COLLEGE WORLD SERIES REPORT:

Hogs play along with Fletcher

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018
Dominic Fletcher, Arkansas center fielder, hits a 2 RBI double in the 1st inning as Braxton Fulford catches for Texas Tech Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in game eight of the NCAA Men's College World Series between at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
Photo by Ben Goff
Dominic Fletcher, Arkansas center fielder, hits a 2 RBI double in the 1st inning as Braxton Fulford catches for Texas Tech Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in game eight of the NCAA Men's College World Series between at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Arkansas Razorbacks Eric Cole and Jared Gates were watching Dominic Fletcher's fourth inning at-bat together, trying to predict pitches from Texas Tech starter Davis Martin and thinking along the lines of Fletcher.

"We were kind of calling pitches, what we thought he was going to throw, based off of what he was doing earlier in the game and how he attacked us," Cole said. "We probably got about 80 percent of the pitches in that at-bat right, and Fletcher kind of knew it, too."

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Cole said he and Gates both called high fastball after Fletcher fouled off six consecutive pitches, mostly on breaking balls, and Martin delivered a heater up in the zone that Fletcher crushed over the right-field wall for a home run that was estimated at 415 feet in the Razorbacks' 7-4 victory over the Red Raiders.

"So Gates and I actually called high fastball on that pitch and Fletcher, he told me he had it in the back of his head, too, because he had about six straight off-speed pitches there," Cole said. "I think he kind of just left one over the plate that he wasn't expecting to leave over the plate. Luckily Fletcher put a good swing on it and destroyed it, and it worked out well for us."

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said he's seen Fletcher exhibit that kind of power before.

"You asked him if he's ever hit the ball that far. I've seen him hit many balls that far, but maybe not fair," Van Horn said.

Fletcher went 4 for 4 with 4 RBI to become the first Razorback to have 4 hits in a College World Series game at TD Ameritrade Park.

"He'll have a game where he doesn't look good, and then he'll have a game like today and he'll hit three balls on the screws, or four," Van Horn said.

Cronin struggles

Arkansas closer Matt Cronin allowed two runs with no outs in the ninth inning, with Michael Davis pulling a double inside the third-base bag and Cody Farhat going the opposite way for a two-run single inside the first-base bag.

"His stuff was fine," Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson said. "A breaking ball that he normally buries and he didn't. He throws a fastball a couple of inches off the plate and the guy reaches out and slaps it down the line.

"I didn't want him to panic. All I told him, I said, 'C'mon buddy, your stuff's good. You're made for these situations. Keep attacking the white of the plate and you'll win,' and he did."

Cronin got a strikeout, a weak grounder back to the mound and a fly out to finish the game.

2-run collision

Texas Tech outfielders Cody Farhat and Gabe Holt collided in the first inning just when it looked like Davis Martin had escaped having runners at second and third with no outs.

Dominic Fletcher's two-out fly ball to the gap in right center had just made it into the center fielder Farhat's glove when Holt ran into him, jarring the ball free. Eric Cole and Casey Martin, who had singled and doubled to open the game, scored easily as Fletcher pulled into second base.

The official scorer ruled the play a two-run double.

Texas Tech Coach Tim Tadlock took the blame for the blunder, saying he switched the positions of Holt and second baseman Brian Klein in Game 48 late in the year.

"It really hadn't bit us up to this point," Tadlock said. "I don't think Gabe heard Cody. I think if he does, he lets him catch it. But that's on me."

Collision II

Oregon State outfielders Jack Anderson and Kyle Nobach ran into each other in the fourth inning on Wednesday night against North Carolina, but their collision wound up better than Texas Tech's. Anderson was able to hold on to the ball as his arm clothes-lined Nobach on a pop up from Kyle Datres. Nobach had his cap knocked off and got up slowly after the near-full speed bang-up.

Mr. June

Arkansas first baseman Jared Gates continued to add to the postseason exploits that have earned him the nickname "Mr. June" by his teammates.

Gates hit his fifth career postseason home run Wednesday, a solo shot in the second inning against Davis Martin, to give the Hogs a 3-0 lead.

Gates has 12 career home runs. The senior, who played at Iowa Western College across the Missouri River from Omaha before transferring to Arkansas, hit .217 in his regular-season career. He is 21 of 61 (.344) in the postseason.

Glove work

The Razorbacks made two strong defensive plays to shorten the second inning for Kacey Murphy.

Heston Kjerstad tracked down Cody Farhat's deep drive to left field and made the catch just before he slammed into the padded wall. The officials held up play for about 30 seconds for the replay team to confirm the call.

Moments later, catcher Grant Koch gunned out Cameron Warren on a steal attempt at second base, with Carson Shaddy applying the tag to Warren's upraised arm and shouting "I got him!", which could be heard on ESPN's telecast.

Homer happy

Oregon State's Cadyn Grenier and Adley Rutschman hit solo home runs in the top of the first inning against North Carolina starter Cooper Criswell. Grenier's shot was his sixth of the year, while Rutschman hit his eighth on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.

Heimlich maneuver

Oregon State brought ace lefty Luke Heimlich (16-2) back Wednesday on three day' rest, and his start went only marginally better than his first showing against the Tar Heels at Omaha.

Heimlich picked up the loss and was tagged for 6 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk on 63 pitches in North Carolina's 8-6 victory on Saturday.

He gave up 3 runs, all in the third inning, on 6 hits on Wednesday and came out after throwing 59 pitches in 22/3 innings. He did not factor in the decision after leaving in a 3-3 tie.

Rain games

This edition of the College World Series already is entering delay territory seldom seen in Omaha.

The CWS was scheduled to have its first tripleheader in six years on Tuesday, before the Arkansas-Texas Tech game got postponed for a day. The start of Game 8 between the Razorbacks and Red Raiders was delayed for 3 hours and 30 minutes due to more rain Wednesday, making the total delay time 11 hours and 5 minutes.

2-0 SECs

Arkansas and Mississippi State, two SEC West teams, are the clubs from each bracket with 2-0 records.

This marks the fourth time in CWS history that both teams to start 2-0 came from the same conference, and the second time Arkansas has been involved. The other instances were Oklahoma State and TCU from the Big 12 in 2016; Florida and South Carolina from the SEC in 2011; and Arkansas and Texas from the Southwest Conference in 1979. The only time both of those 2-0 teams advanced to the finals came in 2011, when South Carolina won its second championship in a row.

Sports on 06/21/2018

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