On his own, Oklahoma State freshman Roc Riggio was obnoxious enough over the course of three games vs Arkansas. Sure, he burned bright as one of the best hitters on an Oklahoma State squad that put up 43 runs on Sunday alone and played a big role in setting a NCAA Regional record for runs scored (148) and home runs (41).
But, man, he sure went about it in a way that rubs Arkansas baseball fans wrong. Whether it was the Jack Sparrow prancing to third base, or taking a bow at second base, or striding to the plate with his chest puffed out like Conor McGregor, Riggio plainly couldn’t quit getting enough of himself during his hot streak.
Granted, “his bat seemed like a magic wand,” as KATV’s Steve Sullivan wrote. “Roc was 4-5 on Saturday with 5 RBI. He followed that by going 3-6 with 3 RBI Sunday. He was equally obnoxious in both games. If it were college football or basketball, Roc would have been penalized for taunting, prancing around third base during his home run trot on Saturday. Roc is lucky this is 2022, not 1982.”
Riggio’s luck finally ran out in the 8th inning when facing off with Arkansas freshman pitcher Hagen Smith with the bases loaded. Arkansas clung to a 5-3 lead.
With the count even at two balls and two strikes, Smith let fly with a missile that essentially left Riggio gasping for air. “Seconds later, I was screaming, “down goes Riggio, down goes Riggio,'” Sullivan added. “There was no taunting from the Arkansas freshman, just pure joy.”
“The sight of Roc Riggio slumped over on one knee, a beaten man, was priceless. You couldn’t dream up a better finish.”
And then, an inning later, with Arkansas baseball officially walking away with a 7-3 win, a postscript for the ages. In the dugout, Riggio kicked it into full-on man-child mode, throwing a tantrum in which tore to shreds a large part of what he had said earlier during a special ESPN segment broadcast during the game:
“I’m a dirt bag for my boys. I put it all out there for the guys in the dugout, and the fan base, and the crowd, and the people back home, and the people of Stillwater, where I came from. You got to let it all out, and you know what? At the end of the day, this is baseball. It’s fun. You got to have fun with it, and if you’re not having fun with it, you shouldn’t be playing. And it’s fun when you’re playing with guys that you love, and guys that love you back, and going out there and, man, win or lose today, we had a good time.”
Even though Riggio’s good times were abruptly put on ice, they were just beginning for former Arkansas basketball great Oliver Miller:
ESPN Announcers and Roc Riggio
Arkansas’ next opponent, North Carolina, won’t be expected to roll out the red carpet for the Razorbacks when Arkansas arrives in Chapel Hill later this week. But Tar Heel fans would do well to at least thank Arkansas for saving them from the ESPN announcers’ nauseating love affair with Riggio.
ESPN commentators Lowell Galindo and Troy Eklund both vied to be president of the Roc Riggio Fan Club throughout the entire Regional, and they came on especially strong during the Monday night broadcast.
Here are only a few of their choicest vomit-inducers:
- “He’s the table-setter that can go deep. How about that? Got to love that.”
- “Oh, by the way, speaking of crazy, here comes Roc Riggio: Mr. Crazy, Mr. Energy. The dude that plays the game like he’s pounded 20 Red Bulls as he gets ready to do his thing.”
Then, a brief interlude of blessed sanity:
“It seems like when teams have had a little bit of success against Riggio, they’ve worked him on the outer third, not letting him get that barrel head out and pull that baseball into right field.”
Only to be swiftly cast away for straight-up obsequiousness:
“How can you be a legend in your first year on campus, to do this in the post-season? That’s what Roc Riggio does. That’s a ball down in the zone, and the guy can just flat-out hit.”
- “He’s out of his mind right now. The future of Roc Riggio is looking up. That’s the guy, that when all of these kids grow up, they’re going to say, ‘I want to be like him.‘”
- “Riggio, he is loving this moment. So far tonight, fly ball to right field, base hit, ground ball to Battles at short, and a double; ground rule double.”
“If he comes through here, in 18 years, we’ll be calling another regional Stillwater, and there’s going to be at least three to five guys on this Cowboys team named Roc.”
