After dominating the Fayetteville Regional, the Hogs found themselves taking a detour to the American southwest on the road to Omaha. Unfortunately, that road led to #1 national seed Arizona St. And, for 24 innings, the Razorbacks gave the Sundevils all they could handle, but ultimately did not prevail. Arkansas and ASU are well aquainted and have provided some very interesting games in recent history, and the Tempe Super Regional was no exception.
With Hog ace Drew Smyly still nursing a blister, Mike Bolsinger is given the nod for Game 1. Arizona St. sneaks a run in during the 2nd inning after a throwing error allows a runner to take 3rd, and add 2 more in the 3rd off 2 singles and walk. The Hogs come roaring back in the 4th, though. Bo Bigham starts the scoring with an RBI single that plates Eibner, and after James McCann takes a HBP to load the bases, ASU walks Matt Vinson to score another run for the Hogs. Tim Carver follows that up by reaching on a fielder's choice, which scores Bigham to tie the game. The Sundevils retake the lead in the bottom of the inning when Bo Bigham drops a flyball, but Brett Eibner retakes the lead by hitting a 2-run homer in the 5th. Matt Vinson follows that up with only his 3rd homer of the season in the 6th, but ASU reciprocates with their own solo homer later in the inning to maintain the 1-run differential. With the Hogs leading in the bottom of the 9th, Jordan Pratt is primed to lead the Hogs to a major upset. After allowing a lead-off single to put a man on, he retires the next 2 batters, but lets the runner move to 3rd. Down to their final strike, ASU's shortstop, who hadn't had a hit all game, hits a soft dribbler toward the pitcher. Pratt makes a play for it, but airmails it to 1st and the tieing run scores easily. Three innings later, the Sundevils manage a walk-off single off Brett Eibner to take the 7-6 victory.
Arkansas ace Drew Smyly finally gets to see some action for Game 2, but it was hardly the performance that was expected. He gets lit up early, giving up a solo homer in the 2nd and back-to-back homers in the 3rd to put the Sundevils up by 4. Arkansas gets back into the game in the 4th, with substantial help from the ASU pitching staff. The Hogs load the bases and score 2 runs in the inning, despite only getting 1 hit, as ASU walks 2 and plunks 2. Andy Wilkins adds an RBI single in the 5th to pull the Hogs within 1 run, but Arizona St. scores an unearned run in the 7th to regain the 2-run margin. Down to their final 6 outs, the Hogs begin to make their move. James McCann hits his own RBI single in the 8th to pull the Hogs to within 1 again, but the real heroics came in the 9th. Obviously channelling his performance from last year's Super Regional against FSU, Brett Eibner hits a 2-out solo homer to tie the game and send the action to extras. Unfortunately, the 12th inning is again the Hogs' bane. Lost in all of this is the performance of DJ Baxendale. After relieving Smyly in the 5th, he started dealing to the tune of 4 hits, 1 unearned run, and 4 Ks in 6.1 innings. After finishing the 11th inning, he's replaced by TJ Forrest. Two batters into the 12th, Forrest gives up a 2-run jack that would end up being the deciding runs, as Eibner, Wilkins, and pinch hitter Tom Hauskey go down in order in the bottom of the inning. Arizona St. takes 7-5 win, and the berth in Omaha.
Although it's disappointing to go home before Omaha, these Hogs have nothing to be ashamed of. This has been a great season, by almost anyone's standards. They accumulated a very impressive 43-21 record with the 4th most difficult schedule in the country, spent the entire season ranked, and gave the highest ranked team in the country a run for their money on the road. This year's outgoing class will be especially missed, mostly for the memories that they've given us over the past 2 seasons. Good luck to Zack Cox with St. Louis, Brett Eibner with KC, and Drew Smyly and Jordan Pratt with Detroit. If they decide to go, good luck to Andy Wilkins with the White Sox and Collin Kuhn with Detroit. Outgoing seniors Mike Bolsinger (drafted by the Diamondbacks), Jeremy Heatley (drafted by the Marlins), Christian Kowalchuk, TJ Forrest, and Tom Hauskey, thanks for your dedication to the team. You've all represented the Universtity of Arkansas very well. Woo Pig Sooie!
As promised, I've provided approximately one update per week on the state of Razorback baseball. I hope that you're enjoyed the ride, because I've had fun doing this. Right now, it's a little more than 8 months until next baseball season... but more importantly, it's a little less than 3 until football! It's great to be a Razorback, no?