Razorbacks to meet Texas Tech-Florida winner on Friday.
FAYETTEVILLE - As witnessed by this writer on ESPN 2’s telecast from Omaha, Neb. Dominic Fletcher’s 4 for 4 bat and the arms of pitching triumvirate of Kacey Murphy, Barrett Loseke and Matt Cronin propelled the Arkansas Razorbacks, 7-4 by the Texas Tech Red Raiders in their College World Series winner’s bracket game at TD Ameritrade Park.
Arkansas now advances to the championship final Friday of its bracket, and again Saturday if necessary, of the survivor of today’s loser’s bracket final between Florida and Texas Tech.
The eventual winner of this double-elimination bracket starts a best 2 of 3 games for the national championship series Monday through next Wednesday if necessary against the bracket that is led by Mississippi State’s 2-0 start with the Bulldogs awaiting Wednesday night’s loser’s survivor between Oregon State and North Carolina.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, winning their first-round game 11-5 Sunday over the Texas Longhorns who were eliminated by Florida in Tuesday’s loser’s bracket after the Gators opened Sunday night losing to Texas Tech, jumped on Tech for a 5-0 start through four innings of Wednesday’s game that was postponed by rain without an inning played Tuesday night and delayed from an 11 a m (CDT) scheduled start until a 2:30 p.m. start because of more rain Wednesday.
Sophomore Fletcher did the storming thereafter. The left-handed hitting sophomore clipped losing Tech starter for a collision aided 2-run double in the first, a solo home run in the fourth, and two more singles, the last one accounting for one of two Arkansas insurance runs in the eighth.
Jared Gates, solo home run in the second and Jax Biggers, a RBI single in the fourth, and Carson Shaddy, a single in the eighth, also knocked runs home.
Junior left-hander Murphy only yielded two hits and struck out seven against two walks through 4 2-3 but was lifted for Loseke after Brian Klein’s 2-out 2-run double in the fifth followed Mike Davis reaching on strikeout become wild pitch and Cody Farhat drawing a walk.
Sensational in a no hits and 10 strikeouts an no walks performance through 4 2-3 for a save when Arkansas beat Texas Tech, 5-1 earlier this season at Baum Stadium, Wednesday winner Loseke excelled against the Red Raiders again.
Through three hitless innings, Loseke struck out five allowing just two hits and no walks.
Lefty closer Cronin struck out left-handed Tech 5-hole hitter Zach Rheams for final out with a runner on first in the eighth. Cronin struggled at the ninths outset yielding a walk, a double and Farhat’s 2-run single before retiring the next three to put Arkansas one win away from playing next week for the national championship.
“I thought on our side Kacey Murphy got us off to a great start,” Van Horn said, “He worked his way out of a jam in the first and then had a couple of pretty good innings. That's really good offense. He had to try to get through and I think it looked like to me he just kind of ran out of gas there in the fifth.”
Van Horn described the fatigue he was seeing in Murphy,
“He threw like six pitches in a row, chest high or higher, and that's not him,”Van Horn said, “ And just felt like we should go to Barrett. Barrett's done really well down the stretch for us, and he came in and slowed them down a little bit for a few innings, and obviously Cronin came in got a big out in the eighth. And in the ninth we had some problems. Kind of knew they wouldn't go away, just too good a club, too offensive.”
Texas Tech Coach Tim Tadlock paid Arkansas due credit.
“Arkansas's got a really nice club,” Tadlock said. “Congratulations to them. They threw three really quality arms at us. And they played awful good. They earned the right to win.”
The Red Raiders literally ran themselves into two Arkansas first inning runs. Tech starter Davis Martin appeared extricating himself from game-opening Razorbacks singles by Eric Cole and Casey Martin by striking Heston Kjerstad and Luke Bonfield and inducing Fletcher to fly to shallow right-center. What initially appeared a harmless fly fell in harm’s way. Gabe Holt, charging from the right, and Cody Farhat charging from center, collided.
The collision dislodged the ball from Farhat’s glove scoring both runs and scoring Fletcher a 2-run double with two RBI.
Davis Martin struck out Shaddy to strike out the side yet trail 2-0.
Arkansas first baseman Gates then prevented a would-be Tech run in the first and homered for an Arkansas run leading off the second.
After Holt singled leadoff off the Tech first, Murphy threw wildly high upon fielding Brian Klein’s sacrifice bunt. Gates’ leaping snag kept the runners at first and second instead of second and third. That saved a run because Josh Jung’s fly to deep right only advanced Holt to third instead of scoring him. Murphy stranded the runners at first and third by striking out cleanup hitter Grant Little and getting Zach Rheams to pop up to third.
Murphy walked Cameron Warren leading off the second but paid no price thanks to Heston Kjerstad’s great leaping catch of Farhat’s blast in front of the left field wall.
Gates, called Mr. June by his Razorbacks teammates for starring postseason the second consecutive year after a regular-season slow start, dispatched his home run over right opening the second.
Fletcher didn’t need any Texas Tech collision help for his third RBI.
Davis Martin had struck out the side in the third and had Fletcher down two strikes leading off the fourth. but the Arkansas sophomore center fielder, fouling off five pitches then hit what couldn’t be caught for his home run over right. Shaddy’s walk, and Jax Biggers’ 2-out single scoring Shaddy finished Davis Martin in the fourth.
Reliever Jose Quezada didn’t have to retire anyone in the fourth. Catcher Braxton Fulford did that for him throwing out Biggers trying to steal, Quezada took it from there, keeping the Hogs at bay before and after the Red Raiders chased Murphy on Brian Klein’s 2-run double in the fifth. Murphy struck out two in his final inning but the first, Michael Davis reached safely striking out on what catcher Grant Koch couldn’t corral for a wild pitch. Farhat walked. Both scored on Klein’s double before Loseke retired Josh Jung on a grounder to second.
Quezada blanked the Hogs until relieved by John McMillon after Casey Martin’s leadoff single in the seventh. Even with pinch-bunter Hunter Wilson bunting a third strike foul after 3-hole hitter Luke Bonfield bunted foul on his first sac bunt attempt of the season, the Razorbacks in the seventh tacked on two. Fletcher and Shaddy each singled one home.