Photographs by J.T. Wampler
The Razorbacks celebrate after defeating South Carolina 14-4 on Monday in the Fayetteville Super Regional championship game at Baum Stadium. Arkansas qualified for its ninth College World Series and fifth under Coach Dave Van Horn.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE -- Dave Van Horn told his Arkansas Razorbacks after Sunday's loss to South Carolina that they should look at the super regional finale as a time for fun, not a life-or-death scenario.
The Razorbacks took the message to heart, gleefully bashing through South Carolina's thin pitching staff to claim a spot in the College World Series with a 14-4 victory on Monday night.
Carson Shaddy hit a three-run home run to cap the Hogs' five-run first inning, and pitcher Isaiah Campbell had a bounce-back performance to fuel the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville before a crowd of 11,217 at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks held a brief dog pile on the infield after Matt Cronin got the final Gamecock on a fly ball to right fielder Eric Cole, then the players donned caps that read "Destination: Omaha" and "OMAHOGS" signs in a victory lap around the stadium.
"They kind of showed you what they were made of tonight, because they took all the drama out of that game, which I really appreciate," Coach Dave Van Horn said. "I felt these guys were locked in."
The Razorbacks (44-19) finished 34-4 at Baum Stadium en route to qualifying for their ninth College World Series and fifth under Van Horn, who improved to 7-2 in super regionals.
The Razorbacks will take on Texas in their CWS opener Sunday at 1 p.m. in the side of the bracket that also features defending national champion Florida and Texas Tech, all teams Arkansas has played this season.
"We came out today and kind of knew we were in the driver's seat," said Cole, who went 3 for 3 with a home run, double and 5 runs scored. "We knew it was up to us and that Isaiah would give us four or five [innings]. It's just a sign of a mature team coming out with the same focus we've had all season."
South Carolina (37-26) did not have the pitching depth to deal with the hot Arkansas hitters, who also posted a five-run fifth inning to turn an 8-2 lead into a full-fledged rout.
"Congratulations to Arkansas, clearly one of the best teams in America," South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston said. "They played probably their best baseball tonight offensively, pitching, defensively.
"We're one of the top 10 teams in the country, no question, but we ran into maybe the best team in America tonight. We just hit a roadblock."
The Razorbacks will finish off a season with lofty expectations at the only place that would have made the season a success: Omaha.
"It's just pure excitement right now," Shaddy said. "I think we've handled the expectations very well. We understand how talented we are. We like the expectations. It makes us play better."
Arkansas unleashed an 11-hit attack, and Campbell rebounded from a start at last week's NCAA regional in which he faced three batters and did not record an out.
Shaddy's home run, his second of the super regional and 13th of the year, was Arkansas' 93rd, breaking a tie for the single-season record formerly held by the 2010 team. Cole added his solo shot in the seventh.
Clean-up man Luke Bonfield went 3 for 4 and drove in a run in each of his first four at-bats.
"It was obviously a big relief for me because I didn't have that great of a night last night," Bonfield said. "They were throwing me away all series long, and I was pulling off the ball, trying to do too much probably. I just stuck with a good approach and was able to put some good swings on it and help my team win."
Campbell worked into the fifth inning and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5.
"I didn't put any pressure on myself," Campbell said. "You live for this moment. It's Game 3 of a super regional to go to Omaha. That's what you've dreamed about your whole life, to go to Omaha. So I didn't put any pressure on myself."
Pitching coach Wes Johnson had a tape made of every Campbell strikeout this season and got him to watch it.
"I said, 'You watch this, and I want you to watch it and watch it and watch it, because you're going to take that mound and dominate,' " Johnson said. "And by gosh he did it."
Barrett Loseke (3-2) kept South Carolina off the board for two innings before allowing a solo home run to Jacob Olson in the seventh.
Jake Reindl, Kole Ramage and Cronin finished up for the Hogs.
The Razorbacks jumped all over freshman Carmen Mlodzinski (3-6) in the first inning with a series of hard-hit balls and one costly South Carolina mistake.
Cole drew a leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch, then Casey Martin poked a single into left field to move Cole to second. Heston Kjerstad hit a ground ball to third base that had double-play potential, but Jonah Bride took a glance at second and saw Martin was closing in on the bag, then he threw wide of first base to allow Cole to score.
Bonfield's opposite-field single drove in Martin. After Dominic Fletcher struck out, Shaddy smashed a three-run home run to left-center field for a 5-0 lead.
"I was just trying to put the bat on the ball and hit something up," Shaddy said. "I think the baseball Gods were on my side tonight."
Cole said the opening inning was huge.
"We kind of rode that momentum for the rest of the game," he said.
Sports on 06/12/2018
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