OMAHA, Neb. –Zack Morris got a big buyout measure and a clutch stoppage at the same time Wednesday to keep the Arkansas Razorbacks alive in the College World Series.
Morris survived a loaded, no-out situation late in the ninth inning to propel the University of Arkansas to a 3-2 win over Ole Miss and set up a one-game showdown today for a berth against to Oklahoma in the CWS Finals.
Arkansas will send right-handed ace Connor Noland (8-5, 3.75 ERA) to the mound against right-handed Ole Miss Dylan DeLucia (7-2, 4.07) in today’s Bracket 2 Finals at 3 p.m. at Charles Schwab Field.
“Just a big win for our team obviously,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Back against the wall and lots of drama at the end.”
A mixed crowd of 25,401 attended the game, the highest attendance for a CWS game since the Razorbacks helped draw 26,155 for their 2019 series opener against Florida State.
The Razorbacks (46-20) were fueled by a strong start from rookie Hagen Smith, a solo home run from Chris Lanzilli and a monster shot from Brady Slavens to hand Ole Miss (39-23) his first loss in eight NCAA tournament games.
“Hard to lose, but I thought…from a fan’s perspective, it was one hell of a college baseball game,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Well played both ends and certainly pitched well, on a day when I thought the ball was maybe flying a bit better than it normally does here, so that will tell you how well all the lads who hit the mound launched today.”
Smith (7-2), Evan Taylor and Morris, a trio of southpaws, headlined Arkansas’ pitching efforts.
Morris was battered for two runs in the third inning when he started against the Rebels on Monday, suffering his first loss of the year in a 13-5 loss. On Wednesday, he made his first save of the season after coming on with the Rebels on every base and Arkansas leading 3-1 with no outs.
Kemp Alderman started the inning with his third hit of the night, a single from the opposite field to Taylor’s right field, only his second hit allowed in three innings. When Brady Tygart hit Peyton Chatagnier with a pitch, the Rebels had a runner in scoring position for the first time all night.
Tygart also hit Hayden Dunhurst, who was trying to bunt, to load the bases and bring in Morris.
The southpaw struck out pinch hitter Hayden Leatherwood for the first out. He prompted a pop fly to left field from TJ McCants on which left fielder Jace Bohrofen and shortstop Jalen Battles collided as Bohrofen secured the catch.
Lead off batter Justin Bench hit an RBI fielding single to draw the Rebels into a 3-2 run. Battles made a solid play down the hole to keep Bench’s ball from reaching the outfield and bringing the run even.
Jacob Gonzalez hit a soft liner to left field for the final, and the Razorbacks celebrated a Game 1 victory decided by less than four runs in the first twelve games at the CWS.
“Everyone in the shelter trusted him,” Smith said of Morris. “Nerves were on edge, but we knew he was going to pull through.”
Smith and left-hander Ole Miss John Gaddis (3-2) had a solid pitching duel through the first five innings, with Smith and the Razorbacks leading 2-1.
Smith came out after throwing 90 pitches and allowing a run on 2 hits and 4 walks while striking out 8.
Smith recorded his eight strikeouts in succession, with a few walks and a shuffled single, in the second through fourth innings.
“My mental approach today was just throwing the ball over the plate, throwing strikes because I know I have to throw strikes to give us a chance,” said Smith, who threw more sliders than usual to partner with a lot of fastballs. and some changes.
“I think Hagen Smith did a terrific job tonight, gave us five really good innings, gave up a few hits and struck out eight,” Van Horn said.
Gaddis allowed 2 runs, both on homers, on 4 hits and 2 walks with 4 strikeouts on 81 pitches.
Arkansas center fielder Braydon Webb notched his fourth game-opening hit at the CWS, a resounding brace off left fielder Kevin Graham, but this time he didn’t score after the quick opener.
The Razorbacks took the lead on Chris Lanzilli’s solo home run just over the left field wall to open the second inning.
It didn’t take long for the Rebels to match him. Designated hitter Alderman hit a shot over the left field wall leading down the second as the equalizer.
Both southpaws tied zeros in the third and fourth before Slavens got to work.
The left-handed Slavens, who fell on the eighth hole on the lineup on Tuesday, hammered a 436-foot Gaddis throw to dead center field, the longest home run recorded in the CWS at Schwab Field since the series moved here in 2011.
“It was 1-0, and I was just looking for a fastball over home plate,” Slavens said. “Luckily I got it. It might be the farthest I’ve ever hit, I’m not sure.”
Smith and Taylor held the 2-1 lead for seven innings before the Razorbacks struck out another run and almost had to regret not having more.
Cayden Wallace started the eighth with a double from third baseman Garrett Wood’s glove on which his head-first slide just beat second baseman Peyton Chatagnier’s tag.
Michael Turner found a hole on the left side just past shortstop Jacob Gonzalez’s glove for an RBI single, his fifth for the CWS, to tackle Wallace and make it 3-1.
“Really, that was Turner’s huge hit,” Bianco said, that was the key to the inning. “We pinched Gonzalez, and obviously that wasn’t a good thing. Turner ended up hitting one on the 6 hole just off Gonzo’s glove.”
Lanzilli set up a perfect bunt toward third base to give the Razorbacks two no-out runners and Robert Moore put them both in scoring position.
However, after the rebels launched an intentional march to Jalen Battles, Jack Dougherty bounced back to eliminate the Slavens. Van Horn called in pinch hitter Kendall Diggs, who had hit a three-run homer off Dougherty in a 6-3 win at Arkansas on April 30, and this time Dougherty won the battle with a strikeout .
Arkansas leads the season series against Ole Miss, but DeLucia beat Noland in the Rebels’ 4-2 series-opening win April 29 at Baum-Walker Stadium. DeLucia secured the victory to move to 4-0, working 7 innings and allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9 and throwing 68 strikes on 105 pitches. Noland threw 68 strikes on 103 pitches over 8 innings, recouping the loss while allowing 4 runs on 11 hits and 4 walks and striking out 3.
In one look
Oklahoma 5, Texas A&M 1
Texas A&M eliminated.
Arkansas 3, Ole Miss 2
Every hour Central
Ole Miss vs. Arkansas, 3 p.m.