After taking game one 4-1 on Saturday behind a masterful pitching performance by ace Connor Noland, Arkansas needed just one win to punch their ticket to the College World Series for the 11th time in program history. Sunday’s game between the Razorbacks and Tar Heels was delayed two separate times due to lightning. Arkansas was able to get on the board first after the first lightning delay on a two-out double by Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles scoring Chris Lanzilli from first base in the bottom of the 4th inning. Arkansas would add another run in the next inning on a Brayden Webb home run over the wall in right-center field. Before being pulled in the 6th inning, Arkansas starter Will McEntire allowed no runs and only three hits. Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn in a postgame interview on why he pulled McEntire: “He still had stuff but we just felt like they were getting to see him a fourth time and it was time to get him.” The Tar Heels were able to manufacture a couple of runs in the top of the 7th inning on an RBI ground-out and a wild pitch by Brady Tygart who went in to relieve Evan Taylor. Tied 2-2 in the top of the 9th inning, North Carolina would take a one-run lead on a pinch-hit two-out single to center by Patrick Alvarez.
Arkansas would get one last chance in the bottom of the 9th inning. Jalen Battles led off the inning with a single followed by a single from Peyton Stovall that allowed Battles to reach third base. Kendall Diggs, who would pinch hit for Zack Gregory drew a walk to load the bases. Brayden Webb would bring in the tying run on a fielders choice RBI groundout. With only one out and runners at the corners, it would be up to Brady Slavens to send Arkansas to Omaha. Slavens barely wasted any time, attacking the second pitch he saw from lefty Caden O’Brien and sending it past a drawn-in infield. The Arkansas dugout cleared and the Razorback fans in attendance went crazy as the players dogpiled on top of each other.
Deep down I knew Arkansas was not playing to their potential for the majority of the regular season. While many Arkansas fans panicked and wrote the team off, I tried my best to be positive. Yes, I had my doubts but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things are not quite as bad as they seem. After the bitter loss last year in the Super Regionals against NC State, the players and fans were heartbroken thinking about what could have been. Well, this year has been quite the opposite. With this year’s team, not many people thought Arkansas could turn it on and get to Omaha. They have been playing with their backs against the wall and they are hot right now. With the #1 Tennessee Volunteers getting eliminated by Notre Dame in the Knoxville Super Regional on Sunday the path to Arkansas’s elusive first title got a little easier.
What is next?
Arkansas will take on Stanford on Saturday with a 1 pm first pitch.