Arkansas Advances To NCAA Regional Title Game;
BY ANDRES FOCIL
WICHITA, KAN. – The Arkansas Razorbacks got solid relief pitching efforts from Josh Merryman and Gary Hogan, Jr., to fend off the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles 7-6 and advance to Sunday’s NCAA Regional title game.
The Razorbacks (33-26) will take on the winner of the Wichita State-Oral Roberts game Sunday at 2 p.m. Arkansas is undefeated in the NCAA Regional and will need to lose twice to the Wichita State-ORU winner to be knocked out of postseason play. Should the Razorbacks lose the 2 p.m. game, the second game will begin at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to the NCAA Super Regional.
Jarrett Gardner went five innings allowing three runs, all earned, on eight hits with a season-high five strikeouts in earning the win. Gardner improved to 4-3 on the season. Gary Hogan, Jr., pitched the ninth inning allowing one hit and one walk to earn his second save of the year.
Rene Recio took the loss for ORU after giving up four runs, all earned, on four hits in one inning of work. Recio dropped to 8-5 with the loss. ORU’s record fell to 47-18.
Arkansas took the lead in the bottom of the first inning. Kirk McConnell singled and moved to second when Michael Conner was hit by a pitch. Nick Pitts then singled through the right side to plate McConnell for the first run of the game. Andrew Wishy drew a one-out walk to load the bases for Clay Goodwin.
Goodwin blooped a single into shallow right to score Conner and give the Hogs a 2-0 lead. Still with the bases loaded, Brady Toops laced a single to left that scored Pitts and Wishy to push the lead to 4-0.
Wilton Reynolds put the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard with a solo home run to centerfield to begin the second inning.
Nick Pitts gave the Razorbacks a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning with a two-run home run to centerfield. It was Pitts’ third home run of the year and first since May 4.
The Razorbacks added to their lead in the fourth inning when Wishy singled to center with two outs to score McConnell (single). It was Wishy’s third RBI of the regional and it gave the Razorbacks a 7-1 lead.
Arkansas held off an ORU scoring threat in the fifth when Dennis Bigley and Chad Stewart each singled to begin the inning. Starter Jarrett Gardner forced a fly out which moved the runners to second and third. Gardner then fanned Eric Donaldson and forced Danny Boyle to fly out to center to end the inning.
Gardner ran into trouble in the sixth. Doug Bernier doubled to open the inning and moved to third on a single by David Castillo. Eric Thornton singled to right-center to score Bernier and make it a 7-2 game. Thornton’s single chased Gardner who was relieved for Josh Glynn.
Castillo came in to score when shortstop Scott Hode booted a ground ball by Wilton Reynolds to cut the Arkansas lead to 7-3. With two on and one out, Glynn forced Stewart to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Glynn worked into a jam in the top of the eighth inning. After striking out Bernier, Glynn walked three consecutive batters to load bases. Josh Merryman was then brought in to relieve Glynn. Dennis Bigley hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Castillo to make it a 7-4 game.
Chad Stewart then lofted a single to shallow right to score Thornton for a 7-5 game. Merryman then walked two straight which plated a run to cut the Razorback lead to 7-6 with two outs. With the bases loaded and two outs, Merryman forced Boyle to hit into a fielder’s choice ground out to end the inning.
Gary Hogan, Jr., relieved Merryman in the ninth. Hogan walked the leadoff batter before retiring the next two batters with a strikeout and a fly out. Reynolds laced a single through the left side to put runners on first and second. Hogan forced Bigley into a fielder’s choice ground out to shortstop to end the game.
Nick Pitts finished the game 3-for-3 with three RBI, two runs scored and a home run. Andrew Wishy went 3-for-4 with an RBI and one run scored.
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