OMAHA, Neb. – Razorback senior Andrew Darr doubled home Jarrod McKinney in the top of the 12th inning to lift No. 7 Arkansas to an improbable 4-3 extra-inning win over No. 6 Virginia in an elimination game at the College World Series on Wednesday night at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Arkansas (41-23) never led in the game until Darr’s double, coming on the 10th pitch of the at bat, fell just inside the chalk behind third base to chase home McKinney. It was the second clutch hit for Darr in his last three post-season appearances after the senior doubled home the deciding runs in Arkansas’ NCAA Super Regional clinching win at Florida State. A crowd of 21,383 witnessed the fourth-longest game in College World Series history.
"It was a just a great ball game to be involved in as a coach," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "It was a roller coaster. It was dramatic. It was just a lot of tough kids that didn’t want to go home. It was one I will never forget."
Arkansas survived and advanced to another matchup with No. 1 LSU on Friday. The Hogs must defeat the Tigers on Friday and Saturday to earn a berth in the College World Series final series. Arkansas will be the home team in Friday afternoon’s game.
Virginia (49-15-1) had multiple opportunities to win Wednesday night’s game getting within one strike of a win before Zack Cox singled to extend the game in the top of the ninth. Brett Eibner followed and tied the game when he hammered a 1-1 pitch from Virginia closer Kevin Arico deep into the left field grandstand. For Eibner it was his second ninth inning game tying home run of the season after also duplicating the feat against Oklahoma during the regular season.
"I was looking for an off-speed pitch," Eibner said. "I wasn’t looking for fastball. I was looking for that pitch and just happened to get it and put a good swing on it."
Even after Eibner’s dramatic home run, Virginia nearly ended the game in the bottom half of the ninth loading the bases with one out. Danny Hultzen worked the count to 3-0 putting the Cavaliers one ball away from the victory. Keuchel delivered a strike to make it 3-1 before Arkansas’ defense came up big turning a spectacular double play to get out of the inning. Tim Carver flipped to Bo Bigham who fired on to Andy Wilkins beating Hultzen at first base by a half step.
Dallas Keuchel (9-3) was masterful on the mound in relief earning the victory after holding the Cavaliers scoreless for four innings after coming on in the bottom of the ninth inning. Keuchel pitched around potential trouble throughout his stint including striking out the side following a leadoff double in the bottom of the 12th inning. As a staff, Arkansas earned the fourth-most strikeouts in a single game in College World Series history with starting pitcher Drew Smyly earning seven and relievers Mike Bolsinger and Keuchel tallying five strikeouts each.
"I was just telling myself we have been so through so much this whole team, I wasn’t going to let them go out like that," Keuchel said. "I just made one pitch at a time. I kept throwing that slider up there and they kept swinging."
Virginia’s Andrew Carraway (9-2) suffered the loss after yielding the winning run in his three and a third innings of work.
Arkansas won its seventh extra inning game in eight tries this season. The Razorbacks are now 2-1 all-time in extra inning games played at the College World Series. Arkansas played two extra-inning affairs in the 1985 College World Series topping South Carolina 1-0 in 14 innings and losing 8-7 to Texas in 10 innings.
While the late innings were filled with drama on seemingly every pitch the first four innings of the game produced little offensive excitement for either team. A scoreless game into the fifth, Virginia finally grabbed a mid-game lead with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning. Smyly would retire the next batter he faced on a foul out but three straight hits would end his night. A single to right got things started again for the Cavaliers and a second single to right field could have been worse had McKinney not thrown a strike to second base to throw out the Virginia base runner attempting to stretch his hit to a double. A double to left field scored a second Virginia run and prompted a pitching change by the Razorbacks. Bolsinger got the next batter to strike out and end the threat.
Despite not scoring early, it was not because Arkansas didn’t have its chances. In the third, James McCann led off with a single and moved to second and then to third on ground outs, but with a runner 90 feet from giving the Razorbacks the lead, a strikeout ended the inning.
Arkansas was able to get within one in the seventh with a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly. With one out Bo Bigham smoked a ground ball through the legs of the third baseman which was scored an error and Cox followed with a double that took a single bounce before hitting the left-field wall for a double, moving Bigham to third. Eibner then hit a sacrifice fly to right-center field to score Bigham making the score 2-1 in favor of Virginia.
Virginia extended its lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Dan Grovatt launched a two-out solo home run off of Bolsinger to make it 3-1. The Cavaliers threatened to add even more to their lead. Steven Proscia followed with a single and after Jarrett Parker sent a double to the wall, Proscia rounded third in an attempt to score. Leavitt scooped up the ball fired to Cox who then caught Proscia off the third base bag and chased him towards home plate. Cox fired to McCann who threw back to Cox and finally to Richards who tagged the Virginia third baseman out for the final out of the inning.
After nearly winning the game in the bottom of the ninth, Virginia threatened again in the bottom of the 10th inning. Shane Halley led off and lined one at Cox who let the ball skid by for a two-base error to open the frame. After a groundout, Proscia singled into centerfield to advance Halley to third base. A wild pitch advance Proscia to second base before Keuchel struck out Parker for the second out. Keuchel came up big once again when he fanned John Hicks with a 2-2 pitch to retire the side and send the game to the 11th inning.
In the bottom of the 11th, Virginia put the leadoff man aboard once again when Franco Valdes singled up the middle. After a sacrifice bunt moved Valdes to second base, Arkansas intentionally walked Tyler Cannon. Keuchel then struck out Hultzen before walking pinch hitter Jared King to load the bases. Keuchel wiggled out of the jam by getting Grovatt to ground out to Bigham at second base.
Arkansas finally broke the deadlock in the top of the 12th. McKinney lined a one-out single into right field and then proceeded to record his seventh stolen base of the season. After a strikeout, Darr battled Carraway in an epic at bat. On a 3-2 count and the 10th pitch of the at bat, Darr doubled down the left field line to give Arkansas its first lead of the game. After a fly out, Lyons singled to right field but Darr was thrown out at the plate by Grovatt keeping the Hogs’ lead at one run.
Virginia did not go quietly in the bottom of the 12th inning. Proscia doubled down the left field line to open the frame and put Virginia in business. Keuchel struck out Parker, but Proscia swiped third base on the pitch. Hicks then fanned for the second out of the inning bringing Valdes to the plate. Keuchel got ahead and the count and got Valdes to chase a ball in the dirt for strike three. Razorback catcher Ryan Cisterna threw to Wilkins at first to complete the strikeout and clinch the victory.
While the Razorbacks recorded the victory, Arkansas potentially lost one of its key players for future action. Senior Ben Tschepikow broke the ring finger on his left hand when was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning. He remained in the game until the eighth inning when Travis Sample came on to pinch hit for him.
* Catcher James McCann earned three hits in four at bats against Virginia. It was his second three-hit game of the season with his other three-hit performance coming against Oklahoma in the NCAA Regional.
* Arkansas starting pitcher Drew Smyly fanned seven batters marking the second highest single game total in his Razorback career. He fanned 12 in his near no-hit outing against Oklahoma on May 31 to clinch the NCAA Regional.
* Smyly extended his scoreless streak to 12.1 innings before giving up a solo home run in the fifth inning to Virginia. Smyly shut out the Oklahoma Sooners over 8.1 innings in the NCAA Regional.
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