What They’re Saying – Hogs Loss Means Miami in Loser Leaves CWS Game


Concerning the Razorbacks loss in Game 1 of the CWS in Omaha, Jim Harris summed it up best yesterday, saying, “The University of Virgina had a heckuva book on Hogs. They knew what to look for with Zach Jackson, like lay off the fastball, when to run on pitchers. Trey Killian pitched great. Benny rocked! It was a tough loss for the Hogs.”

OMAHA, Neb. – The Arkansas baseball team (40-24) fell to Virginia (40-23) 5-3 to open the 2015 NCAA CWS Saturday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park. Arkansas will face elimination on Monday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2 against Miami, a team that got beat in its CWS opener 15-3 by Florida Saturday evening.

National Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi continued to show why he is the best player in collegiate baseball. The sophomore drove in two of Arkansas’ three runs, both to tie the game, and finished 1-for-2 with a walk, stolen base and a run scored.

In the bottom of the fifth, Benintendi hit a solo home run down the right field line, his nation-leading 20th of the season. He is the only Razorback to ever hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season and becomes the first Division I player to accomplish the feat since 2009 (Wade Gaynor, Western Kentucky). Two years earlier in 2007 was the last time an SEC player went 20-and-20 when Vanderbilt’s Dominic de la Osa reached the mark.

Starting pitcher Trey Killian pitched effectively into the eighth inning. He finished with 7 1/3 innings pitched, allowing four earned runs and striking out six.

Sophomore Clark Eagan doubled home a run in the third, his 31st RBI of the season.

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What They’re Saying

From the Washington Post

Virginia is 6-0 in the NCAA tournament and next plays on Monday at 8 p.m. against Florida, which posted a 15-3 win over Miami on Saturday night.

“Just really proud of our team for again continuing to find a way to win a ballgame,” Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor said. “That ballgame is kind of how we’ve played for the last couple of weeks.”

“We were just trying to put the ball in play, anyway anyhow, and it worked out for us,” Virginia’s Daniel Pinero said. “We shortened up our swings a little bit with two outs, made the defense work a little bit. We came through and did a good job.”

Added Virginia’s Kenny Towns: “I think I just feel comfortable in the postseason. . . . I think I’ve kind of gotten used to it and got comfortable in those situations, and you obviously want to rise up for your team.”

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From Doc Harper at SBNation

One game in and the Arkansas Razorbacks are officially in deep trouble in the 2015 College World Series.

Trey Killian and Andrew Benintendi both performed memorably, but Virginia was able to make a couple more plays late in the game against Zach Jackson and the Cavaliers won 5-3. The Razorbacks are now one loss away from elimination and will have to win three consecutive games to advance in the tournament. A tall task with Arkansas’ infamously thin pitching staff.

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From Virginia’s point of view

OMAHA, Neb. — Brian O’Connor noticed it Thursday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park, not long after his University of Virginia baseball team arrived in this city. The Cavaliers have advanced to the College World Series four times in O’Connor’s 12 seasons as their head coach, but this is the first time they’ve made it to Omaha in consecutive years, and there’s a collective calmness about this team.

Many of the key players from the club that reached last year’s CWS championship series are now in pro ball. Still, O’Connor has a strong core of veterans, including Kenny TownsDaniel PineroJoe McCarthyJosh SborzMatt ThaissConnor Jones and Brandon Waddell, and they’re no longer awed by the prospect of playing on the college game’s biggest stage.

“I don’t want to make too much out of it, but I think it does make a difference,” O’Connor said after Virginia opened this College World Series with a 5-3 victory over Arkansas before a crowd of 24,228.

“Even on Thursday when we were in the dugout, when we brought the team over here, talking to Kenny Towns, he was like, `This feels comfortable. This feels like home.’ Versus you ask the rookies that question, and their eyes are the size of silver dollars. I think it absolutely makes a difference.”

One of those rookies, freshman Ernie Clement, contributed an RBI single Saturday afternoon, but the Wahoos’ veterans made most of the big plays against the Razorbacks (40-24). The biggest was Towns’ two-out double off Arkansas right-hander Zach Jackson, one of the nation’s premier closers, in the top of the eighth inning.

“Certainly I thought it was the at-bat of the game,” O’Connor said.

Towns, one of only two seniors on the UVa roster, fell behind 1-2 against Jackson, but worked the count to 3-2 before hammering the ball down the right-field line. That scored Pinero and gave Virginia a 4-3 lead.

“What a great two-strike approach [Towns] had for those last three pitches,” O’Connor said. “And Jackson throws him a 3-2 breaking ball and he’s got a great approach and just hits the ball the other way.”

