FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Book ’em, Dave-O. The Arkansas baseball team is off to Omaha.
Dave Van Horn’s Diamond Hogs will head to the largest city in Nebraska later this week for the College World Series after beating South Carolina in the clinching game of the Fayetteville Super Regional on Monday night, 14-4.
The trip to the CWS is the ninth in school history and fifth under Van Horn. For the former Nebraska coach, it’s his seventh trip to Omaha. Neither he — nor Arkansas — has ever won a college baseball national championship.
Arkansas will get Texas, which won the Austin Super Regional, at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday. Coincidentally, the two played earlier this year. The Razorbacks won both games, 13-4 and 7-5, at Baum Stadium in mid-March. Arkansas was almost unbeatable in its home park.
South Carolina had done it, though. It was the Gamecocks’ win Sunday that set up the finale Monday. But it took almost no time for the deciding game to turn completely in the Diamond Hogs’ favor. And when South Carolina looked like it might battle back into things, the dagger was pulled.
Arkansas struck for five runs in the first, two more in the second and then five in the fifth to shellshock the visitors. The fifth inning alone saw South Carolina send four pitchers to the hill. Try as they might, the Gamecocks had no answer.
Carson Shaddy’s 3-run home run was the capper in the 5-run first. The lead jumped to seven after two innings upon Luke Bonfield’s RBI single and Dominic Fletcher’s sacrifice fly. The first six batters in the lineup all had knocked in runs by the time USC inserted its sixth pitcher in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Arkansas’ mercurial big right-hander, Isaiah Campbell, was his usual effectively wild self. Campbell only worked 4 innings but struck out 5 and gave up just 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks.
Van Horn, knowing Campbell’s propensity to give up big innings on occasion, knew he had a practically complete bullpen with which to work. So when Campbell walked the first South Carolina batter of the fifth inning, Van Horn went to Barrett Loseke, nursing a six-run lead.
A bases-loaded walk, a 2-run double, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single are the events that scored the five runs in the fifth and gave relievers Loseke, Jake Reindl, Kole Ramage and Matt Cronin — and the rest of the Razorbacks roster — more than enough room to breathe easy.
Arkansas’ trip to the College World Series is its first since 2015. Andrew Benintendi helped lead the Razorbacks to Omaha that season, but they promptly lost their first two games and were eliminated. Van Horn has also taken Arkansas to the CWS in 2012, 2009 and 2005.
Good enough. Seven walks are concerning, but the six hits allowed was quality. As were the nine strikeouts.
Dropping 11 hits, coaxing 6 walks and scoring 14 runs in a clinching game of a super regional leads to a perfect score.
The Big Stick + The Arm
Far from perfect, but he doesn’t often have to be. The concern about his last start, the one in which he didn’t record a single out before being pulled, disappeared. Campbell did Monday what he had done most of the season.
Stick: Eric Cole
Arkansas’ outfielder was perfect, too. He went 3 for 3 with a double, home run, 2 walks, 2 RBI and 5 runs scored. Wow.
A double-elimination tournament among eight teams in Omaha, otherwise known at the College World Series.