Jim Harris – Razorbacks’ College World Series Shot Comes Down to This


By Jim Harris

The Hogs have won seven of their last eight three-game series in the toughest baseball conference in America, and typically they were winning game three of the series (only one game 3 loss in the last nine series). It’s the way this Arkansas team has been built — to play in three-game series and win them. The Hogs beat Missouri State’s ace in game one, failed to scratch much in game two.. Now, going to the College World Series all comes down to one game at home. Oh, and FYI, not that it matters Sunday much, but the UCA Bears beat Missouri St. 6-2 in game three of a three-game series early in the season after Jon Harris and Matt Hall dominated in the first two games.

I’m impressed that Missouri St. has two studs like those, but surely not a third. Unfortunately, freshman Keaton McKinney didn’t have have it yesterday, and Arkansas had to use the guy I’d have rather seen start Game 3 today – Jackson Lowery – and the Razorbacks’ regular-season No. 2 starter Dominic Taccolini is out for the season, too.

So, what kind of committee does Dave Van Horn lineup for a do-or-die Sunday game, which all season was McKinney’s spot? It’s a shame all those great pitchers of two to three years ago didn’t have this team’s offense and fielding, and vice versa. But that’s college athletics.

* * *

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas Razorbacks (39-23) fell 3-1 to Missouri State (49-11) in Game 2 of the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional. With the series tied at one, a decisive Game 3 will be played today at 2 p.m. with a trip to the College World Series on the line.

Arkansas received an outstanding relief performance from senior Jackson Lowery, who pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed just three hits and two runs.

Joe Serrano led off the seventh with a walk and advanced to second two batters later when Golden Spikes Award finalist and SEC Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi also drew a base on balls. Serrano scored on a sharply hit ball that was misplayed by the shortstop, giving the record crowd some energy.

After setting the Baum Stadium attendance record yesterday, Razorback fans did not disappoint on Saturday. The attendance mark was broken for the second time in as many days with 12,167 fans on hand.

Student tickets for Game 3 will go on sale at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Bud Walton Arena box office near the south entrance.

Due to parking lot closures and to avoid confusion and congestion surrounding Baum Stadium on Sunday, student ticket purchases will take place at Bud Walton Arena.

An allotment of 250 general admission tickets in the Hog Pen will be available to students for $15. Students are limited to one ticket per person and must be present to purchase and show a valid and current UA student ID.

* * *

And from Missouri State

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Matt Hall’s complete-game one-hitter propelled Missouri State to a 3-1 victory over Arkansas Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium, forcing a deciding game Sunday at the Fayetteville Super Regional. On the heels of an 18-hit outburst by Arkansas in Friday’s opening game, MSU’s first-team All-American allowed just one baserunner through the first six frames and only one unearned run overall in his third complete-game effort as a Bear.

Hall (12-2) limited the Razorbacks to a first-inning single by Bobby Wernes and fanned eight hitters to eclipse the Missouri Valley Conference’s all-time mark for strikeouts in a season. The junior also matched Brad Ziegler’s Missouri State single-season wins record with his 12th mound victory that moved the Bears to within one win of their second CWS berth.

MSU grabbed an early lead thanks to a pair of Blake Graham RBIs and a Spencer Johnson run-scoring single. Hall would make the lead stand by retiring 16 straight Razorbacks before a seventh-inning rally gave UA its lone tally of the afternoon.

After taking a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning of Game 1 of the series Friday, the Bears got off to another strong start behind the pitching of Hall in Saturday’s contest. The left-hander allowed a one-out hit to Wernes in the first, but got Andrew Benintendi to line into a double play, then retired the next 15 Razorbacks in order, breaking Bryan Oelkers’ 33-year-old MVC single-season strikeout record with his third-inning punchout of Tucker Pennell.

The Bears’ offense was successful in the early stages of the game as well, putting multiple runners on base in each of the first five frames. A leadoff walk to Johnson–one of eight handed out by UA pitchers–sparked a second-inning rally for the Bears, as back-to-back hits by Justin Paulsen and Graham produced the first run of the afternoon. MSU struck for two more in the third, using singles by Tate Matheny and Eric Cheray as a springboard to a 3-0 advantage. Johnson’s RBI single to left brought home Matheny, before Graham drove in his second run of the game with a fielder’s choice bouncer to the mound.

Hall cruised through the first six innings, allowing just one baserunner while facing the minimum number of batters until issuing a walk to Joe Serrano to start the seventh. After a lineout to left off the bat of Wernes, Benintendi drew a four-pitch walk to give the Razorbacks their first runner in scoring position. Tyler Spoon’s fly ball to deep center pushed the lead runner to third, but Hall appeared to have worked his way out of trouble when Clark Eagan lined a ground ball to shortstop.

But Joey Hawkins couldn’t corral the hot shot, which skipped into left field to give Serrano ample time to cross the plate and end Hall’s shutout bid. However, Hall induced a one-hopper to third on the next pitch to Rick Nomura, and Jake Burger fired to first end the threat and strand the potential tying run.

Another leadoff walk–this one to Brett McAfee–started the eighth, but Hall coaxed a 6-4-3 double-play ball from Michael Bernal and retired Pennell on a grounder to third to preserve the lead once again. After issuing a third-straight leadoff walk to begin the ninth, Hall got Wernes to roll a fielder’s choice grounder to short before getting Benintendi foul out to first. Hall then capped his banner day by blazing an 0-2 pitch past Tyler Spoon for the game’s final out.

In addition to Graham’s two key RBIs, Johnson reached base safely in his first three plate appearances, scoring a run and driving home another to fuel the Bears’ offense.

Keaton McKinney (6-2) suffered the setback for UA after allowing the first MSU run on three hits and three walks over just an inning and a third. Jackson Lowery turned in a strong outing in relief of McKinney, giving up two MSU runs on three hits while striking out six over his 6.2 innings of work.

With the series squared at one game apiece, the Bears (49-11) and Razorbacks (39-23) will meet again today (June 7) at 2:05 p.m. to determine which club will advance to the College World Series in Omaha.

Hogs face elimination game for College World Series Pass


Tags: ,