STILLWATER, Okla. — Things looked grim for the Razorback baseball team in the third inning Saturday night. The Hogs faced a 7-2 deficit, and they were already using their third pitcher of the contest. A whole bunch of free passes and home runs later, they emerged on the winning side of a 20-12 decision against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Fifteen runs in the late innings helped Arkansas overcome what seemed like an insurmountable lead against the No. 7 team in the NCAA Tournament. Of the Razorbacks’ 16 hits, seven were homers, including an eighth-inning grand slam off the bat of senior shortstop Jalen Battles, which gave them a 16-10 lead and stunned the locals at O’Brate Stadium.
“I was looking for a fastball first pitch, and I mean, once I hit it, I kind of blacked out,” Battles said in the postgame press conference.
Battles’ grand slam was the climax of an offensive clinic that both teams put on over the course of the game. The Razorbacks and the Cowboys kept pace with each other through two innings, with solo homers by senior designated hitter Brady Slavens and junior second baseman Robert Moore.
Oklahoma State jumped in on the longball festivities in the third inning, doing so with runners on base. Third baseman Nolan McLean made it 4-2 with his two-run blast, and second baseman Roc Riggio belted one to drive in three more.
Arkansas began scratching back in the fourth when sophomore third baseman Cayden Wallace barreled up his third solo shot of the tournament and the Hogs’ third of the game. Graduate senior catcher Michael Turner halved the Oklahoma State lead with a two-out, two-run single in the fifth.
The Razorbacks temporarily ran out of momentum when they stranded two runners in the sixth. Cowboy center fielder Caeden Trenkle laid out to make a diving grab for the third out, and the Pokes turned around and scored three runs in the bottom of the frame to go up 10-5.
Turner unleashed a two-out, opposite field solo blast to restart the rally in the seventh, and Moore went yard for the second time, driving in two runs to cut the deficit to 10-8.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Brady Tygart managed to avoid damage with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, and that appeared to be the momentum shift Arkansas needed.
“It got a little crazy, but he got through it because that’s what he does,” head coach Dave Van Horn said.
The Hogs quickly loaded the bases with a hit and two hit batters, prompting an Oklahoma State pitching change. McLean, the third baseman, took the mound with a complete lack of control. He walked in two runs to tie the game, hit yet another batter to give Arkansas its first lead since the second inning and walked in another run before giving way to right-hander Trevor Martin.
Battles obliterated the first pitch Martin threw, deflating the orange-clad locals while Razorback fans were elated.
“The only way you really come back in games where you’re down five, six runs is you take your walks, you don’t make errors and someone pops a couple balls,” Moore said. “When we weren’t chasing his pitches and we were taking our walks, and then we eventually took the lead because of that, especially against their dude, it gave us a chance.”
Tygart surrendered a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth, bringing the score to 16-12, but graduate senior right fielder Chris Lanzilli mashed the seventh Arkansas longball of the contest, a three-run shot to make it 19-12 in the ninth. Moore scored the 20th run, unearned, on a throwing error with two outs.
Sophomore right-hander Will McEntire recorded the final four outs on 14 pitches, setting him up to give the Hogs some much-needed innings before the end of the regional.
Now 2-0 in the Stillwater Regional, the Hogs are in prime position to clinch a spot in the super regional round. Arkansas is scheduled to meet the winner of the Oklahoma State-Missouri State elimination game at 6 p.m. Sunday in the regional final.
If the Razorbacks win, they advance to the super regional round. If they lose, they will play again in an elimination game at 6 p.m. Monday.
“Last year, everyone had their bags packed to go to Omaha and in 48 hours, we're done,” Moore said. “We haven't done anything yet.”