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|GAME AT A
Point: The Titans appeared to snatch the momentum in the bottom of the third, scoring twice to cut the Arkansas lead to 4-2. But the Razorbacks answered emphatically in the top of the fourth, erupting for five runs. Andy Wilkins’ three-run homer was the big blow, but Scott Lyons’ two-run single was the real momentum-changer.
You Might Have Missed: The attendance was 23,549, a jump of about 3,500 from the Game One attendance last year. Plenty of the fans were clad in maroon and whooping out “pig sooies.” Said Wilkins: “It almost felt like a home game, hearing the fans call the hogs and all that stuff, it was awesome. Playing at Arkansas helps a lot when you come here, because we get a lot of fans.”
OMAHA—The numbers just don’t tell the story with Arkansas. So the Razorbacks rank 184th in the nation in scoring, and 264th in batting? Irrelevant.
Disguised by those ugly numbers, Arkansas has actually emerged as a very good offensive team. Over the last three weeks, since the Hogs reset their goals and their approach at the conclusion of a disappointing regular season, Arkansas has morphed back into the dangerous offensive unit it expected to be in 2009. That transformation was never more apparent than Saturday, when Arkansas pounded its way to a 10-6 win against heavily favored Cal State Fullerton. It was the fifth double-digit scoring game of the postseason for Arkansas, which reached double figures just nine times in the regular season.
The big blows Saturday were a couple of home runs by Arkansas’ big boppers. Third baseman Zack Cox launched a two-run shot in the third inning, and first baseman Andy Wilkins followed with a three-run shot to break the game open in the fourth.
“The home runs, they come and go,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “I think that they can change a game, obviously. We have gotten some timely hits, and some of them went out of the park. We thought we were going to hit some home runs this year, and they went away for a while. Now we’re just hitting, and the percentage has gone up of balls leaving the park.”
Arkansas got to Titans freshman righthander Noe Ramirez for two runs in the first inning, then increased the lead to 4-0 on Cox’s homer in the third. Those early runs set the tone.
“I think it was big for us to go out and show that we were going to be in the game, that we have a good club and could swing it,” Van Horn said. “Scoring early was huge for us. (The Titans are) very exciting to watch if you’re not trying to beat them. They can run the bases, bunt, hit and run, they’ve got some pop, they’re just well rounded. I like that style.”
But Fullerton coach Dave Serrano said his team did not play its style—”Titan baseball”—Saturday. He said his hitters were pressing to try to make up the early deficit in one swing instead of grinding away to get back into the game gradually. Arkansas starter Dallas Keuchel certainly had something to do with it, using his heavy fastball to induce eight groundball outs. He held the potent Fullerton offense to four runs (three earned) on five hits over six innings.
But the biggest problem for Fullerton was Ramirez, who just wasn’t sharp. He gave up seven runs on five hits over 3 2/3.
“I think Noe’s performance, and I think he would agree with me, was probably a D-minus today,” Serrano said. “One of the things with Noe, when he gets excited—and I’m sure there was a lot of excitement building up to his start today—he loses his mechanics. I thought this was more mechanical than mental today.”
Certainly, the Titans did not play their best Saturday, but give Arkansas credit for keeping its wave of momentum going.
“I don’t know; sometimes when it’s going, it’s going,” Van Horn said. “And it’s going.”