By Otis Kirk
Arkansas lives to play another game in the College World Series with a convincing 11-1 win over Auburn in an elimination game on Tuesday night.
The Razorbacks bounced back from a 13-5 loss to Ole Miss on Monday night. Will McEntire got the start and, like Connor Noland on Saturday, was outstanding and helped save the bullpen. McEntire didn’t surrender his first hit until two were out in the fourth inning. Dave Van Horn was obviously pleased with what McEntire gave the team. McEntire worked 7.0 innings, allowed three hits, one run, walked a batter, fanned nine and threw 98 pitches to the 25 batters he faced.
“Just a really well-pitched game by Will and gave us an opportunity to build on a lead,” Van Horn said. “Obviously offensively we got some big hits, big two-out hits. And we didn’t put it away completely after the fourth, but we felt really good because of the way Will.
He was throwing the ball down and mixing his pitches, getting them to look for the cutter a little bit and then he’d throw the fastball and vice versa. Just really did a great job. I thought we played outstanding defense behind him. And he knows that he can throw the ball around the plate and we’re going to field it most of the time. Just a good win for us.”
The Razorbacks wasted no time flexing their muscles on offense. One change Van Horn made in the lineup paid off immediately. Braydon Webb doubled to center field to start the game. That brought Peyton Stovall, who switched from the eighth spot to second with Brady Slavens. Stovall singled to center field to plate Webb for a 1-0 lead and the Hogs never trailed. Michael Turner talked about the job Stovall, a true freshman, is doing in the postseason.
“He’s a stud,” Turner said. “We’ve been saying it all year. Works extremely hard. He’s seeing the ball deep in the zone. I feel earlier in the year we kind of talked a little bit. He was a bit jumpy, trying to do too, much which happens to everybody.
“But he’s seeing the ball real well right now. Even his takes he’s seeing it real well. It’s fun to watch and fun to hit with guys on base, too.”
Van Horn talked about the switching of Stovall and Slavens in the batting order.
“The game kind of tells you what to do every now and then,” Van Horn said. “I feel like Brady is not swinging the bat like he was even last weekend. He struggled yesterday and maybe the second half of the game here.
And Peyton has been swinging it great, the whole, I guess — maybe even towards the end of the season. I was going to say he’s swinging it great ever since we finished regular season, but he swung it well down the stretch a little bit. But he’s been really good since postseason started. So just thought about it last night. Thought I’m going to flip those two.”
The Hogs added three more runs in the top of the third. Stovall delivered a one-out single to left field. Turner drew a two-out walk. Chris Lanzilli then singled to right allowing Stovall to score. Robert Moore then delivered a double to left field that got both Lanzilli and Turner home for a 4-0 lead.
In the fourth it was more Stovall. Webb singled to start the inning and then Stovall doubled. Turner then deliverd a two-RBI double. Lanzilli followed with a shot over the fence in left field for an 8-0 Arkansas lead.
Wallace doubled with two outs in the sixth. Turner then hit a shot to left field to plate Wallace for a 9-0 lead.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh when right fielder Bobby Pierce hit a shot over the fence in left field that stayed fair. That was only the third hit of the night to that point off of McEntire.
It was a historic night for Stovall. He had five hits in the game including a two-RBI single in the top of the ninth that got Moore and Jalen Battles into score.
The Hogs scored 11 runs on 16 hits and stranded 10 on base against the seven Auburn pitchers. Arkansas used a long list of pitchers on Monday only had to pitch three in the win Tuesday. Both Zebulon Vermillion and Austin Ledbetter pitched an inning in relief. McEntire (2-2) got the win and Mason Barnett (3-3) took the loss. Arkansas’ pitchers allowed four hits, walked only one and fanned nine Tigers. Van Horn talked about the effort he got from his team on Tuesday in an elimination game.
“Yeah, you never know how it’s going to go,” Van Horn said. “If Auburn would have got off to a great start on the mound, I think we would have had a really, really good ball team. Both teams didn’t want to go home, obviously, and we just jumped out on them.
“But speaking for our team, we don’t want to go home. We think we can play five days in a row. We like it. We’re here until we’re not.”
Arkansas (45-20) advances to face Ole Miss (39-22) on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Ole Miss defeated the Hogs on Monday night and now the Razorbacks have to beat them twice to advance to the championship games.
During the regular season, Arkansas won two of three against the Rebels. Lefty Hagen Smith hasn’t pitched in the College World Series. He actually had a very good performance against Ole Miss on April 30 in a 6-3 win at Baum-Walker Stadium. In that game, he went 6.0 innings, allowed seven hits, two runs, walked a pair and fanned eight. Van Horn
On the other side of the bracket Texas A&M defeated Notre Dame 5-1 on Tuesday. Now the Aggies will have to defeat Oklahoma twice to advance to the championship series.