FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A few months ago, many around the Arkansas baseball program were wondering what was wrong with Jake Reindl. It was as though, perhaps, his sophomore season was more of a fluke. Maybe the Reindl of his freshman year and the first month of 2018 was the real Reindl.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
After a first month that saw him give up 14 runs in his first 13⅓ innings, Reindl finished his year on a tear. His performance Sunday will be remembered forever. For-ev-er.
Reindl entered in the first inning for starter Isaiah Campbell, who recorded zero outs after facing the first three Dallas Baptist batters. Arkansas’ reliever then proceeded to work the next 7 innings, providing enough stability for Arkansas’ hitters to rally the team to a 4-3 win and a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals.
Those also will be at Baum Stadium, where Arkansas is 33-3 this year. The opponent for that best two-of-three series is yet to be determined. South Carolina and North Carolina-Wilmington play Monday. South Carolina is on the winners’ side. Arkansas beat South Carolina two out of three times earlier this year at Baum Stadium.
Reindl did need some help, and some luck. Namely, Heston Kjerstad’s home run-saving grab in the sixth inning. With Arkansas ahead by a run, Dallas Baptist had a runner on base when Devlin Granberg — he of the .440 batting average — hit a shot to deep left field. Kjerstad, the SEC Freshman of the Year, leaped at the wall and caught the ball, which was nearly a foot above the top of the fence when it hit Kjerstad’s glove. Reindl grinned and quite literally doffed his cap in appreciation.
It was just one of those nights. That might have been the oddest thing, too, considering the beginning was the total opposite. Campbell walked the first two batters and gave up a single before giving way for Reindl. And although Reindl let one of those runners in — and another in the second inning — the damage was relatively limited.
In the meantime, Arkansas groundballed its way back. Eric Cole’s groundout to third pulled a run back. Carson Shaddy did the same, but to shortstop in the fourth, to tie the game. Grant Koch followed with a seeing-eye single between second and first base to put the Razorbacks ahead.
Kjerstad provided an extra run of insurance in the seventh with an RBI single. Turns out it was needed, too. Dallas Baptist created the final score in the ninth after a sacrifice fly off Matt Cronin. Cronin then recorded a strikeout and a flyout to complete the Razorbacks’ perfect weekend record.
The outing tied for Reindl’s longest of the season. He went 7 innings, in relief, against Auburn in April, striking out 9 in Arkansas’ win. That was the second game of his turnaround. In fact, from that point on, in 13 games, Reindl has given up only 6 runs.
Now he and his teammates can rest, wait and prepare to do something similar next weekend in the next round of the NCAA Tournament.
As important as Reindl’s work was in not allowing runs, he did have trouble in those early innings. Add on to that Campbell’s opening, and the game can’t be an A.
Not a thing was special about what Arkansas did at the plate. Methodical and competent. Not special. Methodical and competent matters just as much.
The Big Stick + The Arm
Heroes get remembered. Legends never die. His final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 K
No, it isn’t because of the catch. Kjerstad reached base three times. He walked twice and then had an RBI single in the eighth.
Super Regionals next weekend. Arkansas will host again at Baum Stadium. The only question is the opponent.