CLEMSON, S.C. – The Arkansas Razorbacks rallied from a six-run deficit to cut the Clemson lead to 8-7 on Michael Conner’s two-run home run in the ninth, but left the tying run stranded on second base as the Tigers held on for the one-run victory.Arkansas dropped to 35-27 overall, while the Tigers improved to 51-15. The teams will meet Sunday at 1 p.m. (CT) with the winner advancing to the NCAA College World Series.
Trailing 8-2 entering the eighth inning, the Razorbacks began to rally. Scott Bridges, Michael Conner and Nick Pitts each singled to open the inning and load the bases for Andrew Wishy.
Wishy then laced a single to center that scored Bridges to make it an 8-3 game. Brady Toops pinch hit for Cody Clark and drove in Conner with a fielder’s choice to second. Wishy was out on the play.
With one out, Goodwin launched a fly ball to deep center that was caught on the run, allowing Pitts to score and cut the deficit to 8-5. Jeff Hahn was then brought in to relieve starter Matt Henrie. Hahn hit Fox to put runners on first and second, but forced pinch hitter Jeff Fletcher to fly out to right to end the inning.
Arkansas continued the rally in the ninth with Clemson leading 8-5. Kirk McConnell was hit by a pitch to start the inning, but was out on a fielder’s choice by Bridges. With one out, Conner launched a two-run bomb over the left field wall to make it an 8-7 game with one out. Pitts then singled up the middle to put the tying run aboard.
Luke Weatherford pinch ran for Pitts, while the Tigers put B.J. LaMura in to relieve Hahn. LaMura struck out Wishy on three pitches to bring Brady Toops to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch Weatherford stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. But, LaMura got Toops swinging on strike three to end the game and even the series at 1-1.
Razorback starter Jarrett Gardner took the loss to fall to 4-4. Gardner lasted five and two-thirds innings, allowing five runs, all earned, on seven hits.
Henrie earned the win after going seven innings and giving up five runs, three earned, on seven hits. Henrie upped his record to 12-4 with the win. LaMura earned his first save by retiring the final two batters of the game.
Clemson leadoff hitter Zane Green got the Tigers on the scoreboard in the first inning when he took Gardner’s 1-2 offering over the right field wall for a solo home run. The solo blast marked the first time the Razorbacks had trailed in the NCAA postseason this year.
Arkansas missed a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the first inning. McConnell hit his conference-leading eighth triple to open the inning. Bridges then hit a grounder to Clemson second baseman David Slevin and McConnell broke for home. Slevin threw home in time to get McConnell and prevent the run.
The Razorbacks took the lead in the bottom of the second inning on a two-run single by McConnell. Cody Clark reached on a fielding error by the Clemson third baseman and moved to second on a Clay Goodwin ground out. Ryan Fox and Scott Hode each walked to load the bases with two outs.
McConnell then laced a single up the middle to plate Clark and Fox to give the Hogs a 2-1 lead. Still in the second, Arkansas again loaded the bases on a single to left by Bridges. Michael Conner then grounded out to third to end the inning.
With two outs in the top of the third, Clemson All-American Khalil Greene put the Tigers ahead with a two-run bomb that hit the batter’s eye in centerfield.
Clemson first baseman Michael Johnson gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead in the fourth with a leadoff home run to right-center.
The Razorbacks prevented the Tigers from increasing their lead with a solid play from rightfielder Ryan Fox in the fifth inning. With one out and Steve Pyzik (walk) on second, Zane Green singled to right. Pyzik rounded third and headed for home. Fox fielded the ball near the foul line and threw on-the-fly to catcher Cody Clark who tagged Pyzik out. Gardner then forced Khalil Green to hit into an inning ending fielder’s choice.
Clemson starter Matt Henrie retired 16 of 17 Razorback hitters between the third and seventh innings. The only Razorback to reach was Scott Hode who reached on an error in the fourth inning.
With two outs in the sixth, Gardner gave up a double to Roberto Valiente and was relieved by Kyler Pomeroy. Clemson’s Jarrod Schmidt singled to center off Pomeroy to plate Valiente to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead. Kyle Frank then blooped a single in between McConnell, Goodwin and Hode down the left field line to put runners on the corners.
Pyzik stepped to the plate and laced a single to right that scored Schmidt to push the Clemson lead to 6-2. Pomeroy walked Slevin on four pitches to load the bases for Zane Green. Pomeroy was then lifted for Josh Merryman.
Merryman forced Green to fly out to McConnell in left to end the inning with the bases loaded.
The Tigers increased their lead to 8-2 on Schmidt’s two-run single in the top of the seventh inning. Schmidt lined a single to center to score Khalil Greene (single) and Jeff Baker (single) with two outs.
Clemson scored six of its eight runs with two outs including the last four runs of the game.