FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas has Washington State’s number, at home or something like it.
The Razorbacks defeated the Cougars 6-4 in the second round of the Fayetteville Regional at Baum Stadium on Saturday night. It was the second consecutive year WSU (35-21) has lost to Arkansas in the NCAA regionals, and the fifth time the Razorbacks (42-18) have beaten the Cougars in five games over the past two seasons.
WSU will try to keep its season alive today when it plays Kansas State, which it defeated in the first round, in an elimination game at 12:05 p.m. PDT. If the Cougars win, they will get a rematch with the top-seeded Razorbacks at 5:05.
“We battled, but credit to Arkansas, they played better longer,” WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. “We just didn’t play clean enough to win.”
Despite managing just one hit in the first five innings, the Cougars nearly wiped out a 4-0 deficit. They missed a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first – WSU was the home team, although most of the 9,016 who crammed into the stadium didn’t buy it – then had to wait a long time for the next one.
Derek Jones drew a two-out walk, and after a Matt Fanelli single, he advanced to third. But Jones, who had come to a stop at second base, was waved home, where he was easily thrown out, ending the inning.
WSU didn’t get another hit or a runner in scoring position until the sixth, when Cody Bartlett lined a home run to left, scoring Kyle Johnson and cutting the deficit to 4-2.
Arkansas ace Drew Smyly (9-1) went seven innings, giving up three runs on three hits and four walks. Smyly struck out seven.
“In the first inning, we were just trying to get something going against Smyly,” Marbut said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to him. He did a good job of locating his fastball, and threw enough breaking balls to keep us honest.”
A leadoff home run by Zack Cox in the seventh pushed Arkansas’ lead back to 5-2.
WSU starter Adam Conley (5-4) was lifted soon afterward, going 61/3 innings and giving up five runs, four earned, on nine hits.
The Cougars got the deficit back to two runs on Michael Weber’s leadoff home run to center in the seventh, then really threatened in the eighth. Jones drew a bases-loaded walk with nobody out, pulling WSU within a run.
Jordan Pratt came on in relief. He got Fanelli on an infield fly, struck out Weber and induced a Shea Vucinich fly out.
“We had the guys we wanted up in that situation,” Marbut said. “It just didn’t happen.”
The threat over, Collin Kuhn led off the ninth with a home run. Ryan Peterson opened the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit double, but Pratt set down the next three Cougars to earn the save. Arkansas left fielder Travis Sample made a diving catch to end the game, taking a hit away from Patrick Claussen.
Bartlett turned an impressive double play in the fifth inning, sprinting to his right to snag a hard-hit grounder by Bo Bigham, then reaching backward to tap second base before firing off his back foot to narrowly get Bigham. Bartlett also made a sliding catch of a Monk Kreder grounder to start an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the seventh.