TEMPE, Ariz. – Bo Bigham had four hits to lead the No. 15 Arkansas Razorback baseball team, but after 11-plus innings, the Razorbacks would fall to No. 1 Arizona State in the first game of the Tempe Super Regional at Jim Brock Ballpark, 7-6.
Arkansas (43-20) must defeat the Sun Devils (51-8) on both Sunday and Monday if it wishes to advance to its second College World Series in the last two years.
"It was a very competitive game," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Both teams really gave it their all. I hated that we didn’t find a way to win but we battled until the end. I thought (Brett Eibner) did a good job (out of the bullpen). He gave us a chance but we just didn’t score. The key to the game was their lefty (Mitchell Lambson) came in and did a tremendous job on us."
A walk and hit batter was the start that Arizona State needed in the bottom half of the 12th inning to rally and win on Saturday night. With one out and two on, Deven Marrero would line a single into the left-center field gap and score the game’s winning run after a four-plus hour contest.
Arizona State jumped out to the early lead in the second inning, capitalizing on an Arkansas error on a potential double play ball, and scoring one unearned run. A leadoff walk was followed by a chopper to Mike Bolsinger who made an athletic play to stab the ball, but his throw to second was high and wide and allowed the lead runner to advance to third. A single by Raoul Torrez through the left side scored the Sun Devils run, but solid pitching by Arkansas’ starter got him out of the jam by striking out the next hitter and getting the next two to fly out to right field.
Walks in the third inning came back to hurt the Razorbacks as the Sun Devils scored two more to increase their lead to 3-0. With one out in the inning a pair of walks surrounded a single and loaded the bases. Another single, this one by Deven Marrero through the right side scored two runs and brought the pro-ASU crowd to its feet. A strikeout ensued followed by Bolsinger’s third walk of the inning, but a ground ball to Tim Carver at short ended the rally with three runners stranded on base.
Arkansas put together a rally of its own in the fourth, picking up three off Arizona State starter and first-round draft pick Seth Blair. Brett Eibner began the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single by Andy Wilkins that may have been caught had the center fielder not misjudged the fly and let it fall in front of him. Bigham delivered a hit off the base of the wall which scored Eibner and moved Wilkins to third. With one out, James McCann was hit by a pitch and Matt Vinson walked on five pitches with the bases loaded to make it a 3-2 game. Tim Carver tied the score at three when he bounced a ball to third and the Sun Devils failed to turn a double play allowing Bigham to score.
Arizona State made it three innings in a row with a score in the fourth, this time of Arkansas reliever Jeremy Heatley, as they pushed another unearned run across the plate. Back-to-back singles opened the frame, but a strike out-caught stealing by the Razorbacks on the next batter appeared to get Arkansas out of what could have been a big inning for the Sun Devils. Arizona State’s next batter would hit a towering fly ball to short right field which fell to the ground and allowed one run to cross the plate to make it a 4-3 Arizona State lead.
The Razorbacks took their first lead of the game in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs on three hits by the middle of the order. Zack Cox opened the inning with a double to left-center and scored when Eibner hit a shot down the left-field line past a diving third baseman. With one out Bigham picked up his third hit and second RBI of the game with a single up the middle to score Eibner and give the Hogs a 5-4 edge.
After a scoreless bottom of the fifth for Arizona State, Arkansas took a two-run lead when freshman Matt Vinson greeted Sun Devil relief pitcher Brady Rodgers by pounding the first pitch he threw over the wall in right-center field for his third home run of the season. The long ball was the first of the game by either team and gave Arkansas a 6-4 lead.
Arizona State returned the home run favor in the bottom of the sixth when Kyle Calhoun pulled a line drive over the right-field fence to once again make it a one-run game, 6-5, with three innings to play.
The Sun Devils would threaten again in the bottom of the seventh after a pair of walks put two runners on base with two outs. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn would go to the bullpen and bring in Jordan Pratt to get the final out of the inning and his first batter, Drew MacPhee would single to left field. Collin Kuhn would field the ball on the run and throw a strike to home plate to nail the would-be game-tying run to end the inning. The assist by Kuhn is his ninth of the season.
After once again putting runners on in the eighth, Arizona State capitalized in the ninth after a single through the right side opened the frame. Andrew Aplin would move from station to station all the way to third with two outs bringing MacPhee to the plate. MacPhee chopped a 1-2 pitch to the third-base side and would beat out the throw to first allowing Aplin to score and tie the game at six as the game moved past the three-and-a-half-hour mark.
In the first inning, Cox made school history when he set the record for hits in a single season. The second batter of the game, Cox pulled a ball through the right side of the infield to set the record which he had been previously tied for with former Razorback Matt Erickson (1996). It was the 98th hit of the season for Cox and the 76th single which is also an Arkansas single-season record. Cox ended the contest 2-for-5 with a single and a double.
"Tomorrow is a new game," Van Horn said. "It’s a best-of-three series, not best-of-one. We have to come out and not make any mistakes."
The Razorbacks and Sun Devils continue their series on Sunday with Arizona State playing for a chance to advance to the College World Series at 9 p.m. central. Arkansas sophomore Drew Smyly gets the ball for the Razorbacks in the must-win contest. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.