A photograph that might have been viewed by teetotalers as a bit embarrassing made the rounds of Arkansas baseball Twitter on Saturday. It showed how many Jell-O shots fans of the various teams at the College World Series had downed at Rocco’s, a pizza joint next to Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. The picture showed that Arkansas baseball fans, well… you know what. Just look at it:
That’s, uh, well, that’s a lot of booze.
In fact, it’s almost as impressive as the day the Diamond Hogs had at the plate in the first round against Stanford.
What a Day for Arkansas Baseball
Arkansas racked up 21 hits in blasting Stanford in the opening round of the CWS, 17-2. The Razorbacks’ win meant that in the first three games in Omaha, the seeded teams were beaten by the unseeded after Oklahoma beat No. 5 Texas A&M and Notre Dame beat No. 9 Texas on Friday.
It was an historic output that included:
– Largest win by an SEC team at the CWS
– First team since 1988 (Arizona State) to win by at least 15 runs
– Most hits in a game at The Chuck
– Arkansas’ most runs and hits in a CWS game
The day was as fun as the Jell-O would have been. And the victory was just as lopsided. Every single Arkansas starter had at least two hits. Seven of them had RBIs. Seven of them had runs. Arkansas’ run output was the second highest it had had all season. The only team to give up more runs against the Diamond Hogs? Lowly Central Arkansas, which Arkansas beat, 21-9, back on April 5.
The next time UCA and the Razorbacks met, Arkansas needed extra innings to pull off a 2-1 win.
Why mention that? Because as great as Saturday was – and, buddy, was it ever if you are an Arkansas fan – the CWS is far from over. The notion that was also seen on Twitter – that the Razorbacks should have saved some of those runs for other games – is, of course, stupid. Baseball doesn’t work that way.
Regardless, Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn has to be feeling good even independent the ridiculous run total.
That’s because of Connor Noland.
The fifth-year senior worked 7 2/3 innings of six-hit ball. What’s more important is that he threw just 79 pitches. It means he won’t be totally exhausted if Van Horn needs to lean on his ace later in the series. And let’s be honest, he will. Van Horn has always been one to throw his best pitchers whenever he needs them (see: Kopps, Kevin last year and McKinney, Keaton back in 2015).
Arkansas’ win Saturday was the best of both worlds. The lineup, which had been hit-and-miss for much of the year, was, obviously, on and the pitching staff, which had been the team’s strength all season, did everything it needed to stay fresh through the long tournament. Kole Ramage and Zebulon Vermillion, both of whom are also fifth-year seniors, worked the final 1 1/3 for the Razorbacks and threw just seven and 11 pitches, respectively.
In other words, Noland isn’t available on Monday barring an emergency, but literally every other pitcher on the Arkansas roster will be. Then, depending on how that day works out, Noland is back in the fold for the following game.
Everything is coming up Milhouse.
Arkansas vs Ole Miss
Arkansas will have no fear on Monday, either, when they take on Ole Miss at 6 pm as the “home” team. In the regular season, the Razorbacks beat Ole Miss in a two out of three times, each of which were low-scoring affairs at Baum-Walker Stadium. The Razorbacks finished ahead of both Ole Miss, and the Auburn squad they defeated 5-1 on Saturday night, in the SEC West standings during the regular season. Throw in the experience of Van Horn in Omaha, and Arkansas will probably be favored to win.
It be by too much, though.
Consider “Ole Miss enters Monday’s matchup as arguably the hottest team in the country, ” as HawgBeat’s Andrew Hutchinson writes. “Since going one-and-done in the SEC Tournament and sneaking to the field as one of the last four teams in, the Rebels have won all six of their NCAA Tournament games.”
Consider, too, what happened to the Hogs last year. The loss in the three-game set to North Carolina State in the Super Regionals last year remains in the players’ heads. Not in a bad way, but in a motivational one. That plus the drama surrounding the Michael Turner/Derek Ruscin saga means Arkansas is 100 percent a team that wants something to prove.
That’s a bit overrated, though. External motivation is only a thing among us commoners. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the Razorbacks – or any college athlete – isn’t giving their all each and every time out, anyway. Ultimately, intrinsic motivation is of little consequence. Talent and coaching wins ball games.
And that’s something Arkansas has in spades. Or Jell-O shots.
Arkansas Baseball Excerpts
From the postgame press conference:
Connor Noland on Razorback fans: “I think we’ve got the best fans in the nation. I mean, we show out well in Omaha and I think their presence here today was felt. They were loud. I could hear them, for sure. So, I think the other team could hear them too.”
Dave Van Horn: “I thought we played just a fantastic game. I mean, it started on the mound with pitching, just outstanding. A lot of strikes, defense behind him was outstanding, as well. Turned a couple double plays, made all the plays that, pretty much, you expect our team to make and maybe a couple you didn’t expect. We did a great job and then offensively swung the bat extremely well up and down the lineup, got production one through nine. I think everybody might have had a hit today or couple and just played a really good ball game.”
Connor Noland: “I knew they were going to swing the bat. They’re an aggressive team. They like to put the ball in play. So, we had the wind blowing in, I get a lot of ground balls, normally. So, I just stuck to the plan. They were very aggressive and didn’t get a lot of two-strike counts. They just put the ball in play and I let the defense work behind me.”
Dave Van Horn on Noland: “He set the tone. He sets the tone for the whole weekend. When you get to these tournaments, you got to win at least three the first round, and two the second round, and obviously, maybe five total here.”
“So, for him to pitch like he’s pitched in game one and give us a chance to rest our guys and feel good about using our bullpen a couple of times, really, from maybe the sixth or seventh inning of his first outing on, three times in a row it’s been big and he wants the ball. He’s not going to go out there and blow you away but he knows how to pitch and we like it when other teams are hitting it and we’re fielding it.”