Hogs in do-or-die time
Hogs take on Tech in elimination game
FAYETTEVILLE — Last year en route to the Arkansas Razorbacks’ national runnerup finish, they beat Texas Tech 7-4 in the Game 2 winner’s bracket of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
At 1 p.m. today on ESPN, they meet again at the CWS, this time in the Game 2 loser’s bracket elimination game of the eight-team tournament ultimately deciding college baseball’s national championship.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s 46-19 SEC West co-champion Razorbacks fell 1-0 to the Florida State Seminoles in their Saturday night Bracket 1 opening game after Coach Tim Tadlock’s Big 12 champion Red Raiders 44-19 team fell 5-3 Saturday afternoon in their Bracket 1 CWS opener to the Michigan Wolverines.
Freshman right-hander Connor Noland, 3-5, 4.00 earned run average of Greenwood, starts today for Arkansas, possibly against a former Razorback.
Sophomore right-hander Bryce Bonnin, 1-0 last year with the Razorbacks but transferring to Texas Tech apparently dissatisfied with logging only one Razorbacks start in 11 outings, transferred to Texas Tech with immediate eligibility and is 6-1 with a 4.42 earned run average.
Bonnin and right-hander Caleb Kilian, 8-3, 3.93, are
Tadlock’s top starting alternatives today having pitched ace Micah Dallas, now 7-1, against Michigan.
“I think there’s some comfort level with him pitching against their guys probably five or six times, maybe even more,” Tadlock was quoted at the Red Raiders’ Sunday morning media session.
“I think there is some human element there that wants us all to give the ball to Bryce.”
Sophomore Red Raiders utility infielder-pinch hitter Easton Murrell also was a Razorbacks 2018 freshman going 1 for 8 with a RBI before transferring to Texas Tech.
Van Horn, whose junior ace Isaiah Campbell, pitched seven shutout innings in a scoreless matchup against FSU lefty Drew Parrish’s eight shutout innings before the Seminoles scored a ninth-inning run without a hit against relievers Cody Scroggins and Matt Cronin, publicly has pondered whether pitching Noland or freshman lefty Patrick Wicklander in Game 2 at Omaha just as he did before the Razorbacks’ Super Regional Game 2 against the Ole Miss Rebels last week at Baum-walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
Van Horn chose Noland for that Game 2 and Sunday explained he’s going with Noland again today with a full bullpen complement ready to relieve at any time.
“We’ve got everybody available,” Van Horn said Sunday after the Razorbacks practiced in Omaha. “It’s like anything - if he goes out and gets us a few innings, that’s all we’re looking for. If it’s just two good ones, three good ones, that’s fine; we’ll go get the next guy.”
Neither Noland, the loser against Ole Miss, nor Wicklander, starting the winner-take-all game against Ole Miss that Scroggins won advancing Arkansas to Omaha, pitched well or long in their last starts.
However, both pitched brilliantly the previous week in Fayetteville Regional victories over Central Connecticut State and TCU.
Noland said Sunday he’s received advice from Campbell, the 12-1 junior superb all season and a second-round draft choice of the Seattle Mariners.
“He just told me not to worry about that one (last week against Ole Miss) and move on to the next one,” Noland said. “He told me I have another opportunity in Omaha, and here we are.”
While kicking themselves for squandering Campbell’s great effort Saturday for their lack of hitting success against Parrish and in the 1-2-3 ninth against Florida State closer J.C. Flowers who had already excelled in center ield with a great catch and scored the winning run on a ninth-inning sacrifice fly, the Razorbacks reminded themselves of last year’s back to the wall precedent set by Oregon State. The Beavers lost their Game 1 in Omaha last year but then won the rest in their bracket, then in the best of three bracket finalists rebounded from a Game 1 loss to beat Arkansas the next two for the national championship.
“It’s definitely a more difficult path, but it’s doable because you saw it last year,” Arkansas designated hitter Matt Goodheart of Magnolia said after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Florida State. “If anybody’s going to do it, I think this team can.”
Arkansas sophomore shortstop Casey Martin, his shoulder wrapped Saturday night in postgame ice, is cleared to play today, the Razorbacks confirmed Sunday.
Martin, trying for a tag, suffered a ninth-inning basepath ball and glove dislodging collision with Flowers enabling Flowers to be safe at second on a fielder’s choice and get bunted over to third to score the gamewinner on Nander De Sodas’ sacrifice fly.
Flowers began the inning hit by Scroggins pitch.
Texas Tech shortstop Gabe Holt didn’t play against Michigan and is deemed “day-to-day,” Tadlock has said, since undergoing surgery on his thumb injured as the Red Raiders won the Super Regional they hosted against Oklahoma State to advance to Omaha.
Holt is among five Tech starting position players batting from second baseman Brian Klein’s .317 to first baseman Cameron Warren’s .353. Warren leads Tech with 17 home runs and 76 RBIS.
At 6 tonight on ESPN, Florida State plays Michigan in the Bracket 1 winner’s bracket game.
Tonight’s winner is off until Friday. Tonight’s loser plays this afternoon’s winner at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Bracket 2 began Sunday afternoon with Vanderbilt defeating Louisville 3-1 and Mississippi State Sunday night overcoming a 4-1 deficit with four ninth-inning runs to edge Auburn 5-4.
Auburn and Louisville play Tuesday afternoon’s Bracket 2 loser’s bracket game, and Vanderbilt and Mississippi State play their winner’s bracket game Tuesday night.
The Bracket 1 and Bracket 2 winners play best 2 of 3 for the national championship June 24-26.
ABOVE: Arkansas junior pitcher Isaiah Campbell tries a pick-off attempt in a 1-0 loss to Florida State Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska. Campbell pitched seven scoreless innings, but the usually potent Razorbacks offense couldn’t score. The Hogs play Texas Tech today at 1 p.m.
LEFT: Arkansas freshman Matt Goodheart slides into third in a 1-0 loss to Florida State Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.