NORMAN, Okla. – The No. 21 Arkansas Razorback baseball team completed their quest to advance to a NCAA Super Regional with a stunning 11-0 victory over the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners behind a superb pitching performance by redshirt freshman Drew Smyly and a fantastic day at the plate from the region’s most outstanding player Andy Wilkins.
Arkansas (36-22) advances to its third Super Regional since the NCAA adopted the Regional-Super Regional format in 1999. Oklahoma (43-19) drops its third game to the Razorbacks this season.
“I am just so proud of the team,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “What an effort they gave us. I think that you could probably see it from the stands but I am talking some big time hustle and they gave us everything they had. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
“This was just a great weekend for our team and I just want to throw this out. Our fans were really incredible. Our players were fired up in the dugout when they heard our fans early in the game it was unbelievable.”
Smyly, who started his first NCAA post-season game on Sunday night, earned his first win since March with his near no-hit performance on the mound. The Little Rock, Ark., native faced the minimum through 8 1/3 innings, allowed just two walks, hit a batter and struck out a career best 12 in the outing that moved Arkansas into the Super Regional. Smyly would erase one base runner in the first inning on a strike-out and batter’s interference call that caused a stealing Sooner to be called out. He would pick off a second runner in the third and get a double-play in the sixth to negate a walk.
“What a performance by Smyly,” Van Horn said. “Last night Coach [Dave] Jorn and I talked about Smyly and decided not to tell him until the morning and decided to sleep on it and really make the right decision. At breakfast we looked at each other and asked do you really want to go with Smyly and he said do you and we decided yes; that he would give us three or four quality innings and we would go from there. He proved us wrong.”
Smyly’s outing was by far the best of his career as he pitched a career long 8 1/3 innings and struck out the career best 12 batters. Smyly’s previous bests were six innings pitched and six strikeouts. Smyly baffled Oklahoma’s hitters and the effort earned Smyly one of two pitcher positions on the NCAA Norman Regional All-Tournament Team. After surrendering his first hit and leaving the game, Smyly would get a standing ovation from what seemed to be a pro-Arkansas crowd, even getting a chant for a curtain call once he entered the Razorback dugout.
Of course Smyly needed the help of his offense to secure the Arkansas victory and he got just that as Arkansas pounded out 15 hits and scored 11 runs. Wilkins was a career best 5-5 on the day with a single, two doubles and two home runs. He scored four runs and drove in five in the Razorback victory. Over three games the Broken Arrow, Okla., native went 12-16 (.750), scored five runs, hit five doubles and two home runs and drove in 11 RBI. The effort earned him All-Tournament honors at first base and Most Outstanding Player accolades.
The Razorbacks picked up where they left off on Saturday night by scoring two runs in the top of the first. With one out, Ben Tschepikow beat out a ground ball to second after the fielder muffed the play and two batters later Andy Wilkins popped a line-drive home run over the right-field wall.
Arkansas would tally another four runs in the third inning to chase Oklahoma starter Antwoine Hubbard, Collin Kuhn would lead off the inning with a double down the right-field line and as Chase Leavitt attempted to sacrifice Kuhn to third he would get hit by a pitch. Tschepikow would follow the at-bat with a three-run home run over the left-center field fence to make it a 5-0 contest. Back-to-back doubles by Wilkins and Zack Cox extended the lead to six.
A second Wilkins home run, this one just inside the foul pole in left field put the Razorbacks up 7-0. The second long ball by Wilkins was his 17th of the season placing him in a seven-way tie for sixth on Arkansas’ all-time single season home run chart.
The Arkansas lead was extended to 9-0 in the seventh inning when Cox belted the fourth home run of the game for the Razorbacks. Wilkins reached base on his fourth hit of the game and came around to score on the deep fly to left field.
The Wilkins show continued in the eighth with a two RBI double to right-center field.
Along with Smyly and Wilkins, four other Razorbacks were named to the Arkansas dominated All-Norman Regional Team. Catcher James McCann, Tschepikow, Cox and Leavitt were Arkansas’ six players on the 11-player team.
The Razorbacks must now take on the Florida State Seminoles in its third Super Regional. The Hogs defeated Florida State in Fayetteville to advance to the 2004 College World Series, its last trip to Omaha. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.