Arkansas rides 8-run inning to 11-5 CWS win over Longhorns
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Once Arkansas’ offense got rolling against Texas in the sixth inning, nothing could stop the Razorbacks. Not even the weather.
Five straight batters had reached base when the teams were pulled from the field for a weather delay. When play resumed 2 hours, 49 minutes later, five more in a row got on base.
What turned into an eight-run sixth carried the Razorbacks to an 11-5 win in their College World Series opener on Sunday.
“We have such a balanced lineup, and we all know what we’re trying to do at the plate,” Arkansas’ Luke Bonfield said. “Once Casey Martin had that leadoff hit after the rain delay, everything snowballed, and we got a ton more momentum and we never let up on the gas.”
The Razorbacks (45-19) scored double-digit runs for the fourth time in six NCAA Tournament wins and had their highest total in 28 CWS games. The Longhorns (42-22), in the CWS for a record 36th time, lost their third straight Omaha opener since 2011.
Bonfield delivered the first home run of the CWS with his two-run shot to left for a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Parker Joe Robinson took over for Texas starter Nolan Kingham (8-5) to start the sixth and walked the only two batters he faced. That started a parade of pitchers who either struggled to find the strike zone or got dinged for single after single.
Texas hadn’t given up so many runs in an inning this season.
“I’m not shell-shocked,” Longhorns coach David Pierce said. “It’s just part of it. It’s not the way we wished it had gone. Unfortunately, it got away from us, and we couldn’t overcome the deficit.”
In all, Arkansas sent 14 batters to the plate and Texas used five pitchers in an inning that matched Arkansas’ biggest of the season.
For the game, eight Arkansas batters had at least one hit and seven drove in a run.
“We went from down 2-1 to up 3-2 and it happened with two outs,” Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said. “That was the swing we were looking for to get us going a little bit. And then, obviously, we set up the big inning, had a couple of runs in, had a rain delay, and came out and really just did a nice job scoring some runs there that gave us an opportunity to relax a little bit.”
The Razorbacks swept the Longhorns 13-4 and 7-5 in Fayetteville in March, but this was the first time the old rivals from the Southwest Conference days had been matched in the CWS since 2004.
Arkansas starter Blaine Knight (13-0), the Baltimore Orioles’ third-round draft pick, allowed two runs on four hits and a walk in five innings. He struck out four while setting the school season record for wins.
“The 13-0 thing, I chalk it up as another win for the team,” he said. “I’ll do what I can to get a win for this team and keep us going.”
Big 12 player of the year Kody Clemens, son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens and one of the hottest hitters in the postseason, was 1 for 5 with two strikeouts.
“Everyone is down right now,” Texas center fielder Tate Shaw said. “I’m sure every one of us will get over it. It’s baseball. Got to forget.”
A sixth-inning video tribute to longtime Texas coach and NCAA wins leader Augie Garrido ended with fans for both teams standing to applaud. Garrido stepped down as coach after the 2016 season and ranked first in college baseball wins until Florida State coach Mike Martin broke the record last month. Garrido won two national championships at Texas and three at Cal State Fullerton during his 48-year career. He died in March following a stroke.
Pierce is wearing No. 16, Garrido’s number, for the entirety of the CWS. Pierce normally wears No. 22.
“I was able to talk to the players about it, and it was the same way we approached it from day one, understanding he’s a huge piece of us,” Pierce said. “Augie wouldn’t want to be the center of attention, and he would appreciate the way we’ve handled it.”
OUT OF MY WAY, PAL
A minor kerfuffle at first base in the fifth inning had Clemens, the Texas second baseman, jawing at Heston Kjerstad for being too rough with first baseman Jake McKenzie. The Longhorns, apparently thinking Kjerstad turned toward second base before changing his mind after running through the base, hurried to get the ball to McKenzie after an overthrow. Kjerstad made it back to first and knocked over McKenzie upon his arrival, with the umpire extending his arms to separate Clemens and McKenzie.
Arkansas plays Tuesday night against Texas Tech. Texas plays in the afternoon against Florida. Texas Tech beat the Gators 6-3 on Sunday night.