FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Washington State finally found the right combination Sunday night.
And just in the nick of time, too.
Facing elimination from the Fayetteville Regional, the Cougars pounded out 13 base hits and got three productive pitching performances to defeat Arkansas 10-7 in Baum Stadium.
Washington State (37-21) will play Arkansas at 5:05 p.m. PDT today for the regional championship, with the winner advancing to play at Arizona State later this week in the Super Regionals.
Washington State’s victory over Arkansas (42-19) ended a five-game losing streak against the Razorbacks dating back to last season.
Before playing Arkansas Sunday night, the Cougars defeated Kansas State 9-6 during the afternoon in the first elimination game of the day.
“I hate to say it, but it was a typical Arkansas-Washington State game over the last two years,” WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. “Except this time, we actually came out on top against them.
“It was 18 innings of grinding baseball and I just credit my guys. They would not give in today.”
WSU pitcher James Wise, who gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in his start against Kansas State, told Marbut between games he wanted to pull through for his team by starting against Arkansas.
Marbut said he couldn’t deny Wise, who seemed determined to vindicate himself after throwing only 76 pitches against the Wildcats.
Wise more than redeemed himself Sunday night, striking out three batters and giving up only one run in three innings of work to get the victory.
“Kansas State was swinging the bat well in the first game (Wise) started,” Marbut said. “So he wants the ball game two, and if that can’t inspire your team, you can’t be inspired. As a coaching staff, you’re just proud beyond belief of him.”
Besides scoring two runs in the first and third innings, the Cougars exploded for five runs in the fifth inning on run-scoring base hits from Derek Jones, Michael Weber and a two-run double from Shea Vucinich.
WSU’s production at the plate kept Arkansas off balance, as the Razorbacks didn’t score their first run until the third inning. Arkansas scored two runs in the fifth on a two-run double from Monk Kreder and got three more on solo home runs from Collin Kuhn, James McCann and Kreder.
But despite Arkansas’ mid-game rally, the Razorbacks never found a way to tie or take the lead.
“In some situations, we let a couple things get away from us defensively, and (WSU) took advantage of that,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
“Anytime you give up five runs in one inning, and find yourself down like we were, it can just snowball on you.”
The Cougars added three runs in the eighth inning on three hits, including an RBI single from Jones, to solidify its second victory of the day.
“We really showed up today putting the ball in play and putting some bunts down,” said Jones, who went 6-for-10 in the two games and drove in seven runs. “We made them play defense and it worked out for us. It’s just scrappy baseball, it was fun.”
WSU 9, Kansas St. 6
Washington State had its 20th come-from-behind victory of the season by overcoming a five-run deficit with a combined eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
The Cougars scored two in the fifth inning on a two-run single from Jones before he later hit a three-run home run in the sixth.
WSU relief pitchers Connor Lambert and Chad Arnold both combined for six innings, striking out six batters and giving up six runs.