NORMAN, Okla. – Washington State ace Matt Way came through with a pitching performance to remember in the opening game of the NCAA baseball tournament’s Norman Regional.
Unfortunately for WSU, the outing from its bullpen was one to forget.
The No. 3-seeded Cougars squandered a late 3-1 lead and a sparkling effort from Way, as second-seeded Arkansas roared back with nine runs in the eighth inning to win 10-3 Friday at the University of Oklahoma’s Mitchell Park.
The Cougars play Wichita State in the double-elimination regional today at 11 a.m. PST.
“I was happy with the way I pitched,” Way said. “Obviously, I wasn’t happy with the outcome.
“Throwing to the bullpen has always been a good move for us. Our bullpen has been strong all year. That happens sometimes. It’s baseball.”
Way did all he could to keep the Cougars out of the loser’s bracket.
After surrendering an RBI double in the first, Way battled back and allowed just two hits over the next five innings while striking out 10 to break the school’s season record for strikeouts set by former major leaguer Aaron Sele in 1990.
But Cougars coach Donnie Marbut decided to pull Way before the seventh inning when Way began to feel tightness in his forearm after throwing 108 pitches.
“Matt did a heck of a job – he gave us a chance to win,” Marbut said. “I would have liked for him to finish the game, but he was feeling tightness in his arm.
“Matt is a bulldog, he would’ve thrown 180 pitches if we had let him. It was just time to go to the bullpen.”
But that proved to be the turning point.
Reliever Adam Conley retired the Razorbacks in order in the seventh inning, but gave up a double to Ben Tschepikow to start the eighth.
Jeremy Johnson relieved Conley but failed to stymie the Arkansas batters.
The Razorbacks tied the game at 3 on consecutive singles and an RBI sacrifice bunt by Jarrod McKinney.
WSU had the chance to end the rally there. But on the next play, shortstop Shea Vucinich, who made a nice scoop to field the ball, overthrew first baseman Matt Fanelli. Instead of WSU recording a third out to end the inning, Arkansas scored another run and the onslaught was on.
In the inning, the Razorbacks connected on seven hits, the decisive blow coming courtesy of Scott Lyons, whose three-run homer to left field off WSU reliever James Wise capped Arkansas’ highest-scoring inning of the season.
“It was a great inning for us,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “We were up seven in just a matter of a few pitches.”
Razorbacks starter Dallas Keuchel went seven innings. He struck out only one batter and gave the Cougars plenty of opportunities to pad their 3-1 lead.
The Cougars took a 2-1 lead in the third inning on consecutive one-out singles by Garry Kuykendall, Vucinich, Greg Lagreid and Jared Prince.
WSU had a runner on third base in the fifth, then runners on second and third in the sixth, but failed to score in either inning.
Vucinich tripled to open the seventh, then scored on a misplayed fly ball by the Arkansas outfield.
The Cougars later loaded the bases and had a chance to extend their lead with only one out.
But Michael Weber struck out looking, then Fanelli was retired by McKinney’s diving catch on the warning-track gravel in right field, which ended the threat.
“Obviously, we didn’t string anything together, but our guys battled hard,” Marbut said. “We put ourselves in a good position.
“We just couldn’t finish it.”
Oklahoma 5, Wichita State 4: Aaron Baker’s double and Garrett Buechele’s two-run single keyed the Sooners’ three-run sixth inning and Oklahoma went on to a victory over the Shockers.
Chase Anderson (3-1) threw 51/3 innings of one-hit relief to earn the win for the Sooners (42-18). Ryan Duke pitched the ninth inning for his 16th save.
Wichita State (30-26) was leading 4-1 when Baker hit his 14th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth inning off Tim Kelley (5-4).
Buechele tied the game with his single in the sixth, and an error and Ross Hubbard’s sacrifice fly brought Buechele around with the decisive run.