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Arkansas can't get out of its own regional, again


FAYETTEVILLE—No. 5 Arkansas, which was the top seed in the Fayetteville Regional was eliminated on Sunday afternoon by SEMO 6-3 in an embarrassing end to the season at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Arkansas (44-16) entered the tournament having lost four of its last five games and only managed a 17-9 win over SEMO on Friday in this event. They were sent to the loser's bracket Saturday night 7-6 by No. 3 seed Kansas State. SEMO, the fourth seed and Kansas State are playing Sunday night. If SEMO wins it will force another game on Monday. For the second year in a row, Dave Van Horn saw his highly-ranked team not get out of its own regional.

"Yeah, just what a great job by SEMO’s pitchers today," Van Horn said. "I mean they threw four guys at us that really located. They pitched out of a couple of jams. The starter got them off to a really good start, just throwing strikes and giving their guys an opportunity to to get a lead."

Arkansas started Gage Wood and hoped for a good outing by him that was supported by clutch hitting. In the loss to Kansas State on Saturday night, Arkansas stranded 13 runners to only two for the opponent. The Hogs only managed six hits on Sunday and stranded seven runners again.

"Probably the tough one for us is we’re down 6-1 and get a leadoff single and a double in the seventh," Van Horn said. "We’re thinking if we could just cut this lead in half, get it to 6-3 at a minimum that inning.

"They bring in a reliever and he gets a ground ball to third, a pop up, another ground ball and we don’t score. You know that was difficult. But you’ve got to give them credit. They pitched us good. They kept us off balance. A lot of off-speed, especially the first guy, (Collin) Wilma. He threw against us the other day and he was pretty good, so we’d seen him. But he was better today obviously. He stepped it up. Congratulations to Andy (Sawyers) and those guys getting a chance to move on."

SEMO Coach Sawyers complimented Wilma as well. He worked 4.2 innings allowing just one hit and a run to go with two walks and six strikeouts.

"I thought Simba was masterful today," Sawyers said. "Kind of his unique pitch, when we recruited Collin he was throwing 84 miles per hour and he had this big, slow curveball that he could command with uncommon control with it. We took him because of that breaking ball.

"In college everybody’s supposed to throw 92, and he’s worked hard at velocity and all that, but always the thing in the back of his pocket was that slow curveball. That was the thing we originally recruited him for. And we get in this environment against a really good team like Arkansas, a bunch of bat-speed hitters, and suddenly that slow pitch becomes even more important. And I thought his ability to throw that breaking ball for a strike, virtually in any count — hitter’s count, plus count, any time they had leverage — here came that breaking ball."

Logan Katen (2-0) got the win and Kyle Miller earned his eighth save of the season. Wood (3-2) took the loss. He pitched 3.0 innings, allowed four hits, four runs, only walked one and fanned four. In all Arkansas used six pitchers on the day.

Second baseman Peyton Stovall was still in disbelief of Arkansas winning only one game in its regional at home. The Hogs were 33-3 in Baum-Walker entering the regional.

"Yeah, it’s always shocking when you want to go out there and win at home," Stovall said. "We were fighting and wanted to keep playing as long as we could. Just really grateful for this year, Coach Van Horn, my teammates and congratulations to SEMO."

Former Bryant standout Will McEntire was one of Arkansas' pitchers on the day. He worked 1.2 innings, allowing two hits, one run, walking none and striking out four. He was emotional after the game.

"These past five years have been the best five years of my life," McEntire said. "I’ve made lifelong friends, I’ve played against competition I never dreamed or thought I’d play against and I’ve grown as a person and a player. I never thought I’d be in the situations I got to be in."

Van Horn tried to explain how the team could play so well at home most of season and then collapse in the regional.

"Well, we didn’t pitch very well," Van Horn said. "That was pretty obvious the last month. It’s, you know, we were rolling pretty good early. You’ve got bing, bang, boom. You’ve got 1-2-3. You’ve got two lefts and a right, and they’re all going to give you innings. They’re all experienced, and then all of a sudden you can see a little crack in the armor. One got wild. One’s always having issues with his arm. The steady is Smith. Smith was the guy. He was a rock. He carried us. The whole season, that guy carried us. I just think the pitching got a little tired.