And you know it would have only gotten worse in the Super Regional round. Especially since Oklahoma State would have hosted again.
You’re welcome, North Carolina.
OSU-Arkansas Baseball Recap
No. 2 seed Arkansas (41-19) downed host and No. 1 seed Oklahoma State (42-22), 7-3, on Monday night in the NCAA Stillwater Regional final to punch its ticket to its fourth consecutive super regional and for the 10th time in program history.
The Arkansas baseball team will now head to the Chapel Hill Super Regional to play a best-of-three-game series at UNC beginning Friday, June 10, or Saturday, June 11, at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Game dates and times for the super regionals will be announced on Tuesday.
The final game of the Stillwater Regional, which set NCAA records for most runs (148) and most home runs (41) at a postseason site, came down to pitching. Arkansas gave the ball to left-hander Zack Morris, and he was superb in his first career start.
The Cabot, Ark., native twirled 3 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, allowing the Hogs to take the game’s first lead in the top of the fourth. Arkansas put up four runs in the frame, beginning with Brady Slavens’ leadoff home run to left center.
Jalen Battles then delivered a two-run RBI single with two outs before Peyton Stovall came up clutch with an RBI single of his own. In the blink of an eye, the Hogs had opened a 4-0 lead and silenced the crowd at O’Brate Stadium.
Kole Ramage (2.2 IP, 5 SO) and Zebulon Vermillion (1.0 IP) were the first two arms to emerge from the bullpen on Monday night and combined for 3 2/3 innings of three-run ball with five strikeouts, providing valuable innings of relief before Arkansas went to true freshman Hagen Smith in the bottom of the eighth.
With the Hogs ahead by two, Smith was called on to close out the game and preserve the victory. Oklahoma State loaded the bases with one out, but the left-hander bounced back by striking out the next two batters faced to eliminate the threat.
Michael Turner, named the Stillwater Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, delivered yet another clutch base knock in the top of the ninth. His two-out, two-RBI double to right extended the Razorbacks’ lead to 7-3 and gave Smith a comfortable cushion to record the final three outs.
Smith did exactly that, retiring the side in order and striking out the final two batters he faced to send Arkansas to the super regional round for the fourth time in as many postseasons.
Five Razorbacks made the 2022 NCAA Baseball Stillwater Regional All-Tournament Team, including Turner. He was joined on the all-regional team by Stovall (first base), Cayden Wallace (third base), Battles (shortstop) and Connor Noland (pitcher).
Turner, who went 1-for-4 with a double and two runs batted in on Monday night, slashed .444/.545/.833 with two homers and and team-leading 11 RBI over four games in the Stillwater Regional. (via Razorback Communications)
Presser Quotes from Oklahoma State on Arkansas
Coach Josh Holliday: “Hard fought game. Congratulations, Arkansas. They did a nice job. Got some big two out hits, and then continued to score throughout the game, which was probably a pretty big momentum shift there late to get those extra two runs. So they got a good ball club and wish some luck as they move ahead.”
“They’re a well-rounded team. They’ve good offensive players. They pick up the ball cleanly and they have a pretty good depth of pitching. They’re a well-rounded team.”
Q: “What do you think of Arkansas’ pitches? I know, obviously they had to play one less game and you guys did, so they had that edge, but what’d you think of their pitches cause nobody really slowed you guys down at all.”
Josh Holliday: “They did a nice job, sir. They mixed their pitches well, and they showed us some different looks and yeah, the young man at the end [Hagen Smith] made some pitches with the game on the line, so compliments to him.”
Q: “You guys had some opportunities, they made some big defensive plays. How’d that kind of maybe stall the offense a little bit for you guys?”
Josh Holliday: “The third baseman [Cayden Wallace] made a remarkable play. It could have been a run, another fine play by the second baseman that could have been a run and yeah, to have a couple of points on the border we might have had a different vibe for the way the game progressed. They made some big time plays there. Those are two fine players. Both those young men are really good ball players.”
See our latest on Arkansas baseball here: