Coming up short: Second one-run game knocks out Razorbacks

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Texas Tech first baseman Cameron Warren slides into home plate as Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz stands during a College World Series game Monday, June 17, 2019, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Texas Tech first baseman Cameron Warren slides into home plate as Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz stands during a College World Series game Monday, June 17, 2019, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Everything was all set up for the University of Arkansas baseball team.

The Razorbacks had the winning runs on base with no outs in the top of the ninth inning, the top of the order coming to bat and All-American closer Matt Cronin warming up in the bullpen.

But Cronin never got in the game.

Texas Tech reliever Taylor Floyd retired Trevor Ezell on a popout, struck out Casey Martin and got Matt Goodheart on a flyout.

The Red Raiders held on to win 5-4 Monday before an announced crowd of 19,236 at TD Ameritrade Park and eliminated Arkansas from the College World Series.

Arkansas (46-20) lost 1-0 to Florida State on Saturday night in the Razorbacks' College World Series opener.

"Two one-run losses that really could have gone either way," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "It's hard to swallow."

The Razorbacks got their first two batters on base in the ninth when John McMillion hit Jacob Nesbit with a pitch and Christian Franklin singled off Floyd.

"We had it all set up to try to score a couple runs there, and it just didn't happen," Van Horn said. "We're at the top of the order with two on and nobody out. Those are the guys you want up.

"It's tough, but you've got to give Texas Tech credit. They pitched really well and got out of that jam."

Floyd earned his fourth save of the season.

"Floyd came in and did great job," Van Horn said. "He had an opportunity to let that thing slip away, and he didn't."

Van Horn said he considered having Ezell bunt, but decided to let him swing away with Texas Tech's infielders charging in at the corners. He said that if Ezell had laid down a sacrifice bunt, Martin might be walked intentionally to set up a double play or strike out -- which he did for third time in the game.

"I just didn't feel good about bunting one of my best hitters," Van Horn said. "I just felt like the key at-bat was going to be Trevor."

Martin, who went 2 for 5 with a triple and double, said he felt confident the Razorbacks would tie the game or take the lead in the ninth.

"I had a lot of confidence ... didn't matter who came up," Martin said. "I know our guys and they've battled all year and done an outstanding job competing in the box.

"Just didn't fall our way. That's baseball, and it's a tough situation. But sometimes it comes down to that. We just didn't get it done."

[RELATED: Bullpen can't hold off Red Raiders]

Cody Masters got it done for Texas Tech in the bottom of the eighth inning when he hit a two-out triple on a 3-1 itch against Cody Scroggins that scored Cameron Warren -- who drew a walk -- to give the Red Raiders a 5-4 lead.

"It really wasn't a bad pitch," Van Horn said. "It was a fastball away, and [Masters] went out and got it and hammered it. But the problem was we were behind in the count."

Masters said he scooted up in the batter's box against Scroggins after the count went to 3-1.

"He was missing away a little bit," Masters said. "So I figured he'd go there again, and I got a hold of a low-and-away pitch."

Arkansas tied it at 4-4 in the top of the eighth inning when Jack Kenley fouled off five consecutive 1-2 pitches from Dane Haveman, then hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Dominic Fletcher from third base.

Fletcher started the rally by drawing a one-out walk against Haveman -- who came in to pitch the eighth inning in place of starter Caleb Kilian -- and went to third on a single by Heston Kjerstad.

Junior shortstop Josh Jung -- the No. 8 overall pick in the Major League draft by the Texas Rangers -- led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run against Kevin Kopps to put the Red Raiders ahead 4-3.

Red Raiders sophomore third baseman Easton Murrell, a former Razorback who had 1 RBI this season coming into the game, hit his first career home run to tie the game 3-3 in the fifth inning. Murrell, starting his 10th game this season, hit a 3-1 pitch from Kopps over the right field fence.

[RELATED: Van Horn proud of his squad]

Kilian, a junior right-hander, went seven innings and held the Razorbacks to 3 runs, 6 hits and 1 walk with 9 strikeouts.

"Give credit to Kilian," Van Horn said. "I thought he did a good job of battling and finding a way to get through some innings."

Kjerstad hit a home run on the first pitch he saw from Kilian to put Arkansas ahead 1-0 in the second inning. It was the 17th home run this season for the left-handed hitting Kjerstad, who hit an opposite field shot over the left field wall.

The Razorbacks made it 3-0 in the third inning.

Franklin singled, stole second and came home on a two-out triple by Martin, whose drive went to the wall when the ball got by left fielder Kurt Wilson as he missed trying to make a diving catch. Martin then scored on Goodheart's infield single.

Texas Tech pulled within 3-2 in the fourth inning on Warren's two-run home run against Arkansas freshman starter Connor Noland.

"I thought Connor threw the ball really well," Van Horn said. "He made a mistake and the big first baseman crushed it.

"Just a breaking ball he left up. It's fragile. This is a high level of baseball and there are mistakes made. You don't get them back sometimes.

"But I thought overall he competed really well. He gave us some quality innings. When he came out of the game, we had a 3-2 lead. I really couldn't ask for a whole lot more than that."

Texas Tech (45-19) stayed alive to play another elimination game on Wednesday night and will face Florida State.

"We had a hunch these guys were going to be fun to watch with their backs against the wall," Red Raiders Coach Tim Tadlock said. "The way Caleb pitched gave us an opportunity to come through late in the game."

The Razorbacks left eight runners on base in Monday's game after leaving six on base against FSU.

"That ended up being the bottom line," Van Horn said. "We just didn't score enough runs."

FSU scored against Arkansas in the top of the ninth inning, so both of the Razorbacks' losses came when the Seminoles and Red Raiders broke ties in their final at-bats.

"One swing of the bat in either game could have changed the outcome," Kjerstad said. "It didn't happen for us, but we'll get back."

Sports on 06/18/2019

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.