Super start: Noland leads Arkansas to Game 1 win over UNC

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, June 11, 2022
Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland throws during an NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland throws during an NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Connor Noland threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and Arkansas defeated North Carolina 4-1 on Saturday in the first game of the NCAA Chapel Hill Super Regional at Boshamer Stadium.

The Razorbacks (42-19) moved to within one victory of playing in the College World Series. Arkansas would win the super regional with a victory in Sunday’s game at noon Central, or in an if-necessary game Monday. 

North Carolina (42-21), which battled back from the losers bracket in a home regional last week, must win two consecutive games on its home field to avoid elimination.

Noland was brilliant after he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. Three of the Tar Heels’ first four batters reached base before Noland retired 20 of the final 24. 

The junior right hander allowed 6 hits, walked 1 and struck out 6. He threw 61 of 89 pitches for strikes. 

Angel Zarate singled on the first pitch against Noland before Danny Serretti doubled and Vance Honeycutt walked with one out. Noland struck out Alberto Osuna for the second out of the inning. 

The inning ended with a scene reminiscent to last week’s Stillwater Regional when Noland was hit by two line drives in the seventh inning of a win over Grand Canyon. North Carolina’s Mikey Madej lined a pitch off of Noland’s lower right leg, but Noland picked up the ball and threw him out at first base to strand three. 

"That was big momentum for us, I think," Noland said. "You're in that inning and I think they thought they were going to get a couple there. I put a zero on the board and go to the next one." 

Noland allowed two-out singles in the second and third innings, but appeared to be in cruise control over his final 5 2/3 innings. He retired seven straight before Serretti led off the sixth inning with a single. 

"Sometimes the pitcher can be the equalizer," North Carolina coach Scott Forbes said, "and I thought he was."

Evan Taylor replaced Noland when second baseman Colby Wilkerson singled with two outs in the seventh inning. Taylor induced a groundout by Zarate on his first pitch to preserve a 4-0 lead. 

Taylor, a left hander, allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings of relief. Freshman left hander Hagen Smith worked around a leadoff single in the ninth inning to earn his second save.

Smith, who has been Arkansas’ No. 2 starter for most of the season, earned his first save in the regional championship game against Oklahoma State on Monday. 

"I just think he's a guy that we had a lot of confidence in and felt like lefthand might be a good way to go at them to try to finish it up," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We've got confidence in the other guys, too. I just think he's one of our guys that we feel good about, you know, finishing up a game."

Arkansas first baseman Peyton Stovall broke a scoreless tie with a leadoff home run to right field in the fifth inning. That kick started a three-run inning that also included an RBI single by Brady Slavens to score Zack Gregory and a sacrifice fly by Cayden Wallace to score Braydon Webb. 

The Razorbacks’ first three hitters reached base in the inning. Gregory walked and Webb singled following Stovall’s home run. 

"It was big, especially with the way Connor was pitching; he was pitching lights out," Stovall said. "He’s going full head of steam, just cruising along. At that point, as an offense we are kind of looking at each other saying, ‘We’ve got to get this dude some runs for how good he’s pitching.’ To be able to start it was awesome.” 

All three runs came against North Carolina starter Max Carlson, who allowed 6 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 4 in 5 1/3 innings. Carlson threw 54 of 91 pitches for strikes. 

Slavens put Arkansas ahead 4-0 with an RBI single after Gregory and Webb walked on consecutive full-count pitches to start the top of the seventh inning. Webb went 3 for 4 and Slavens was 2 for 5 atop the Razorbacks’ batting order. 

Arkansas out-hit North Carolina 9-8. 

The Tar Heels scored their only run on Vance Honeycutt’s two-out solo home run against Taylor in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was the 25th home run for Honeycutt, a freshman who broke the North Carolina single-season record for home runs. 

Arkansas, which went 5-8 in the month of May, improved to 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament. 

CORRECTION: Arkansas' postseason record was initially incorrect and has been corrected. 


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