OMAHA, Neb. — One night after struggling mightily to produce with runners in scoring position, Arkansas made certain to improve in that department Tuesday. The Razorbacks picked up seven hits in such situations — six of which came with two outs — against No. 14 Auburn, sending the Tigers home with an 11-1 loss and staving off elimination.
The timely hitting that has propelled the Hogs to so many postseason wins in 2022 showed up again, leading them to the national semifinals for the first time since 2018.
“We don't want to go home,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said in the postgame press conference. “We think we can play five days in a row. We like it. We're here until we're not.”
As he did in Saturday’s win over No. 2 Stanford, graduate senior center fielder Braydon Webb belted the first pitch of the game to the wall for an extra-base hit, setting the tone for the Arkansas bats. Freshman first baseman Peyton Stovall wasted little time proving his head coach made the right decision to hit him second in the order, driving Webb in with a single up the middle.
“He's starting to hit for power, hit for average, (he is) taking his walks,” Van Horn said. “And we've really been able to see the future the last month. It's been fun.”
Stovall collected his second of five hits to begin a rally in the third. Graduate senior catcher Michael Turner drew a walk, advancing him to second, before graduate senior right fielder Chris Lanzilli came through with an RBI single. Junior second baseman Robert Moore pushed a double into the left field corner, extending the Razorback lead to 4-0.
Webb and Stovall recorded one-out knocks in the fourth, and the graduate transfers delivered again after a popout. Turner nearly unleashed a three-run bomb to right field, instead ending up on second base with a two-run double. Lanzilli walloped the first pitch he saw all the way to the concourse in left field for a two-run homer and an 8-0 lead.
Turner hit a high chopper that snuck through the middle for his third RBI of the evening with two outs in the sixth. Lanzilli achieved the same feat with three hits to his name, and Stovall became the third Arkansas hitter to do so with his two-run single in the ninth.
As the Razorback offense piled up runs, right-handed pitcher Will McEntire offered the best outing of his Arkansas career. The redshirt sophomore tossed seven innings, allowed three hits, walked one batter and struck out a career-high nine hitters, eclipsing the previous mark of five.
Through three innings, McEntire faced the minimum nine hitters, including six consecutive strikeouts in the second and third. The only run he surrendered was a solo home run, which cut the lead to 9-1 in the seventh inning.
Everything was working for McEntire, Turner said. “Fastball, curveball, cutter, changeup, and all for strikes. Whenever you've got a four-pitch mix like that and you're throwing them all for strikes, it's a pretty good game plan for sure.”
Senior right-hander Zebulon Vermillion took the mound for the eighth inning, and he retired the side on four pitches. Freshman righty Austin Ledbetter got the call for the ninth, ending the Tigers’ season with a groundout and a 4-6-3 double play.
Arkansas is set to tangle with the Mississippi Rebels again at 6 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN. An Ole Miss victory would send the Razorbacks home, but the Hogs could win and force a rubber match Thursday with a trip to the national championship series on the line.
“You never know how this thing's going to go,” Van Horn said. “Baseball's a funny game and whatever it takes. And that will be what we do tomorrow. We'll do whatever we've got to do tomorrow to try to win tomorrow.”