This is the summer of their discontent. For what wound would ever heal but by degrees?
The summer of 2018 should be remembered as the greatest Arkansas baseball season in history. Eventually it will be recalled with such fondness. For now, the pain is real and will be lasting.
Arkansas lost to Oregon State 5-0 in Game 3 of the College World Series National Championship Series in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday night. The Beavers won their third title — all since 2006. Arkansas has yet to win one in the sport and the Razorbacks’ championship game appearance this season was just the second in school history.
The pain would be considerable under normal circumstances. Given what happened to Arkansas in the last 24 hours and two games, it’s profound. After squandering the title on Wednesday night, losing a lead with two outs in the ninth inning, the Razorbacks never looked in sync Thursday. The best-hitting lineup in the SEC — a top-20 lineup in the country — managed 2 hits against Oregon State in the deciding game.
Both came in the third inning. In fact, Arkansas had loaded the bases in that frame, trailing by just 2 runs. But Heston Kjerstad, the team’s best hitter most of the season, struck out. Luke Bonfield, in his last game at Arkansas, popped out. They were the first two of a stretch of 20 straight outs recorded by Oregon State starter Kevin Abel. He was perfect from then on.
Abel was making just his seventh start of the season. Arguably the Beavers’ best bullpen arm all year, he had 22 games pitched but just 6 starts. The question was whether he’d have the gas to go deep into the game against Arkansas’ dangerous lineup.
He went the distance.
The Razorbacks didn’t put up much of a fight. Grant Koch and Casey Martin had the only 2 knocks. Koch’s was a double. All the while, Oregon State, the third-best hitting team in the nation entering the game, simply did what was needed. Nothing more. A couple of RBI singles from Adley Rutschman and 2 more runs scoring with Michael Gretler at the plate (one on an Arkansas error, the other on a sacrifice fly) were all the Beavers got in the first seven innings — and that was plenty. When Zak Taylor, the 9-hole hitter, singled home Gretler in the eighth, the casket was already built. Someone had changed Oregon State baseball’s Wikipedia page to reflect a championship not even yet won some time before the seventh.
It was the first time Arkansas had been shut out all season and it came in the national championship-deciding game.