The Arkansas Razorback baseball team continued their ride to a first national championship Sunday and Wednesday in the opening rounds of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, crushing Texas 11-5 before taking down Texas Tech 7-4, advancing to the national semifinals in the process.
Playing in their first College World Series game since 2015, the fifth-ranked Hogs took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning of play against the Longhorns, exploding for eight runs in that frame to blow the contest wide open and cruise to the victory.
A leadoff double from junior Eric Cole kickstarted the Arkansas offense in the bottom of the first that would lead to the first run of the game, coming in off an RBI single to center off the bat from Heston Kjerstad. After an empty second inning for both squads, Texas knotted the game up at 1-1 after leadoff hitter Tate Shaw tripled and later scored on Ryan Reynolds’ groundout to Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight, who would get both Duke Ellis and Kody Clemmons to line out to the outfield.
The Longhorns kept their momentum going by taking their first lead in the fifth inning, as David Hamilton hit a sac fly to right to bring in Masen Hibbeler, getting Shaw all the way to third before Ellis struck out looking to end the offensive series. The Razorbacks found themselves back on top in the bottom half of the frame after Luke Bonfield smoked a 1-1 count pitch over the center field wall to swing the momentum back in the direction of the home team, who would accumulate six hits and four walks that converted into eight runs, good for a 11-2 advantage. Arkansas pitchers Barrett Loseke and Kole Ramage combined for three strikeouts to keep the Longhorns’ bats at bay, despite Texas bringing across two runs in Michael McCann and Jake McKenzie.
One more run came in the form of Ellis, who found home plate on a double from Zach Zubia, however the visitors from Austin were sent to the losers’ bracket with McKenzie striking out and Todd flying out.
Kjerstad led the way with a three for five performance to compliment two runs, as Cole and Bonfield also chipped in with two runs apiece. Knight picked up the win on the mound, remaining the nation’s only undefeated pitcher after striking out four, allowing four hits, one walk and two runs in five innings of work. Up next for the Hogs was Texas Tech who downed defending national champion Florida 6-3.
Arkansas-7 Texas Tech-4
The Razorbacks showed up and showed out once again despite having to play a day after a rain delay moved the previous scheduled time to Wednesday, moving into Friday’s semifinal round on a strong four for four day at the plate from Dominic Fletcher.
Arkansas struck first with two scores in the first inning of action on a two-out double laced by Fletcher to right with two outs to help bring home Cole and Casey Martin, with more fireworks coming for the Hogs in the second on Jared Gates’ right field solo shot off Texas Tech’s Davis Martin. Fletcher made it 4-0 on yet another Arkansas home run, this one sailing to right field on a 1-2 count. Carson Shaddy walked and provided another score with a single from Jax Biggers. The Raiders ended their drought in the bottom of the fifth by putting two on the board courtesy of Brian Klein doubling home Cody Farhat and Michael Davis.
Two final runs came across for Arkansas on a combined four singles from Martin, Kjerstad, Fletcher and Shaddy despite Texas Tech scoring two late in the final inning.
Fletcher’s day turned out to be quite the historic one, becoming the first player to go four for four in a College World Series game, also finishing with one run and four runs batted in. Martin (two for five, two runs) and Cole (two for four, one runs) added to the cause as well. Loseke was awarded the win after striking out five and giving up two hits in three frames.
Arkansas improves to 46-19 on the campaign and is set to take on the winner of Florida and Texas Tech today at 7:00. This is the program’s first trip to the national semifinals in six years, when the 2012 team fell in two games to eventual runner-up South Carolina. The last time the Hogs played in the national finals was in 1979, dropping a three-game set to Cal State Fullerton.