FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas baseball has lost three times in 35 games at Baum Stadium this year. Not once have the Diamond Hogs lost on back-to-back occasions.
Such a tidbit bodes well, then, for Arkansas’ chances in advancing in the NCAA Tournament.
The Razorbacks beat Southern Mississippi on Saturday night, winning 10-2 to make it to the Fayetteville Regional final. Arkansas will get either Southern Miss again or Dallas Baptist on Sunday in the title game(s). The host team needs to just win once and gets a possible two tries. After that, it’s waiting on the next weekend, again at Baum, for Super Regionals. Dallas Baptist and Southern Miss play at 2 p.m. CT, with the Razorbacks getting the winner at 7 p.m. CT.
Southern Miss was supposed to put up a bigger fight Saturday than it did. The Golden Eagles were in the conversation for possible hosting duties themselves down in Hattiesburg, Miss. Instead, they couldn’t hit sand if they fell off a camel. Kacey Murphy limited them to 2 hits in 8 innings of work and his lineup struck for 7 runs in the second inning. It was an early killshot.
Arkansas chased Southern Miss starter Stevie Powers before he recorded his sixth out. His command simply failed in the second inning. The Razorbacks took advantage, coaxing three walks and being hit a pitch. Through all that, Jared Gates hit a 2-run home run and Eric Cole added a 2-run shot two batters later.
By the time Dominic Fletcher hit his RBI single as Powers’ last opponent, Arkansas had batted around. Mason Strickland’s relief continued the sadness for the Golden Eagles: Carson Shaddy tripled home Fletcher immediately.
Murphy, meanwhile, wasn’t in the mood for even letting USM get one back, nevermind the 10 required. He didn’t give up his first hit until the fifth inning and not one Golden Eagles batter even reached second base. The effort was made more impressive considering with such a large lead, Murphy could simply pitch to contact if he wanted. Southern Miss just didn’t make much of any.
Caleb Bolden entered for Murphy in the ninth. The first batter he faced took him deep to break up the shutout. A single and an RBI double later, Bolden was done. Bryce Bonnin recorded the final three outs to end things.
Now Arkansas can watch and wait. Southern Miss and Dallas Baptist will play the early game Sunday at Baum Stadium for the right to face the Diamond Hogs in the final later that night.
Murphy was brilliant. Bolden was not. Murphy’s 100th pitch of the game resulted in a swinging strikeout and last retirement of the eighth inning. Bullpen marred the grade from being an A-plus.
Everyone reached base for the second straight game. Nineteen times did an Arkansas hitter get on the paths.
The Big Stick + The Arm
He was absolutely fired up after his triple in the second. Immediately after sliding into third base he clenched and yelled “Yeah! C’mon!” much to the delight of the fans sitting behind the dugout on that side. In all, Shaddy reached base four times, scored twice and knocked in three more. He was just a home run short of the cycle.
Arkansas will play the winner of Dallas Baptist and Southern Miss on Sunday night at 7 p.m. CT. If the Razorbacks win, they advance to super regional play the following weekend. If they lose, they get another shot to advance on Monday.