ season. In the opener Friday, UVa trailed 3-0 after seven innings. But the `Hoos rallied for five runs in the eighth — three off Mooney — and came away with a 5-3 victory.

About 24 hours later, Virginia fell behind in the fifth and didn’t regain the lead until the ninth.

“This game is a reflection of our season,” O’Connor said Saturday. “We hung in there, the guys didn’t quit, and we found a way. That’s what they’ve been doing all year long. Just amazing. Different guys, different days. The job that Brandon Waddell did was really, really terrific. Just like [Game 1 starter] Connor Jones hung in there and gave us a chance to win yesterday, Brandon Waddell did the same thing.”

This was not Waddell’s finest game as a Cavalier — the junior left-hander allowed 10 hits and all four Maryland runs — but he showed again why he’s such a valuable member of the team.

“He clearly did not have the kind of stuff that he’s had recently, but he just never let it get out of control,” O’Connor said.

“It shows what he’s made of, that he didn’t just throw in the towel. He didn’t say, `It’s not my day.’ He knew that we needed to eat the game up. That’s what we call it. He needed to eat the game up for us and give us a chance.”

Waddell appeared to grow stronger as the game wore on, and the `Hoos lost nothing when Alec Bettinger took the mound in the ninth. A sophomore right-hander who was coming off a disastrous start at Lake Elsinore, Bettinger retired the Terps in order.

“That was a huge inning,” O’Connor said. “He came in and got three outs and gave us a chance and kept the game in check.”

In each of the first eight innings, Maryland had retired UVa’s leadoff hitter. But freshman Pavin Smith led off the ninth by drawing a walk off left-hander Robert Galligan, who pitched brilliantly for most of the game. Junior Robbie Coman followed with a single, and the Terps suddenly did not look so confident.

“I think it does put a lot of pressure on somebody,” O’Connor said of Smith’s walk. “You get that leadoff hitter on, and then all of a sudden you think, `OK, well, if somebody hits a ball out of the ballpark, it’s a tie game.’ You start being a little bit more fine as a pitcher, and maybe that’s part of what happened.”

With McCarthy coming to the plate, Maryland coach Jim Szefc chose to stick with Galligan, who had relieved starter Ryan Selmer with one out in the first.

McCarthy, a junior, showed bunt, but he never made contact with the ball. He never had to. Galligan walked him on four pitches, loading the bases, and Szefc turned to Mooney, a junior right-hander who had entered this super regional with a 1.21 earned-run average.

Mooney’s second relief appearance of the weekend went no better than his first. Doherty, the No. 8 hitter whose three-run double off Mooney had put the Cavaliers ahead to stay Friday night, drew a five-pitch walk Saturday, bringing Smith home from third and making it 4-3.

Then came the at-bat in which Clement etched his name in program lore.

“I think I’m going to go buy a lottery ticket after this, because I told Ernie he was going to get up that inning and he was going to come up with a big hit,” Thaiss said.

Clement confirmed after the game that he’s seen video of Taylor’s hit against UC Irvine.

“I’ve watched it a ton, honestly,” Clement said. “It’s awesome. [Taylor] actually came by and took groundballs with us for a couple days. I watched it even more after that. He’s awesome, and that play will go down in history, obviously.”

Sophomore shortstop Daniel Pinero and senior third baseman Kenny Towns burst out of the clubhouse during the postgame press conference Saturday, interrupting the proceedings long enough to snap a selfie with their head coach.

“I created a monster,” O’Connor said, smiling.

That was a reference to the Thursday press conference at which O’Connor, before taking questions from reporters, pulled out his smartphone and took a selfie with Jones, Pinero and pitcher Josh Sborz.

“You want them to win the game,” O’Connor said Saturday, “but they have to enjoy it, and I’ve been stressing that to them, ever since the ACC tournament … that they have earned the right to play in the NCAA tournament, and they need to enjoy every time they step out on the field. And they need to have a smile on their face, because you just don’t know when it can end. And I really, truly mean that.

“I think they’re enjoying it. They’re enjoying being around each other. That’s part of the reason I took a selfie the other day.”

O’Connor smiled again. “I don’t even know what a selfie is. I don’t know how to take them, I don’t know how to tweet it. But I wanted to remind them that this is fun, and they should enjoy it.”

Rest assured, his players are loving this ride.

`I noticed it today when we were in the locker room this morning,” Thaiss said Saturday. “Everyone was loose, we were joking around, it didn’t feel [like] a super regional was about to happen.

“It’s been that way all year. Guys joke around, we have fun, but when it comes to game time we’re ready to go. I think that looseness, that confidence has really played a key factor in us this year.”

Click the 2015 College World Series Bracket below for a closer look.

2015 College World Series Bracket

2015 college world series



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