"Offense has been a roller-coaster all year. Whether it’s a shoulder injury or a bad start for different players, we had to fight for so many wins. You just go back and look at our scores, I’m going to say in the SEC we had played 15-to-18 games, win-or-lose by less than three runs.

"Everything was tight. We didn’t blow anybody out. They didn’t blow us out. A lot of 5-4, 3-2. I mean, it was stressful. I think maybe it just beat us up a little bit mentally. By the time we got done at A&M, I was hoping that we had recovered a little bit. I thought we had. We hit at the tournament. We didn’t pitch good at the tournament at all. Gave up nine runs, and I don’t know how many else."

Arkansas' lone runs on Sunday included a home run by Peyton Holt and a two-run shot by Parker Rowland. Holt was on base when Rowland hit his home run.

The season did see Arkansas win the SEC West.

Kansas State 7, Arkansas 6

Kansas State roared back from a two-run deficit for six runs off Arkansas ace Hagen Smith in the bottom of the fifth and went on to take a key 7-6 win over the top-seeded Hogs in Baum-Walker Stadium at the Fayetteville Regional.

Arkansas had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth Ty Wilmsmeyer, who had walked, scored on an error. Peyton Stovall also reached base on a walk. Went to second on a wild pitch and then third on an error. Hudson White delivered an RBI-single to center field. White has been on a hitting streak of late, but noted the Hogs had 13 runners left on base to two for Kansas State.

"Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating," White said. "You always feel like you’re one hit away from breaking something open, or tying the game in this case, but you know, I’m just excited for tomorrow."

At that point, Hagen Smith took the mound in the bottom of the fifth having allowed no runs and just one hit. However, he walked the first two Wildcats. That is when standout second baseman Kaelen Culpepper unloaded a three-run blast over the fence for a 3-2 lead. Two more walks, a sacrifice bunt and single Chuck Ingram put Kansas State up 5-2. Dave Van Horn knew the fifth was the difference in the game.

"Just a really good job by K-State putting together a big inning there in the fifth, and that ended up being the difference obviously," Van Horn said. "I really liked the way we fought back and almost caught them. Obviously, that was a big swing there for them in the eighth with two outs, hit that home run to get them back to three. We had a couple chances in the seventh and the eighth to punch in a couple more, but we didn’t put the bat on the ball, or we didn’t get the ball out of the infield.

"But other than that, man, I thought we played really good. We didn’t make an error. If you look at the line score, it looks like we should be scoring more runs than they did. Thirteen hits, six runs, no errors, that’s usually going to be enough to get you a W, especially when Hagen’s on the mound. Again, hats off to K-State for putting together a really good inning against him."

In the top of the seventh Jared Sprague-Lott, Arkansas' third baseman, hit a solo shot over the fence to pull Arkansas within 6-4. A double by Jack Wagner to lead off the eighth led to another run when White doubled him home with a one-out hit to pull within 6-5.

Ben Bybee pitched in relief of Smith and was outstanding. He allowed just one hit and run in three innings, but it was a solo blast by Nick England in the bottom of the eighth that proved to be the difference.

The Hogs did answer in the ninth, trailing 7-4, when Wehiwa Aloy led off with a single. With one out, Peyton Holt sent a shot into the Kansas State bullpen for two more runs. By Tyson Neighbors closed the door on the Hogs at that point for his ninth save. Holt was hoping his blast provided a late spark to the Hogs.

"I mean, yeah, you always have that confidence that your offense is good enough to tie the game or take the lead," Holt said. "So, yeah, we had full confidence that we could get those runs. You know, you can’t get them every time, so just regroup and get after it tomorrow."

Jackson Wentworth (5-5) picked up the win. He went 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits, two runs, three walks and striking out a trio. Neighbors worked 3.l innings, allowed six hits, four runs, one walk and fanned five while hitting one batter.

