Arkansas blasts NC State in opening game of Super Regional

·4 min read

History will tell you that N.C. State has some work to do.

Winners of the opening game in the Super Regional Round have gone on to win the three-game series 80 percent of the time.

Arkansas did its part, getting off to a good start with a 21-2 win over the Wolfpack. Game two is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday in Fayetteville. It was the largest margin of defeat for Elliott Avent’s bunch this season, and just their second double-digit loss of the year.

The Razorbacks (50-11) came into the game second in the nation in home runs and the first runs of the day for Arkansas came courtesy of a home run — a two-run shot by Robert Moore in the second. The Hogs ended the day as the nation’s leader in home runs. The hits didn’t stop there for the Razorbacks.

“Their offense is good,” Avent said. “They have over 100 home runs, it’s (the offense) is designed for this ballpark and they’ve got a good team.”

Arkansas collected 17 hits and four homers, including a grand slam from Cullen Smith in the bottom of the third. Smith’s grand slam made it 7-1 in favor of the Hogs, who briefly cooled off facing Garrett Payne, but otherwise had their way with the Wolfpack pitching staff.

Arkansas baserunner Jalen Battles (4) celebrates in front of North Carolina State infielder J.T. Jarrett (15) after reaching second base in the second inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas baserunner Jalen Battles (4) celebrates in front of North Carolina State infielder J.T. Jarrett (15) after reaching second base in the second inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

The N.C. State (33-18) freshman struck out the side in the top of the fourth, but Arkansas got right back to work in the bottom of the fifth. The sixth inning was the real knockout for the Pack, with the Razorbacks collecting six runs to go up by 15.

Moore just missed hitting for the cycle, coming up short on a triple. He did complete his fifth three-hit game of the season and added a second home run in the bottom of the eight to make it 21-1. Moore finished the game 4-for-5 at the plate, with 5 RBIs and two homers.

N.C. State took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second on a solo homer from Josse Torre, but that lead disappeared in the bottom of the inning.

After averaging 10 runs in three games in the Ruston Regional, the N.C. State offense went cold in the sweltering Arkansas heat. The Wolfpack finished with seven hits and can only hope their bats get going in Game 2.

Auston Murr (2-5) was the leader at the plate for the Pack and hit a triple to left field in the top of the ninth to score Eddie Eisert for the final run.

Reid Johnston (8-3) took the loss for N.C. State, giving up six hits and seven runs in three innings. If the Pack make it to a winner-take-all Game 3, Avent isn’t 100 percent sure that Pack fans will see Johnston again.

North Carolina State pitcher Reid Johnston (29) throws a pitch against Arkansas in the first inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
North Carolina State pitcher Reid Johnston (29) throws a pitch against Arkansas in the first inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

“We’ve rode him all year long,” Avent said. “He just didn’t seem like himself tonight. We pulled him more earlier than normal, but he just didn’t seem like typical Reid.”

Avent added he would talk to Johnston in the morning, but told the media as of right now he doesn’t see Johnston making a return again this weekend. The Pack used seven pitchers in the opening game.

“We saved the guys we needed to save,” Avent said. “We’re just going to have to come out and play better (Saturday).”

Sam Highfill (7-2), a freshman from Apex, will get the start in Game 2.

The Wolfpack face an elimination game on Saturday. The good news for N.C. State: Since April 3 — a 9-3 loss to Clemson — N.C. State is a perfect 7-0 after losing. Avent’s veteran team, which bounced back from a 1-8 start in conference play, knows what needs to be done.

“Our players knew what happened tonight,” Avent said. “Nothing needed to be said, but basically I said, ‘Forget this game, there is nothing to dwell on.’ We came down here needing two wins to get to Omaha and we still have two wins to go.”