A little more than two months ago, Missouri State shutout Arkansas with probably their fourth best pitcher. In the first game of the super regional, the Bears put Jon Harris, their ace and projected first round draft pick, on the mound and Arkansas lit him up for 8 runs through the middle three innings (and piled on 10 more runs off the relievers).
We all know the Razorbacks drastically improved this season, but that's a pretty incredible illustration of just how far they've come.
It was the type of day the Arkansas SIDs dream about. There will be frames of images from this game on the walls inside Baum for years to come. The weather was perfect. The stadium was packed. The crowd was loud. Fans were invested in every pitch and when things were going well, as they did for most of the day, it was, as they say, electric. Just vibrant.
It didn't start out so pretty. Harris mowed through Arkansas lineup in the first three innings, going through all nine batters in just 28 pitches. There was no joy in Mudville with Killian struggling to get through innings. Missouri State only scored on a solo home run, but seemed to be getting runners with ease, leaving five men on in those first three innings and taking a 1-0 lead.
Then everything changed.
Joe Serrano led off the fourth with a double down the third base line. Bobby Wernes singled and they intentionally walked Andrew Benintendi to load the bases with no outs for Tyler Spoon, and Spoon made them pay with a 2-RBI single. The dam broke at that point. The Razorbacks added a third run in the inning when Clark Eagan hit a sac fly to score Benintendi. In the 5th inning, Tucker Pennell scored from first when Serrano doubled to left field.
In the 6th, Arkansas did serious damage with six runs. Benintendi led the inning off with a solo home run, his 19th of the year, with a shot over the Farm Bureau sign. Brett McAfee successfully laid down a suicide squeeze to score Spoon. Pennell had an RBI single, and then Serrano hit a 3-run home run to make it a 10-1 game. Missouri State would go on to score two more in the 6th, but at that point, the capacity crowd at Baum was in full celebration mode.
There's no need to go through every run at this point. Arkansas was able to put in some of their bench players and give curtain calls to Serrano and Benintendi. The Razorbacks put 6 more up in the 8th. The Bears hadn't lost a game since late April, winning 19 straight. That streak is now snapped.
As fun as this game was, Arkansas has to beat Missouri State one more time to get to Omaha. The Bears will start NCAA strikeout leader Matt Hall on Saturday and will likely wear those dreadful camo uniforms to try to extend the series to Sunday. However, it's hard not to feel pretty optimistic after witnessing today's demolition.