Arkansas Advances to College World Series Finals, Oregon State Tops Mississippi State

Associated Press
Sports Illustrated

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Isaiah Campbell limited Florida to two hits over 5 1/3 innings, Arkansas scored four times in five innings against first-round draft pick Brady Singer, and the Razorbacks earned a spot in the College World Series finals with a 5-2 win over the defending champion Gators on Friday night.

Campbell more than atoned for his worst performance of the season when he faced the Gators in the teams’ Southeastern Conference opening series in March. He was at his best this time, matching his career high with eight strikeouts and leaving with a 5-2 lead.

Arkansas (47-19) has never gone to the CWS finals since the NCAA Tournament went to its current structure in 1999. The Razorbacks were runner-up in 1979 in their only appearance in a championship game.

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Florida (49-21), the No. 1 overall seed, lost for the first time in eight NCAA elimination games. The Gators were looking to get to the finals for the second straight year and fourth time since 2005.

Casey Martin went 4 for 5 and Dominic Fletcher homered for the second straight game to lead the Razorbacks’ offense against Singer (12-3) and Tommy Mace.

The Gators managed only three hits against Campbell (5-6), Jake Reindl and Matt Cronin — the fourth time this season they were held to three or fewer and first since May 13.

Campbell’s performance was the highlight so far in his comeback from bone spurs in his right (throwing) elbow, which forced him to take a medical redshirt in 2017. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior’s fastball touched the mid-90s and his slider mid-80s, and he struck out six of the first nine Florida batters and held the Gators hitless until there was one out in the fourth.

Austin Langworthy laced a ball over shortstop for the Gators’ first hit, Campbell hit Blake Reese with a pitch, and Brady Smith singled in Florida’s first run. Another run came home on a wild pitch to cut it to 4-2.

The Razorbacks were up three runs when Campbell went to the mound for the sixth. When Reindl came on to relieve, Razorbacks fans gave Campbell an ovation as he strode to the dugout. Hunter Wilson ran out to give him a hug and the rest of his teammates greeted him at the top of the steps.

Campbell’s outing was in stark contrast to his outing at Florida on March 24. That night, the 24th-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels lasted one inning and was rocked for six runs in a game the Razorbacks lost 17-2.

Singer, the No. 18 overall draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, took both of Florida’s losses in the CWS and was beaten for the second time this season by Arkansas. Martin’s double and Fletcher’s 10th home run of the season preceded Singer’s departure in the fifth. The four earned runs against Singer were the most he’s allowed since Arkansas got to him for six on March 23 in what was his first loss of the season.

The Razorbacks won three of five meetings with the Gators this season.

NOW THAT’S DEFENSE

Arkansas right fielder Eric Cole reached into the seats along the right-field line to catch JJ Schwarz’s foul ball to start the bottom of the ninth. The play was upheld on review.

The Razorbacks also got a big play from second baseman Carson Shaddy, who went far to his right to backhand Wil Dalton’s grounder and threw across his body to get Dalton by a step at first.

***

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — It has been decades since an offense at the College World Series has been as prolific as Oregon State’s.

The good times — and the runs — kept rolling for the Beavers in a 12-2 win over Mississippi State on Friday. Oregon State used a five-run second inning to build a big lead, batted around twice and never were threatened thanks to Brandon Eisert’s season-long 5 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief.

Oregon State joined 1995 Cal State Fullerton as the only teams in CWS history to score 11 or more runs in three consecutive games. The Beavers’ 43 runs is the highest total by a team through four games since 2001.

“When you’re swinging the bat well, you have a lot of confidence going up and down the lineup,” coach Pat Casey said. “We’ve got a team approach to swinging. I think they have a lot of trust in one another. I’ve been through spells during the year when we haven’t swung the bat well. They’re swinging it well at the right time. Certainly it’s something I’m excited about.”

The Beavers (51-11-1) have staved off elimination three times since losing their CWS opener to North Carolina last Saturday. They beat Washington, North Carolina and now Mississippi State. Another win over the Bulldogs (39-18) on Saturday would send Oregon State to the best-of-three CWS finals for the first time since 2007.

The Bulldogs, trying to return to the CWS finals for the first time since 2013, are not in unfamiliar territory. They were down to their last strike in regionals before beating Florida State in a win-or-go-home game, and this will be the sixth time in 11 games they’ll be playing to fight off elimination.

“We’ve come back many, many times, this group has,” MSU interim coach Gary Henderson said. “We’ll respond well.”

Oregon State won the first of two straight national titles in 2006 after losing its first game in Omaha. The only other team since then to make it to the finals after a loss in its opener was the 2010 South Carolina championship team.

The Beavers’ offensive tear continued against a Mississippi State that came into the game having allowed just two runs in 18 innings.

Oregon State is batting .377 and averaging 10.8 runs in Omaha after collecting 15 hits and scoring in double digits for the third time in four games.

“I don’t think any of us really pay attention to stats,” left fielder Kyle Nobach said. “We go out there and we want to play for each other. I think that raises your level of play, when your focus is not on yourself and it’s on the team, and I think everybody feels that way.”

The Beavers sent 11 batters to the plate while breaking it open in the second inning. Mississippi State starter Jacob Billingsley (5-4) left after he walked the bases loaded. Keegan James walked the first batter he faced to force in a run. Adley Rutschman, batting .500 (7 for 14) with a CWS-leading nine RBIs in Omaha, followed with a two-run single as the Beavers built a 6-1 lead.

Oregon State put the game out of reach when it batted around in a four-run seventh go up 11-2.

Nick Madrigal and Trevor Larnach had three hits apiece for the Beavers.

“The margin of error when you’re facing them right now is not very good,” Henderson said. “You have to be really, really good. We just weren’t sharp enough today to earn a victory.”

Eisert (5-3) took over for starter Bryce Fehmel with two outs in the fourth and allowed only a walk in the fifth and a single in the eighth.

Mississippi State, coming off a 12-2 win over North Carolina on Tuesday, managed just five hits against Fehmel and Eisert.

“Kind of odd that we haven’t gotten a real quality, quality start yet,” Casey said. “Eisy was obviously lights out.”

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