NORMAN, Okla. – The No. 21 Arkansas Razorback baseball team exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take down the No. 24 Washington State Cougars at L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman, Okla., in the first round of the NCAA Norman Regional on Friday afternoon, 10-3.
The Razorbacks (34-22) defeat the Cougars (31-23) for the fourth time this season after a season opening sweep. The Razorback victory is its first in the first round of a regional since the 2007 season when it defeated Albany in Fayetteville.
“It was a great pitcher’s duel,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “The game changed really fast. We were down 3-1 and then [Jarrod] McKinney made an incredible catch to keep us in the game and before I knew it, we tied it and had a big lead. I have to give credit to the players for hanging in there when things weren’t going our way and to keep it close until something good happened and it finally did. It was a great feeling.”
Down 3-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, Arkansas exploded for a season high nine runs in the inning to take a commanding 10-3 lead. Ben Tschepikow led off with a bounding double over the first baseman and moved to third on a fly out to deep left field. Andy Wilkins would come through with his third hit of the game and second RBI when he stroked a single to right-center field. Bo Bigham followed with a single up the middle and a safety squeeze by McKinney tied the game at three with two outs.
The Razorbacks were not done as they tacked on seven runs in the inning with two outs. The turning point in the inning came on a sharp ground ball to the shortstop that was thrown high to first base allowing the fateful inning to continue. The error allowed Bigham to score and make it a 4-3 contest. Jacob House flared a pinch hit over the shortstop and bunt single by Collin Kuhn made it 5-3. With the bases loaded after a Chase Leavitt walk, Tschepikow singled up the middle to score two runs and then Scott Lyons delivered his eighth home run of the season, a three-run shot over the left-field wall, to complete the scoring.
Arkansas starter Dallas Keuchel pitched very well for the Razorbacks despite allowing nine hits. Arkansas’ ace surrendered just three runs to the Cougars and stranded 11 base runners over seven innings of work to get a no decision. Keuchel was helped by good defense as Leavitt made a fantastic diving grab in left in the top of the second and McKinney tracked down a slicing line drive in the seventh.
Junior Mike Bolsinger came in to pitch the eighth and ninth innings to earn the win and allowed no base runners, struck out one and threw just 15 pitches.
After a RBI double by Andy Wilkins in the first, Washington State scored two in the third on four consecutive singles. The Razorbacks had a chance to get out of the jam with no runs scoring, but a bad hop on a potential double-play ball continued the Cougars at bat.
Washington State had another opportunity to break the game open in the seventh after a leadoff triple. The next batter hit a routine fly ball to center which was dropped allowing the run to score with no out recorded. The next batter would get hit by a pitch and after a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk; the Cougars had the bases loaded with one out. Keuchel would refocus and record his only strikeout of the day on a 2-2 pitch leading to McKinney’s heroics. Matt Fanelli smoked a ball right at McKinney, who turned to his right to get back. Slicing away from Arkansas’ right-fielder, McKinney had to turn around and make a nearly blind catch before falling to the warning track.
The Razorbacks continue their run at the NCAA Norman Regional on Saturdayagainst No. 9 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Oklahome defeated Wichita State 5-4 on Friday night. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.