Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/UA Media Relations
FAYETTEVILLE – It wasn’t quite the offensive outburst from the day before against Grambling, but the Hogs got just enough of what they needed on Saturday night to defeat Washington State, 6-4, at Baum Stadium to advance to the Fayetteville Regional final against either the same WSU Cougars or the Kansas State Wildcats. The Hog offense was paced by lead-off man, Colin Kuhn, who had three hits including a 9th-inning home run to give the Hogs their late comfortable lead.
Early on in the game, it seemed like both teams would be locked in a pitchers duel as Drew Smyly for the Hogs and Adam Conley for the Cougars each went scoreless through the first two innings. Arkansas was able to cross the plate first in the top of the 3rd after a RBI double to left centerfield by Kuhn. Kuhn was then brought home also by way of a single by third baseman Andy Wilkins giving the Hogs the early 2-0 advantage through three innings.
The Razorbacks doubled that lead in the very next inning by taking advantage of a couple of WSU errors. After a lead-off single by Bo Bigham, Travis Sample hit a blooper to shallow rightfield. Charging on the ball was Washington State’s Derek Jones, who came up throwing to try to get Bigham out at third. The throw went high and Bigham was able to score standing up. Arkansas scored another run later in the inning after an infield throwing error, giving them a huge 4-0 lead through four innings.
After a scoreless fifth, the Cougars actually cut the lead in half in the sixth after a two-run home run by second baseman Cody Bartlett, his seventh of the season. Both teams then traded home runs in the seventh. Zack Cox hit his ninth of the season for the Hogs on a line-drive to left center field, and Michael Weber hit his own solo shot for WSU, but the Hogs still held a two run advantage.
Things got very interesting in the eighth inning after the starter, Smyly, was relieved by D.J. Baxendale in hopes of getting the two inning save. However, Baxendale gave up three straight hits to start the inning and was quickly pulled by head coach Dave Van Horn, replaced by Geoffrey Davenport. Davenport did not far much better as he gave up an RBI walk to Derek Jones and was also pulled after one batter. With no outs and the bases loaded, the Cougars seemed to be in prime position to take the lead into the ninth inning, but the third pitcher of the inning seemed to finally be the right one. Jordan Pratt came in a forced a pop-out and struck out Weber before getting out number three on a fly out by Shea Vucinich.
The Hogs took that momentum into the ninth, when Kuhn cracked his 15th home run of the season and Pratt finished out the two-inning save, giving the Hogs the 6-4 victory. Drew Smyly was the winning pitcher on the night, moving to 9-1 on the season. He also recorded his 100th strikeout of the season in the second inning, becoming the 6th player in Razorback history to do so.
With the win, the Hogs will have to wait and see who their final opponent of the regional will be as they advance to play in the regional final against either Kansas State or Washington State. Since it is double-elimination format, the Razorbacks will have two chances to clinch the regional victory and advance to the super regional for the second straight year.
First pitch for tomorrow’s regional final is set for 7:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium. Be sure to follow @UATVsports on twitter for updates throughout tomorrow’s game as well as uatvonline.net for complete coverage of the Razorback baseball team.