By itself, the Razorbacks’ 4-3 win victory over North Carolina early Sunday evening was plenty sweet for Arkansas baseball fans.
It’s the 11th time in school history – and the third time in the last four eligible seasons – that the Razorbacks are headed to the College World Series. The Hogs sure did it in dramatic fashion after heading into the bottom of the ninth inning down 3-2. That’s when the Hogs’ bats heated up in a hurry, getting the bases loaded in time for Brady Slavens to step up to the plate and play the role of hero.
A pair of lengthy lightning delays had turned the second game of the NCAA Super Regional into an all-day affair but the wait proved worth it when Slavens muscled a walkoff-single through a gap in the Tar Heels infield to cap a two-run, ninth inning rally. “We’ve known all year about the potential of this team,” Slavens said. “I think we like playing with the pressure and having our backs against the wall. We’re clicking at the right time.”
“This was a first class Super Regional,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said afterward. “The UNC coaches, players and fans were as good as any I’ve been around.”
North Carolina’s baseball coach, in turn, paid Van Horn’s team a huge compliment: “What a battle. I want to congratulate Arkansas,” Scott Forbes said. “They’re a heck of a team and play the right way. They don’t showboat and keep their mouth shut.”
This is a reference to the trash talking and rampant showmanship that have overtaken certain parts of college baseball, especially those parts in and around Knoxville, Tennessee. Tony Vitello’s cocky, in-your-face bunch looked like the best team in the nation for much of the year, until the wheels came off this weekend at home vs Notre Dame in the Super Regional.
The World Piles On to Tennessee Baseball
By the time the dust cleared on Game 3 Sunday afternoon, only the Fighting Irish remained standing with a 7-3 victory that has apparently united the rest of the nation in an online jamboree of schadenfreude that few programs outside of Kentucky basketball have ever ever experienced.
Razorback fans are going hand in hand with the fans of Ole Miss, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and jumping with glee all over Tennessee’s grave. Sure, it would have been nice to beat Tennessee deep in the College World Series, but it’s much better to not even see them make the CWS in the first place.
CBS sports radio host Danny Kannell Tweeted: “Congrats Tennessee baseball on a great season. So many memorable moments…flipping opponents off rounding the bases, coach getting tossed for chest bumping umpire, crying over balls and strikes, and of course soooo many pimped out bat flips…what a legacy. #DaddyGang” Oh, and let’s not forget about the Vols right-fielder Jordan Beck’s one-finger salute in the regional final win over Georgia Tech.
By the end, Tennessee baseball fans were embracing the identity of the team by wearing “Classless vs Catholics” T-shirts in the Super Regional vs Notre Dame. They were trying to show the kind of good humor that their favorite cocky team has never been able to muster.
If you really want to drink deeply from the fire hose that is anti-Vols sentiment these days, then just take a stroll down the comments here:
That are some magnificent little diddies in there, from the Hogdor-cheeked pontiff, to Devo Davis dunking all over Tennessee baseball, to a father of a high school recruit who launches a Tomahawk Cruise Missile directly into Vitello’s reputation, but my favorite so far is this one:
On the whole, many Razorback fans were very impressed with the way the Tar Heels carried themselves and played. Although North Carolina lost, they did so with class holding their heads high. A few Arkansas fans on social media suggested that when Van Horn retires, it should be Scott Forbes – and not Tony Vitello – who replaces him.
Arkansas Baseball vs UNC Recap
North Carolina – playing as the visiting team – scratched out a run in the top of the ninth to claim their first lead of the afternoon when Patrick Alvarez singled to center. Alvarez’ heroics, however, were immediately put into question when Jalen Battles led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single to the left side of the infield.
Freshman Peyton Stovall laced his third hit of the afternoon into the right-center field gap to but Hogs on the corners with no outs. After a walk to pinch hitter Kendall Diggs, Braydon Webb’s fielder’s choice chased Battles home for the equalizer and set up Slavens to be the hero.
Stovall led the way with three hits as the Razorbacks racked up 12 in the win. Slavens, Battles and Michael Turner all had two hits with Slavens driving in two. Battles got the Hogs started in the fourth with an RBI-double and Webb added his 16th homer in the fifth, a solo shot. Zack Morris picked up the win in relief, recording the final out of the ninth. Will McEntire was stellar in 5.2 scoreless innings. The big right-hander scattered three hits, walked two and fanned four. (Razorback Communications)
“This super regional win was special because of how it went down last year. It never gets old,” Van Horn said afterward.
“I remember Jalen Battles coming up to me during my final at-bat,” Slavens added. “He said this is why we came back.”
More from Arkansas Baseball
Dave Van Horn on lightning delays: “It didn’t matter. Yeah, we were there, we were going to be there till midnight if that’s what it took. And those games last week, it was miserably hot, marathon game. We played a five-hour game, a nine-inning five-hour game. It’s hard to do, almost, so yeah, it definitely, it prepared us a little bit.”
Brady Slavens expanding on the arc of the season: “We’ve known all year how good we can be, the potential of the team. It’s not going to click all year for us, and we knew that. But I think this team likes feeling like their back’s up against the wall. I think that for some reason that really gets us more confident and makes us hit more. And I guess we like playing with the pressure. And so it’s just been a crazy year and we’re clicking at the right time and I’m just so happy that we can go to Omaha.”
Slavens on going to the College World Series around 2013: “Being from Kansas City, it’s a short drive. And I remember, I had a picture on my phone of me and my dad, and I plan on taking that again from the outfield, just as a cool little journey.”
Dave Van Horn: “I know in fall practice, I thought we had a good team. If we stayed healthy, we didn’t have like a real deep position player team. We weren’t sure exactly the roles of the pitchers, but we felt like we had enough arms to get it done. And who knew the league was going to be so tough? I mean, especially in our division, I think there’s already two or three other teams from our division that are going to the World Series, and we had to play those guys.”
“It was just a tough year, and we beat each other around and it prepared us for the end of the season. But I don’t know, extra. I think our teams work hard all the time. So I don’t know if I saw that, I think we would talk to them about what we’re trying to do, and that’s finish. We were talking about finishing, because last year we didn’t quite finish.”