With Sborz on the mound — the junior right-hander replaced Jones after the sixth — the Cavaliers (40-22) had all the cushion they needed, though Clement’s RBI in the ninth did not hurt. (That was the first earned run Jackson has surrendered in this NCAA tournament.)

“It just allows you to be a little more relaxed,” Sborz said.

In his longest appearance since a May 19 start against Georgia Tech in an ACC tournament play-in game, Sborz struck out five of the 10 batters he faced Saturday and raised his record to 5-2.

“Sborz, he goes out there and attacks them,” Towns said. “He’s the guy you want in that situation. He’s shown it the last couple of weeks and especially of late.”

Virginia is in the College World Series’ Bracket 1, whose four teams are playing a double-elimination tournament. Its winner will advance to the CWS’ best-of-three championship series against the team that emerges from Bracket 2, which consists of LSU, TCU, Cal State Fullerton and defending NCAA champion Vanderbilt.

Arkansas will face the Miami Hurricanes (49-16), who lost 15-3 to SEC power Florida on Saturday night, in an elimination game Monday at 3 p.m. (EST).

UVa will take on the Gators (50-16) at 8 p.m. (EST) Monday, with the winner not playing again until Friday afternoon. Waddell, a junior left-hander who has a 4-1 career record (and 2.17 ERA) on the NCAA tourney, will start for the `Hoos on Monday night.

“Our team this year, especially this game, has been really relaxed,” Sborz said, “and it was really key for us to get that big first win, because now all those rookies are able to relax a little more. They’re played through a game, they’ve gotten one win under their belt, and we just gotta keep winning.”

All five of Virginia’s runs Saturday came with two outs. In the second, McCarthy hammered a pitch from Arkansas starter Trey Killian over the fence in right field, the 6-3, 215-pound junior’s second home run in a season in which he missed the first 35 games while recovering from back surgery.

The Hogs answered with two runs in the third, but Virginia regained the lead in the fifth on back-to-back RBI singles by sophomores Pinero and Thaiss. Later that inning, SEC player of the year Andrew Benintendi’s 20th home run of the season made it 3-3, but Arkansas did no more damage against Jones and then Sborz.

Jones, in his first CWS appearance, “certainly didn’t have his best stuff, but he grinded and gave us six innings,” O’Connor said. “I thought he did a tremendous job, and certainly we were very, very aggressive. Our plan coming into this World Series was to be very aggressive and take the fight to the other team, and certainly we did that from an offensive standpoint.”

To wit: Virginia came into the game with only 62 stolen-base attempts all season. The Cavaliers attempted eight steals Saturday and were successful on five. Pinero became the first player with three steals in a CWS game since Arizona’s Brad Boyer against, coincidentally, Arkansas on June 20, 2004.

“So we kind of lulled everybody to sleep all year and decided we’d start running today,” O’Connor said, tongue firmly in cheek. “No, but really, we’ve got some good athletes.”

In the eighth, Pinero reached on a one-out single and then stole second. Moments later, he stole third, but this time the decision to run was his, not the coaching staff’s.

“I knew [Jackson] had a high leg kick,” Pinero said. “I kind of wanted to take advantage of that, and I was creeping a little bit towards third base. I got a good jump, and it worked out in my favor.”

Jackson struck out Thaiss, but the `Hoos did not despair. Not with Towns, who’s becoming known as “Mr. June” for his postseason exploits at the plate. Even before Saturday, Towns held the school record for career RBI in the NCAA tournament, and now he has 22.

“He’s awfully good,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “He’s just a good hitter, clutch hitter, and that’s what it’s all about.”

In 26 NCAA tourney games, Towns is hitting 304.

“He’s been clutch his whole career,” Sborz said. “He’s just extremely calm [at the plate].”

Towns said: “I think I just feel comfortable in the postseason. The games are usually on the line this time of year. It’s nice to come through for your club.”

Asked about the “Mr. June” tag, Towns smiled. He doesn’t mind, he said, “because it’s always good to be playing in June.”

Towns won’t ever forget his first trip to Omaha, but he said he’s “definitely a lot more comfortable this time. I remember specifically from last year my first at-bat. I was shaking. This year, obviously I was real excited about it, but I felt a lot more comfortable, was more relaxed.”

He’s not alone. O’Connor said he attributes the Cavaliers’ postseason success this year partly to the “very relaxed but confident attitude that this team has carried. I think it’s served us well, and hopefully it does moving forward.”

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Virginia Highlights

Hogs Lose Opener in CWS



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