FAYETTEVILLE — Putting themselves in the driver’s seat doesn’t guarantee the checkered flag.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn reminded his Razorbacks of such Wednesday in Omaha, Neb., after they defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 7-4 in their winner’s bracket game of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
At 2-0, having defeated the since eliminated Texas Longhorns, 11-5 in Sunday’s first-round game, the Razorbacks are the lone undefeated team in their bracket.
On Friday they played Florida, the Thursday night’s loser’s bracket survivor between Texas Tech, a Sunday night first-round victor over the SEC champion Gators before falling Wednesday to Arkansas, and Florida, eliminating Texas Tuesday after falling Sunday to Texas Tech.
Win tonight, and the Razorbacks play for the national championship in a best 2 of 3 series starting Monday against the other bracket’s winner which today pits the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 2-0 so far this week at Omaha, against the Oregon State Beavers who lost their first-round game to North Carolina but since in the loser’s bracket have eliminated Washington, the first round loser to Mississippi State, and North Carolina which lost its winner’s bracket game to Mississippi State.
Should Arkansas or Mississippi State lose today, they would Saturday play their Friday opponent in a winner take all final determining who starts playing Monday for the national championships.
His 2012 Razorbacks, Van Horn reminded his 2018 Hogs after they beat Texas Tech Wednesday, sat in this driver’s seat these Hogs sit now but never made it to the finish line beaten twice by the South Carolina Carolina before Arizona beat South Carolina for the national championship.
Obviously, none of these Hogs were on that 2012 team but the ones growing in Arkansas like second baseman Carson Shaddy and catcher Grant Koch, both of Fayetteville, third baseman Casey Martin of Lonoke and pitchers Blaine Knight of Bryant and Kacey Murphy of Rogers among others remember it well.
The rest certainly know now.
“Like I told the team, been here before and didn’t go very good,” Van Horn told media Wednesday after his Hogs beat the Red Raiders. “We haven’t really done anything yet. We’re 2-0. It’s a great feeling. What it gets us is a day off so you can rest some guys. Other than that, it’s like I told them, it’s like being in a Regional being 2-0. You still haven’t won the Regional. It doesn’t really matter yet. You’ve still got work to do.”
At Thursday’s off-day practice Van Horn was asked more specifically about that 2012 College World Series and relating it to these Hogs just one win away from playing for the national championship.
“Well, in ‘12 we could really pitch,” Van Horn said of those Hogs leading the nation in earned run average. “We just didn’t score a lot of runs and that’s what got us in the end. We won a couple of close games and lost two close games, I think a one-run game and a two-run game. Had runners on, just didn’t drive them in. It’s, you know, we’ve got to take advantage of opportunities and score when we get that opportunity. Whoever we play, they’re awfully good. I mean, I don’t know who we’re gonna play, but they both are strong all the way around. It really doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve just got to find a way to beat them.”
Arkansas now is 2-0 against Texas Tech. Arkansas beat the Red Raiders of the Big 12, 5-1 in an April scheduled 2-game series at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville with one game rained out.
Arkansas, 46-19 and the SEC West co-champion stands 2-2 against SEC East and Overall champion and reigning national champion Florida.
In an SEC series against the Gators at Gainesville, Fla. the Razorbacks won the first 6-3 and lost the next two, 17-2 and 5-4.
They met again during the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., with Arkansas prevailing, 8-2.
Right-hander Isaiah Campbell is expected to start tonight for Arkansas. In his last start, Campbell provided four solid innings and handing off an 8-2 lead to winning reliever Barrett Loseke for the 14-4 Super Regional clinching victory over South Carolina propelling the Hogs from Fayetteville to Omaha.