Arkansas is in Omaha to win. The Razorbacks showed up on Tuesday night after a Monday night rainout to fairly well handle Oregon State in Game 1 of the College World Series final round, 4-1.
The early going in Omaha was a classic pitchers’ duel, but OSU ace Luke Heimlich allowed four runs in the top of the fifth inning to get chased off the hill.
The middle innings were really where this game slipped wide open, with a wild double play in the top of the fourth frame that saw an Oregon State runner commit base running interference at second and a dangerous force out effort at first that completed a double play at first. Due to the interference call, the Beavs’ runner at third was dragged back to base, wiping OSU’s second run off the board. There was substantial conversation in the infield between umps and Beaver skipper Pat Casey, but in the end, it was the right call.
Arkansas manufactured runs, which has to happen in a long park like TD Ameritrade.
The Hogs’ fifth inning was one of textbook college baseball. They loaded the bases three separate times, were patient and cautious at the plate, and forced Oregon State’s pitchers into must-strike situations that the Razorbacks took advantage of. It looked like west coast baseball from an SEC team — batting and running well around the bases, with some help from a hit batsman and a walk — and it was relentless. Utterly fun baseball to watch, and reminiscent of Arizona’s near-title run two years ago.
Oregon State notched more hits than Arky, but that wasn’t enough.
The top and middle of the Beavs’ batting order is brutal. Leadoff man Steven Kwan — who’s nursing back from a hamstring pull — went in the fourth round of the MLB draft this year. Cadyn Grenier was picked in the second round. Three spot Nick Madrigal was fourth overall. Kwan and Grenier dropped hits into fair territory, but neither managed to score runs.
Blaine Knight, Arky’s big arm, threw six innings of work for seven hits and just the one run. From there, mop-up men Barrett Loseke and Matt Cronin shut down the Beaver bats and pushed these OmaHogs through for one more win to take it all. They look strong, relaxed, and confident, but Oregon State knows the nature of elimination game pressure. The Beavers won four-straight elimination games in Omaha coming into this series, after dropping their opening day bout to North Carolina, 8-6.
We’re probably in for a good one on Wednesday.