Smith (9-2) lost his second game in a row. He lasted five innings, allowed four hits, six runs, four walks and struck out seven on 92 pitches which only 55 were strikes. Bybee worked three innings and struck out four with no walks.

Arkansas 17, SEMO 9

Arkansas, the top seed in the Fayetteville Regional, got a test from No. 4-seed SEMO in a wild 17-9 opener at Baum-Walker Stadium on Friday afternoon in a near four-hour marathon.

Arkansas jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two innings and it appeared the Hogs were ready to cruise to the second round. But it took six home runs by Arkansas to break open an 8-8 game. Dave Van Horn was exhausted after the win.

"What a wild first game of a regional," Van Horn said. "The ball was really traveling today. There were a lot of clutch swings by both teams, and very rarely you get out to an eight-run lead and you see it disappear. A lot of times that isn’t good for your team. Maybe you get a little demoralized or whatever, but our team hung in there. Kept saying, hey, we’ve got a seven-inning game, or a six-inning game ahead of us. Just keep going, and they did it.

"Gabe (Gaeckle) came in and settled it down a little bit. Christian (Foutch) got through I think what was the (fifth) inning, and then Gabe came in after that. Could have gone back out in the ninth. We were just trying to save him a few pitches. Even before we scored the runs, we had already made the decision to take him out. It was one of those games, if you give them something, they were going to score. They kicked a couple balls for us and we ended up scoring. When we walked them, they scored. That’s a really good offensive team."

SEMO Coach Andy Sawyers had the best quote of the day though after he watched the Hogs hit the six home runs and 16 hits.

"I guess I want to talk to whoever said Arkansas couldn’t hit," Sawyers said. "That was the narrative kind of coming into it, was one of the best pitching staffs in the country, but had struggled offensively."

SEMO battled back from down 8-0 to tie the game in the the top of the fifth. They scored four runs in the third and four in the fifth. Arkansas took the lead for good at 10-8 in the bottom of the first when Wehiwa Aloy and Kendall Diggs hit back-to-back home runs with two outs.

Arkansas tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the seventh when SEMO pulled to within 10-9. Ty Wilsmeyer had an incredible day at the plate. He reached base all five times, two by hits and three on SEMO errors. In the bottom of the seventh, he reached base on a SEMO error. Peyton Stovall followed with a single that moved Wilmsmeyer to third. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Hunter White. After Jared Sprague-Lott walked, Ben McLaughlin unloaded his second home run of the day for a 14-9 lead after seven.

The Hogs added three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run blast by White that concluded the scoring.

White hit a solo shot in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead. The Hogs tacked on seven more in the bottom of the second. Aloy doubled with one out. Diggs was hit by pitch. Peyton Holt singled to plate Aloy. Wilmsmeyer reached on a SEMO error that allowed Diggs to get home. With two outs, White walked to load the bases. Sprague-Lott singled to plate two runs. McLaughlin then hit a three-run blast, his first of two on the day. McLaughlin was asked about the mood of the team when the game was tied at 8?

"I just feel like for us, we talked as a group, I feel like next man-up mentality," McLaughlin said. "Trusting the guy behind you, and in front of you, to get the job done. It might not always work out, but just knowing the guys always have your back is huge for us.

Arkansas used five pitchers on the day. Mason Molina started, but only lasted 2.2 innings. He allowed just two hits, but four runs on as many walks. Foutch (1-0) worked 0.2 inning to earn the win. Gaeckle worked 3.0 innings, allowing three hits, one run, walking a trio and striking out six. Jake Faherty pitched the ninth only allowing one hit.

The winner of the Fayetteville Regional will play the winner of the Charlottesville Regional in a best-of-three-game super regional round from June 7-9 or June 8-10. No. 12 national seed and top-seeded Virginia (41-15) hosts second-seeded Mississippi State (38-21), third-seeded St. John’s (37-16-1) and fourth-seeded Pennsylvania (24-23) in Charlottesville, Va.