By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – Super pitching Sunday night following super pitching Saturday night consecutively pitched the Arkansas Razorbacks past TCU to win the Fayetteville Regional 4-team double-elimination championship at Baum-Walker Stadium and on to host a best 2 out of 3 Super Regional against the Ole Miss Rebels next weekend at Baum-Walker.
Fellow SEC West member Ole Miss, winner of the Oxford Regional it hosted, and Arkansas, 44-17, and the SEC West co-champion with Mississippi State, will play to be one of the Elite Eight in the College World Series at Omaha.
Arkansas freshman left-handed starter Patrick Wicklander, five innings, Cody Scroggins (2 2-3 innings) and Jacob Kostyshock, (1 1-3 innings) combined to throw a 5-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts against a walk to beat TCU, 6-0 Sunday night before 10,242 paid at Baum-Walker.
Saturday night winning starter Isaiah Campbell, a 4-hitter for eight innings, and reliever Matt Cronin for the ninth, beat TCU ace Nick Lodolo, 3-1.
Arkansas opened the tournament Friday afternoon behind freshman Connor Noland bequeathing a 6-1 after 5 1-3 innings to beat the Central Connecticut Blue Devils, 11-5.
Wicklander threw a 3-hitter for his five innings and stranded runners at second and third after yielding a single and a double in the fourth and weathering a 30-minute pregame delay because of lightning that didn’t start the already late-starting game until 8:30 pm.
“My thought process was is it’s a big game, just do what I can, throw up as many zeroes as possible,” Wicklander said. “Whether there was a delay or not, just have to keep my head on right, just throw up as many zeroes as I could.”
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn lauded the lefty and right-handers Scroggins and Kostyshock that followed.
“I thought it was just an outstanding job by Patrick Wicklander,” Van Horn said. “Coming out as a freshman, packed crowd, a night game, had a little delay [because of lightning]. And he just came out and did a tremendous job. He only walked one. He did get behind some hitters, but he found a way to fight back from 3-1, 3-2 to get outs, strikeouts. Our bullpen with Scroggins and Kostyshock was great and we had timely hitting and great (errorless) defense.”
Though handcuffed by Arkansas, third-seeded TCU cuffed second-seeded California, 13-2 Friday night and on Sunday afternoon pounded 16 hits to beat the surprising Blue Devils, 9-5 in Sunday afternoon loser’s bracket final after fourth-seeded CCSU eliminated California, 7-4 on Saturday night.
How Arkansas’ arms defused TCU’s other games explosive bats impressed TCU Coach Jim Schlossnagle whose Horned Frogs of the Big 12 finish a 34-28 season.
“They smother you with strikes at least they did in the games I saw,” Schlossnagle said of Van Horn’s Razorbacks, the national runner-up at last year’s College World Series. “Some guys are pitching off their breaking balls and they all have power arms. What you expect from a team that played for a national title last year and certainly is set up to do the same thing. The best team and the team that played the best won this tournament.”
Arkansas had struggled offensively late in its SEC West co-championship season and in the SEC Tournament.
But the Hogs hit Central Connecticut hard Friday. They hit in the clutch against TCU Saturday, particularly Casey Opitz’s game-breaking 2-run single.
Sunday they hit TCU starter Jared Janczak, a 2017 All-American off a TCU College World Series team but struggling with injuries, for three first inning runs ignited by Casey Martin’s single breaking an 0 for 20 slump, and Matt Goodheart’s single, Dominic Fletcher’s 2-run double and Jack Kenley doubling Fletcher home.
Janczak settled in from there until the fifth when Goodheart’s 2-out, 2-run home run also scored Trevor Ezell who had singled.
Jack Kenley singled home another run in off reliever Augie Mihlbauer in the eighth.
“A lot of good baseball players,” Schlossnagle said. “They are fun to watch – when you are in the stands. It’s not that fun in the other dugout.”