The No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks won the first game of the Fayetteville super regional against the NC State Wolfpack by destroying them 21-2 on Friday night. The bats finally woke up for the Hogs after struggling against Nebraska in the regional as they recorded 17 hits and four home runs to run the visitors out of the building.
Arkansas went down 1-0 in the second inning, but they would explode for 21 consecutive runs over the course of the evening and put the game out of reach by about the sixth to cruise to victory. Robert Moore led the team with four hits, five RBIs, and two home runs. The Razorbacks are now just one game away from making it back to Omaha in the College World Series.
The game certainly got off to a weird start. After a scoreless first, the second inning was briefly paused when a groundhog (not a beaver as some reported) ran across the field. The woodland creature is renowned for its seasonal prognostication skills, but when it comes to baseball, whether it would turn out to be a good or bad omen remained to be seen.
Things you don’t normally see at a baseball game:— Lizzie Hattrich (@LizzieHattrich) June 11, 2021
-Groundhogs running across the field between innings. pic.twitter.com/6K0ta9FtC1
Initially, it appeared to bring bad luck as Jose Torres would blast a solo home run on the following at-bat to put NC State ahead 1-0.
However, the groundhog works in mysterious ways, and Arkansas’s fortunes would quickly turn in the bottom of the frame. Charlie Welch, who was placed in the lineup as the DH today, doubled down the line for the first hit of the game for the Hogs to get things started. Up would step Robert Moore, and Big Game Bob followed with a home run off of NC State starter Reid Johnston on an 0-2 pitch to give the Hogs the lead.
It was the same pitch that Johnston had been throwing, and Moore waited for it to land right in his wheelhouse for his 15th home run of the season.
After getting on base with a single, Casey Opitz would steal second to put himself in scoring position. Jalen Battles brought him home on the next at-bat by hammering another slider to take the 3-1 lead to end the inning.
However, the Hogs were just getting warmed up. A single, followed by a hit by pitch and a walk would load the bases and bring Cullen Smith to the plate. Smith worked the count against Johnston and took an inside fastball to go yard for a grand slam as Arkansas blew the game wide open 7-1 over a stunned NC State side.
Meanwhile, Wicklander did not bring his best stuff early tonight, but he still managed to hold the Wolfpack scoreless for the remainder of his appearance. He would give up three hits in the fourth to load the bases, but luckily, Tyler McDonough would fly out on the warning track to end the inning. He would last until the seventh while only giving up six total hits and two walks. He had six strikeouts and retired the last seven batters he faced.
NC State decided to make a pitching change after Johnston had already thrown 76 pitches in just three innings, and in came little-used Garrett Payne. It was an interesting choice of reliever, but he initially managed to strike out the order to at least attempt to keep his team in the game. However, the Razorbacks are one of the best teams in the country at making adjustments, and after noticing Payne throwing away off the plate, the Hogs would make him pay.
The legend of Charlie Welch would continue to grow with a two-run homer on a 2-0 count to score himself and Cayden Wallace in the fifth to put the Hogs up 9-1.
Moore then doubled to center field, and Opitz would beat the shift to bring him home on a single to pad the lead to 10-1.
The bottom of the sixth would be huge for the Hogs as they added six more runs. Brady Slavens finally broke his slump by taking a fastball to score a pair of runners on a double down the right-field line. Slavens, who only recently came off an ankle injury, was only 5-of-30 in his last eight games. Welch would then score Slavens on his third hit of the game. Two more singles would load the bases for Casey Opitz as the Hogs recorded six consecutive hits at this point. Really everything was falling apart for NC State because Opitz would be walked to bring in a run, followed by another walk by Braydon Webb on only four pitches, and another by Matt Goodheart to make it 16-1. NC State used four different pitchers in the sixth, and none of them were part of their usual rotation as they were basically playing for Saturday at this point.
However, the Hogs weren’t done just yet. They would score five more runs in the eighth. After the bases were loaded, Welch would be walked on four pitches for his fourth RBI of the evening, and a wild pitch would score Wallace. Big Game Bob Moore would then hit another home run for his sixteenth of the year and the Hogs’ 106th of the season which now leads the nation to put the cherry on top 21-1.
Heston Tole and Kole Ramage would see out the game for Arkansas. Combined, they only gave up one hit even though NC State would tack one on late to complete the score at 21-2. Most importantly, Kevin Kopps did not have to pitch tonight so he can be saved for tomorrow or Sunday if necessary.
Wicklander is credited as the winning pitcher, but it was the bats that came through tonight for the Hogs. The middle of the order was huge as Welch went 3-for-4, Moore went 4-for-5, and Smith went 2-for-6. They combined for nine hits and 13 RBIs.
However, maybe it’s no coincidence that the hits kept coming on repeat as Friday, June 11 is now Groundhog Day in Arkansas.
Shoutout to our MVG— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) June 12, 2021
(Most Valuable Groundhog) pic.twitter.com/bzhcuHrtxZ
The Oma(ground)hogs are now 50-11 overall. They’ll take on NC State again tomorrow at 2 pm with a chance to go to the College World Series if they win.