Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
NCAA Baseball Regionals:
Bowing out again
Virginia players celebrate teammate Mike Papi (38) after scoring in front of Arkansas pitcher Zach Jackson, right, during an NCAA college baseball regional tournament game, Sunday, June 1, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia left-hander Brandon Waddell capped a dominating weekend performance by the Cavaliers pitching staff and fourth-ranked Virginia capitalized on a six-run third inning to thump Arkansas 9-2, ending the Razorbacks season, on Sunday night before a crowd of 4,005 at Davenport Field.
The Razorbacks went 2-2 in a regional for the third time in the last four years, the lone exception being their 3-0 sweep at Rice in 2012, which led to their seventh College World Series appearance.
Arkansas (40-25), which battered Bucknell 10-0 in an elimination game earlier Sunday, struggled to put score against Virginia left-handers Nathan Kirby and Waddell in its two losses in the regional.
"They pitched really good, obviously," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "Waddell, he mixes it up and competes very well. Unfortunately we didn't get to see their No. 3 guy."
Virginia (47-13) , the No. 3 national seed, outscored its three regional opponents 22-3 and advanced to its fifth super regional in the past six years. The Cavaliers will host Maryland later this week.
"I'm really proud of this club," Virginia Coach Brian O'Connor said. "I thought our guys were really locked in and ready to play great baseball this weekend. I thought Brandon Waddell was spectacular tonight."
Arkansas designated hitter KJ Wilkerson launched a towering two-run home run over the left-field wall in the seventh inning to break up Waddell's shutout bid.
"He threw me a two-strike slider, and I was able to get a hold of it," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson's home run broke up a streak of 21 2/3 shutout innings by Virginia starters in the regional. Waddell (8-3) allowed 7 hits and 2 runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Waddell gave way to Whit Mayberry after Arkansas catcher Jake Wise doubled over the head of left fielder Derek Fisher after the home run, and Mayberry gave up one hit in 2 1/3 innings.
Arkansas was outscored 12-2 in its losses to the Cavaliers.
"It's been a long day for us," Van Horn said. "Virginia has an outstanding team that can really pitch and play defense, and they put together a couple of outstanding innings against us."
Arkansas freshman Zach Jackson, who was making his second start, struck out three of the first six batters he faced, retiring the Cavaliers in order through the first two innings.
But Jackson allowed a single to John La Prise in the third and hit Brandon Downes with a pitch while he was trying to bunt. Jackson walked Branden Cogswell to load the bases with one out, but got the second out when Daniel Pinero popped out.
Mike Papi drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run for a 1-0 lead, then the Hogs' defense began to let Jackson down.
"We're one pitch away from getting out of that jam," Van Horn said.
Third baseman Clark Eagan failed to field a Joe McCarthy grounder to let in a second run, then after Fisher's two-run single, shortstop Michael Bernal muffed a routine ground ball and the Cavaliers added two more runs for a 6-0 lead.
Jackson gave up four earned runs on three hits in his 2 2/3 innings, but Virginia's O'Connor saw enough from the freshman to be impressed.
"You watch the major league draft in two years," O'Connor said. "In my opinion he's a lock to be a first-round pick. He's got great, great stuff."
The Arkansas bullpen entered Sunday night's game with 12 2/3 scoreless innings from Michael Gunn, Jacob Stone, Dominic Taccolini and Jackson Lowery, and the Razorbacks added 5 1/3 more innings to that total before the Cavaliers struck for three runs in the ninth, one of them unearned.
Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson reached base in his first seven plate appearances on the day to make the all-regional team along with Bernal.
"Some of the balls I hit found holes," Anderson said. "That's just the way it was."
Sports on 06/02/2014