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Razorback Baseball scraped the mustard off a hotdog Monday night in Stillwater, Okla., eliminating a tough, talented, but animated bunch of Oklahoma State Cowboys at O’Brate Stadium, 7-3.
The calm, cool, and collected Hogs (41-19) now advance to the NCAA Super Regional at Chapel Hill, N.C. this weekend where they will face the homesteading Tar Heels, a 7-3 winner over Virginia Commonwealth on Monday.
Arkansas will play North Carolina at 10 a.m. Saturday and at noon on Sunday. The games will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2 and can be streamed on ESPN Plus. ESPN will announce which of its channels will televise the games later in the week. If necessary, a third game will be played Monday with the time and TV outlet to be announced later.
It’s the Razorbacks’ fourth appearance in Super Regional play in a row, dating back to 2018. The NCAA did not hold a tournament in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Razorback baseball coach Dave Van Horn summed up the climactic conclusion of a high-octane weekend of baseball by saying “what a game,” and it was.
And what a fine effort by a tired but resilient Razorback pitching staff that finally lassoed and hawg tied the cocky Cowboys’ power-hitting lineup that had been crushing the baseball all tournament long at a regional that set an NCAA record for runs scored
Hog pitchers Zack Morris, Kole Ramage, Zebulon Vermillion, and freshman Hagen Smith combined for a doozy of an effort that subdued OSU’s formidable lineup which had plated 73 runs in its previous three regional games and propelled the Razorbacks forward for at least another week on this fine season.
There were many heroes for the Hogs over the span of the tournament, but the resilience showed by Smith, who started Saturday’s 20-12 victory over the Cowboys, but was chased after pitching only an inning and 1/3, characterized the toughness of the Razorbacks’ program that eschews flamboyance but embraces gritty tenacity.
After falling 14-10 in 10 innings Sunday night to OSU, Van Horn sent a text to his pitching staff, asking them what they had left in the tank for Monday’s critical elimination game.
The text messages “blew up” Van Horn’s phone, but the first response came from Smith.
“He said, ‘My arm feels awesome. I want the ball in any situation,’” Van Horn said of his hard-throwing freshman. “It meant something to me because he really wanted the ball. He’s got all the ability in the world. He didn’t have a good outing the day before last.”
But Smith came through big time for his team Monday night.
In the eighth inning with the Hogs hanging tight to a 5-3 lead, Smith came to the mound. The Cowboys loaded the bases, but Smith gathered himself and struck out Chase Adkinson and the hard-hitting, bleached-blond freshman Roc Riggio, whose play thus far had put him at the head of the line for tournament MVP honors.
That was the turning point of the game.
“Just an amazing, amazing job by Hagen in that tough situation with all that was on the line for our team,” Van Horn said. “… our team was jacked, and so was he. We had to calm him down because the game wasn’t over.”
Juiced by getting the Hogs out of a jam in the eighth, Smith set the Cowboys down in order in the ninth, and the Razorback fans on hand whooped, hollered, and hog called while the cocky Cowboys shuffled off the field and the high-strung Riggio threw a fit in the OSU dugout.
It was a huge win for the Hogs, and they did celebrate, but there was no hog pile after the game and no taunting of their dejected opponent.
OSU coach Josh Holliday was all class after the game, giving credit where it was due.
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