NC State tried to do what no other team in college baseball had done before them: That is beat the Razorbacks twice.
Kevin Kopps drew his first start of the 2021 season. This was his first since the shortened 2020 when he started against Grand Canyon University. The senior right handed pitcher likely in his final performance in Baum-Walker Stadium had hopes of saving his team’s season on Sunday.
Arkansas and NC State both went scoreless in the first inning. A two out, two strike RBI double by Charlie Welch brought Christian Franklin home. That gave Arkansas a 1-0 lead.
Kopps threw another scoreless second inning. However, in the third he gave up a two-run homer to Johnny Butler to give the Wolfpack a 2-1 lead.
The third, fourth and fifth innings were also both scoreless. Arkansas had a double play in both .Kopps recorded a couple of strikeouts including one looking to end the top of the fifth. It was beginning to look like “Classic Kopps” because the further he goes the better he gets.
Chris Villaman would take the mound for the Wolfpack in the bottom of the fifth inheriting a 2-1 NC State lead. Wallace took first on a leadoff single to left field. Slavens struck out swinging on a high fast ball for the first out. Franklin and Moore would have similar fates taking a high strike for the second and third outs of the inning.
In the sixth inning, Kopps would pick up his sixth strikeout of the night against Tatum. The Wolfpack would go down in order as Kopps continued to stay hot on the mound with his fastball.
Cullen Smith led off the Hogs with a liner to left field for the first out in the bottom of the sixth. Welch liner to center for the second out of the inning. Opitz switched to hit right against Villaman. He also flew out to center as well for the third out.
In the seventh inning Kopps struck out Tresh and Minncick for the first and third outs. Goodheart made an incredible leaping catch in right field for the second out. The Hogs we’re doing everything they could to keep the game within striking distance
In the bottom of the seventh, Jalen Battles sent a dribbler to third and was beat out at first for the first out. Goodheart lined out to left for the second out. Then, Cayden Wallace rocketed one out of Baum-Walker to tie the ball game at 2-2! Slavens hit into the shift in shallow right field and was thrown out at first to end the inning.
Again, Kopps took the mound for the eighth inning. He gave up a leadoff single to NC State. Murr sac-bunted sending the Wolfpack runner to second. McDonough lined out to Wallace in left field for the second out. That was Kopps 109th pitch of the game with many wondering if he would make it the distance? If Kopps couldn’t go the distance, Patrick Wicklander was warming in the bullpen. Butler, who hit the home run on Kopps in the second inning, was intentionally walked to put two on base with two outs. Kopps struck out Tatum swinging for the third out!
Franklin led off in the bottom of the eight against new pitcher Evan Justice, for the second consecutive game. The Hogs starting center fielder would strike out to begin the inning. Moore (0-3 so far in the game, had some big hits throughout the season but this would be the biggest thus far. He would come up and line out to left field with Butler making the grab for the second out. Smith took a breaking ball for strike three as Arkansas comes away with nothing in the eighth inning.
The marathon man, Kopps returned to the mound in the top of the ninth. His 115th pitch and 116th pitches went for a strike and foul to Torres of the Wolfpack. The very next pitch, Torres would hit solo home run and third of the series to give NC State a 3-2 lead.
That was enough for Dave Van Horn to take a mound visit and change pitchers. Kopps was given a well deserved standing ovation as he walked to the dugout with his Razorback career likely over.
Wicklander takes the mound for his second appearance of the series. He first meets Luca Tresh who chops one to Battles and his throw to first in time for the first out. Smith grabs a grounder off of Butler and makes a long throw for the second out of the ninth inning. Minchey hits a two-out double to left center. Then, J.T. Jarrett comes to the plate. On the first pitch of his at-bat a wild pitch advanced Minchey to third base. Then, Jarrett grounded one to Battles and his throw is in time for the third out.
In desperation time for Arkansas, Welch went to the plate to bat in the bottom of the ninth hoping to extend the game for Arkansas who was down 3-2. Welch would grounded one to third and was thrown out at first for the first out. The team captain, Opitz also grounded out to short for the second out. Battles had the same fate and the Wolfpack upset the Razorbacks in the Fayetteville super regional.
FINAL: Wolfpack 3-Hogs 2
The dream season for Razorback Baseball has ended.