Tom Murphy is a sports 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. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Fayetteville Regional Report: Richardson named MVP
Arkansas Monday, June 5, 2023, during the inning of the Razorbacks’ 12-4 loss to Texas Christian in the championship series of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — TCU second baseman Tre Richardson earned Most Valuable Player honors at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional after helping lead the Horned Frogs in a three-game sweep by the combined score of 44-13.
The Horned Frogs blitzed Arkansas 20-5 in the winner’s bracket game Sunday and bookended that with 12-2 wins over Arizona and the Razorbacks.
Richardson went 9 for 15 (.600) in the regional with four home runs, including a pair of grand slams in the middle game against Arkansas on a three-homer night.
The 5-10 senior from Kingwood, Texas, who transferred in from Baylor, entered the regional with two home runs and tripled that to six. Richardson had 14 RBI in the three games, accounting for 24% of his RBI production on the season.
“That was amazing,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “Hat’s off to him.
“He wasn’t known for his power, because we looked into it. Good defender, good hitter, tough out. He was all of that. You think about a guy, he’s hitting in that big lineup, there’s a lot of pop in there, he’s hitting in the 5-hole because he drives in runs.”
TCU Coach Kirk Saarloos noted the ball was traveling well throughout the weekend, which aided in Richardson’s devastating numbers. Both of his grand slams on Sunday were opposite-field shots to right field.
He hit a third to right field against the Hogs and capped his home run binge with one just to the left of the batter’s eye in center field Monday.
“I think when you start hitting balls hard and you’re playing in a place where it’s an offensive ball park you tend to get those,” he said. “At some other parks, those probably aren’t home runs.
“I’m not sure what the wind is usually like here, or the humidity, but the balls seemed to absolutely be flying, especially to right field. When you hit a ball hard and you get it up in the air you’ve got a chance.”
Added Van Horn, “You could say, ‘Oh, he flipped a couple balls over the right field fence, the ball was carrying,’ but he hit that last ball off a 96 mph fastball over 400 feet dead center. So there’s some legit pop in there and I hope somebody signs him professionally.”
Three Arkansas players joined the eight TCU players and two Santa Clara players on the all-regional team.
Center fielder Tavian Josenberger and pitchers Brady Tygart and Will McEntire were voted onto the team by participating media members.
Josenberger hit three home runs in the four games and batted .286. Tygart picked up the win in Sunday’s 6-4 elimination game win over Santa Clara with 99 pitches and two runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings. McEntire pitched in both Arkansas wins, working five innings for his eighth win in Friday’s 13-6 win over Santa Clara, and 2 2/3 innings in Sunday’s win over the Broncos.
Arkansas sluggers Jace Bohrofen and Jared Wegner hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning to break up TCU starter Cam Brown’s no hitter and give the Hogs a 4-2 lead.
Bohrofen’s big fly to dead center field was a two-run shot, his team-high 16th, and Wegner’s opposite-field homer into the right field bullpen was his 15th.
Those marked the first back-to-back home runs for the Razorbacks since Kendall Diggs hit a grand slam and Bohrofen followed with a solo shot in an 11-6 win at Mississippi State on May 7.
Ready and Abeldt
TCU reliever Ben Abeldt is riding a hot streak that parallels the Horned Frogs’ offensive tear.
The side-arming left-hander with a strange delivery entered Monday’s game in the fifth inning after back-to-back home runs by Jace Bohrofen and Jared Wegner and TCU trailing 4-2.
He shut out the Hogs on one hit over the final 4 2/3 innings.
“I felt in a 4-2 game with Ben, he was going to give us a chance to get rolling offensively,” TCU Coach Kirk Saarloos said. “And I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to bring him back in the afternoon so I kind of pushed all my chips into the middle with him.
Abeldt has not allowed a run in his last 11 outings dating to May 1 against Texas. Those games included 18 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Razorbacks had a chance to jump all over TCU starter Cam Brown in the early innings, as they had done in the second game of the season in Arlington, Texas, but they could not come through with a timely hit.
Arkansas loaded the bases in the first inning on Tavian Josenberger’s hit by pitch and walks drawn by Jace Bohrofen and Jared Wegner. Ben McLaughlin brought in a run with a sacrifice fly, but Brown bore down and induced an infield pop from Kendall Diggs and struck out Caleb Cali to avoid more damage.
With two outs in the second inning, John Bolton was hit by a pitch and Josenberger walked, but Bohrofen popped up to shallow center field on the first pitch.
Arkansas scored three runs on Brown in the first inning at the College Baseball Showdown on Feb. 18 and chased him in the second inning after he had given up 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk in a game won 18-6 by the Horned Frogs.
TCU center fielder Elijah Nunez turned in one of the game’s top defensive plays in the top of the third inning. Nunez ran up and to his right on a scalded line drive by Ben McLaughlin, then dove and made the catch about a foot off the ground before hitting the grass.
Cody Adcock’s decision to throw to second base for a potential force out on a soft comebacker by Karson Bowen led to a critical review two batters into the bottom of the first inning.
Second base umpire Jason Harstick called Elijah Nunez out on a very close play, and shortstop John Bolton’s relay to first was a moment behind Bowen. TCU Coach Kirk Saarloos asked for a review on the play at second base and Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn appeared to ask for a review on interference by Nunez on Bolton’s throw.
After consulting with the review team, home plate umpire Linus Baker announced Nunez was safe.
Adcock rallied from the setback, striking out Braden Taylor and Cole Fontenelle and inducing a ground ball to third from Tre Richardson to strand runners at second and third.
Hagen Smith’s 3-out, 8-run start against TCU on Sunday cost him more than a run on his earned run average. The left-hander entered the game with a 2.69 ERA and left it with a 3.71 ERA after the worst line of his career.
Smith’s ERA had been below 2.00 following each of his first seven appearances, peaked at 3.03 after a loss at Ole Miss on April 7 and had been at 2.89 or lower from that time until Sunday.
Smith had a bounce-back performance in relief on Monday, allowing one earned run on 67 pitches covering 3 2/3 innings. The work dropped his full season ERA down marginally to 3.64.
“Yesterday, it was obviously horrible,” Smith said. “Everyone saw. It was good to come back and try to help the team win. Didn’t come out the way we wanted to, but I gave it my all.”
Around the horn
• Arkansas 1B Brady Slavens broke an 0-for-18 slump with a sixth inning single.
• John Bolton, on second base with two outs in the second inning, appeared to lose track of the outs as Jace Bohrofen hit a sky-high pop up to center field. Tavian Josenberger, who was running on contact, nearly caught Bolton around the bag before Bolton began running toward third base.
After center fielder Elijah Nunez squeezed the catch just into the outfield grass, Bolton took off his batting helmet near third and Hogs third base coach Nate Thompson snatched it in frustration.
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