If you want to call this a makeup game since because of foul weather the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Tech Red Raiders played only one of their two games April 24-25 at Baum Stadium, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn and Texas Tech Coach Tim Tadlock can’t think of a better place to make it up than where they play tonight.
For as much as the 45-19 SEC West co-champion Razorbacks love playing in Fayetteville, they’d rather play where the game was played Tuesday night, weather permitting, in the second round winner’s bracket of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. against the Big 12 runner-up 45-18 Red Raiders.
It was the last game of a weather-delayed triple header with Mississippi State rolling past North Carolina in the first game of the day, followed by a loser’s bracket game between Florida Gators, the 2018 SEC Overall champion and reigning 2017 national champion, and Big 12 champion Texas.
The loser was to be eliminated, with the winner advancing to the loser of Arkansas-Texas Tech at 7 p.m. on Thursday, while the winner would be off until 7 p.m. on Friday. If necessary, an elimi-nation game would be played on Saturday with game time not yet set.
The winner of the bracket would play in a three-game series for the national title that would start at 7 p.m. on Monday.
On Sunday’s CWS first-round rain delayed long day’s journey into night the Razorbacks trounced Texas, 11-5 causing Texas Tech and Florida to push the midnight hour before the Red Raiders prevailed 6-3.
Arkansas beat the Red Raiders, 5-1 back on April 24 commencing the season’s emergence of jun-ior right-hander Barrett Loseke. Struggling at the season’s outset, Loseke closed the final 4 2-3 hitless innings with 10 strikeouts for a save on behalf of winning middle reliever and Bryant na-tive Evan Lee. From there Loseke has mostly pitched superbly joining lefty Matt Cronin, side-lined by mononucleosis back then but recovered and excelling again, and junior right-hander Jake Reindl in a superb three-armed bullpen.
“He pitched great that day,” Van Horn recalled Monday of Loseke before the Razorbacks prac-ticed in Omaha. “To me, that’s really where I think everybody gained a lot of confidence in him. The coaches saw what he could do, the players saw what he could do. That’s what we thought he could do. Ever since then, he’s helped solidify our pitching staff.”
However since Loseke threw 38 pitches in 1 and two-thirds relief of winning starter Blaine Knight of Bryant against Texas Sunday, look for Reindl or Cronin for relief whenever junior lefty starter Kacey Murphy of Rogers may need it tonight.
“Pretty good shape after the first day,” Van Horn said of his pitching staff. “Bottom line, we just needed to win the game and then see what you got and try to line it up as best as you can. Not your typical team that we’re facing. This team is very offensive.”
Red Raiders Josh Jung, .390 batting average, 12 home runs 78 RBI, left fielder Grant Little, .380, 12 home runs and 74 RBI, second baseman Gabe Holt, .352 and designated hitter Zach Rheams .346, 17 home runs, 50 RBI, appear to be more “Red Rippers” than Red Raiders.
And they just ripped one of the most esteemed pitchers in the college game, Florida ace Brady Singer.
“As far as talent wise, you look at the preseason projections and polls and they were in the top 3 in most every poll,” Van Horn said of Tech. “So they’re exactly where I thought they would be, in Omaha with a great team.”
Murphy, 8-5, has mostly pitched well this season but absorbed a loss his last outing, the 8-5 Su-per Regional loss to South Carolina June 10 at Baum though Arkansas won the Super Regional beating South Carolina 9-3 the day before and 14-4 the night after Murphy’s loss.
“I think he’ll bounce back,” Van Horn said of Murphy. “He’s going to face one of the toughest offenses in Division I baseball in Texas Tech. Their offense is loaded with really strong type hit-ters, guys who can hit the ball over your head. A couple of guys who can really run. He’s going to have to pitch extremely well. We’ll try to make sure we’ve got guys ready in the bullpen, because I feel like it’ll take four or five guys to try to handle them.”
Of course against Arkansas’ ample attack Tadlock likely prepares for multiple pitchers, Fort Smith Southside alum Ty Harpeneau among them though Harpenau worked 40 pitches through 2 2-3 against Florida saving it for middle reliever Ryan Shetter Sunday night.
The Razorbacks have hit a school record 95 home runs, including a big 2-run shot by Luke Bon-field to put Arkansas up 3-2 in the Sunday’s fifth against Texas, but it was six singles three walks and a hit batsman that triggered Sunday’s 8-run sixth.
“I really like singles,” Van Horn said Monday. “Singles make for big innings, but to have a big inning like that, you have to draw some walks or they have to make an error or two. That’s how you put up the so-called crooked number.”