Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/UA Media Relations
TEMPE, Ariz. – It seemed like Omaha all over again. The setting was perfect. Razorbacks down to their last out and down by one run. Brett Eibner steps to the plate facing Arizona State closer, Jordan Swagerty. The count gets worked to 1-2 after Eibner swung and missed on two outside pitches. Hog fans were then treated to something they are very familiar with. Eibner launched a home run over the left field wall to tie the game up in the ninth inning and eventually send it to extras. However, all the momentum in the world would not be enough for the Hogs in extras as Drew Maggi got his only hit of the game in the form of a two-run home run to give the Sun Devils the 7-5 lead and eventual win in 12 innings. With the win, Arizona State advances to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. and the season ends for Arkansas.
Early on in the game, it seemed like the Hogs were out and down for the count as the Arizona State offense blitzed Arkansas starter, Drew Smyly, for four runs in the second and third innings, all by way of home runs. Zach Wilson started everything with his solo shot in the second inning, then Riccio Torrez hit his two-run homer in the third before being followed with another solo home run by Wilson. The back to back shots gave ASU a strong 4-0 lead through three innings.
With everything going in ASU’s favor, hitting coach for the Razorbacks, Todd Butler, was seen trying to pump the Razorback’s up in the dugout after the third inning. It seemed like something clicked for this Hog lineup as the fourth inning brought Arkansas’ first run on the scoreboard. Zack Cox started things with a single and was then followed by a one out walk by Andy Wilkins. Sun Devil starter, Merrill Kelly then began to get wild. He hit Bo Bigham to load the bases and then hit the very next batter, Tim Carver, to bring in a run. The next batter, Matt Vinson, would work another walk out of Kelly to bring in another run and bringing the score to 4-2 in favor of Arizona State after four innings.
Arkansas pitching would hold ASU scoreless in the fifth, which would leave the door open for Cox once again. After doubling to left-center field, Cox would be brought in to score by Wilkins on a liner to left field and Arizona State would only lead 4-3 now.
Arizona State would get one run back in the seventh after a fielding error by Tim Carver at short. The error was then followed by a walk and a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third with only one out. ASU would score one run on a sacrifice fly to put the score at 5-3.
After a scoreless bottom half of the seventh, the Hogs would battle back in the eight, scoring one run off a doubly by Bo Bigham, which scored catcher James McCann. The deficit was at only one run going into the ninth which lead to the Brett Eibner heroics.
Even though Drew Smyly was hit hard by the Arizona State offense, much of the credit for holding the batters in check for the rest of the game goes to reliever D.J. Baxendale. The freshman from Jacksonville, Ark., came in to pitch in the fifth inning and pitched six fabulous innings for the Hogs, giving up only one unearned run.
Arkansas finished the year with a 43-21 record, a second place finish in the SEC Western Division, and a second straight appearance in a super-regional. The first in school history since the NCAA Tournament went to regional format in 1999.
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