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 Charlottesville Regional:
Last out elusive in Virginia's big inning
In this file photo Arkansas pitcher Zach Jackson (32) throws in the first inning of an NCAA college baseball regional tournament game against Virginia, Sunday, June 1, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Arkansas turned generous in the third inning against Virginia late Sunday after freshman Zach Jackson breezed through the first six batters.
The Cavaliers scored six two-out runs against Jackson and Landon Simpson to blow the game open, and Arkansas contributed to the big inning with shoddy defense and erratic pitching.
Virginia loaded the bases with two outs on a hit, a hit batsman and a walk before Jackson forced in the first run with a walk to Mike Papi on a 3-2 pitch. Joe McCarthy followed with a ground ball to third base that Clark Eagan couldn’t corral, leading to a second run on a play that was ruled a hit.
Derek Fisher’s single through the left side brought in two more runs and made it 4-0, shortstop Michael Bernal booted a routine grounder from Kenny Towns and the error led to two more runs.
Jackson, in his second start, lasted 68 pitches through 2 2/3 innings.
Shake it up
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn juggled his lineup after the Razorbacks managed two hits in their 3-0 loss to Virginia on Saturday.
Freshman Alex Gosser, who was batting .273 in seven games, replaced senior captain Jake Wise at catcher in the eight hole in the batting order for Sunday’s first game.
Gosser went 2 for 3 with two walks, scored a run and had a first-inning RBI single while raising his average to .320 after the Hogs’ 10-0 victory over Bucknell.
Wise, hitting .149, was back in the lineup for the nightcap versus Virginia.
Leadoff batter Clark Eagan went from designated hitter to third base in place of Bobby Wernes, who was out after re-tweaking his sore back, and KJ Wilkerson entered in the seven spot as the designated hitter.
Wilkerson went 1 for 3, had an RBI single in the first inning and scored a run against Bucknell. Wilkerson and Gosser combined to reach base in 7 of 10 plate appearances against the Bison.
When is the last time Arkansas won back-to-back elimination games at an NCAA regional?
Power of the pen
The Arkansas bullpen had a phenomenal run at the Charlottesville Regional going entering the late stages of its Sunday night game against Virginia.
Razorbacks relievers Michael Gunn, Jacob Stone, Dominic Taccolini and Jackson Lowery combined to allow three hits and no runs in 12 2/3 innings through the first three games.
Landon Simpson kept the Cavaliers off-balance and off the board with a breaking ball and slider through his first 2 1/3 innings of his relief stint.
Arkansas sophomore shortstop Michael Bernal might have made the defensive play of the regional in the fourth inning. Bernal had to dive to his right to stop a hard-hit ball in the hole by Daniel Pinero. Bernal gunned a throw to first from his knees and got Pinero by a step.
Right fielder Tyler Spoon added another defensive gem in the sixth when he charged in full speed to make a diving catch on a bloop by Brandon Downes.
Arkansas’ 10-0 shutout over Bucknell was the 50th NCAA Tournament victory for Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn.
Jalen Beeks and Jackson Lowery combined to throw Arkansas’ 10th shutout of the season, which is two short of the single-season school record. The 10 shutouts are tied for eighth in the nation behind national leader LSU (17).
The Razorbacks’ last shutout in an NCAA Tournament game had been a 3-0 victory over New Mexico on June 4, 2011 at the Tempe, Ariz., Regional.
Virginia entered the nightcap Sunday ranked No. 1 in hits allowed per nine innings at 6.35, while the Razorbacks were fifth in the same statistic at 6.91.
The Cavaliers were also ranked No. 3 in fielding percentage at .982, while Arkansas ranked No. 64 at .972.
Arkansas reached the 40-win milestone for the seventh time in 12 seasons under Dave Van Horn.
The Razorbacks have finished up with 39 victories three times under Van Horn, including last season’s 39-22 mark.
Arkansas racked up 10 hits in the first three innings of its 10-0 rout of Bucknell, and finished with a season-high 16 hits. It marked the first 10-hit game for the Razorbacks since an 8-7 victory over Ole Miss on May 23.
The Razorbacks had six hits in the first inning off starter Andrew Andreychik, one more than they had compiled in their previous 12 innings at the regional.
Ring him up
The first player to get a hit against Arkansas in Sunday’s first game was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into an extra base for the second consecutive game.
Bucknell left fielder Joe Ogren hit a ball into the right-field corner for an easy double, but he tried to stretch it into a triple and was thrown out on relays from right fielder Tyler Spoon and second baseman Brian Anderson to Clark Eagan at third.
Heather v. Hogs
Bucknell Coach Scott Heather, an Arkansas pitcher in the late 1990s, complemented his former program after being eliminated by the Hogs.
“Coach Van Horn has done some amazing things at Arkansas and really has the program headed in the right direction,” Heather said.
Heather said he tried to keep his connection to the Razorbacks out of mind during the game.
“I wanted it to just be a normal game for our guys,” he said. “Maybe on the bus back I’ll think about it a little bit more. At times it would hit me that the Razorbacks were on the other side over there, but it certainly was an honor to play all three teams this weekend.”
The last time Arkansas won back-to-back games in an NCAA regional came on June 6, 2004. The Razorbacks defeated Wichita State by scores of 11-9 and 4-3 to win the regional in Fayetteville.