FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas junior right-hander Trevor Stephan started a shutout masterpiece that freshmen Kevin Kopps and Matt Cronin finished for a 3-0 victory over the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles Friday night completing the first round of the Fayetteville Regional at Baum Stadium.
The victory before 11,088, the fifth largest crowd ever at Baum, propels the Razorback into Saturday night's 7 o’clock winners game against the Missouri State Bears, 6-5 winners Friday afternoon over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Oral Roberts and Oklahoma State meet in today’s 2 p.m. losers bracket game.
Stephan threw a four-hit shutout through 7 1-3 striking out 12 and walking three. He was replaced by Kopps after throwing his career high 116th pitch for a 1-out walk after a leadoff single in the eighth.
Right-hander Kopps inheriting a 2-0 lead, on Chad Spanberger’s RBI smashed double to right scoring Jack Kenley in the fifth, and Eric Cole’s bloop double scoring Jake Arledge in the seventh struck out cleanup hitter Noah Cummings and threw out Brent Williams on a grounder back to the box.
Arledge’s RBI single in the eighth accounted for a 3-0 lead but ORU would send the tying run to the plate against Cronin in the ninth.
Kopps gave up a leadoff single, retired the next two on flyouts, one a great catch by Arledge in left, then was tagged for Sam Gellner’s single. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn summoned lefty Cronin who struck out left-handed 1-hole hitter Nick Roark to send Stephan home a winner and Arkansas into the winners bracket.
ORU ace lefty Miguel Ausua, 11-3, deserved a better scattering eight hits and replaced in the seventh down 2-0. An ORU throwing error after an infield hit and preceding Eric Cole’s bloops double finished Ausua.
Arkansas played not only errorless but superb defense behind Stephan and Kopps.
Other than Stephan hitting a batter and Ausua walking one, both starters zipped through the first two innings then labored in the third.
No. 8 ORU hitter Trevor McCutchin doubled leading off. Sam Grellner sac bunted him to third. Stephan struck out Nick Roark but walked Cal Hernandez on four pitches and walked Matt Whatley on a full count. Up stepped cleanup hitter Noah Cummings but down he went on three pitches, the last looking at Strike Three on the outside corner.
In Arkansas’ third, No. 9 hitter Jack Kenley chopped a one-out single up the middle. After Azusa’s second third-inning strikeout, Chad Spanberger managed an up-the middle single that ORU second baseman Nick Roark gloved but with no play. Luke Bonfield singled to left. Kenley was waved home but thrown out at the plate by left fielder Michael Hungate.
Second baseman Carson Shaddy, twice, and shortstop Jax Biggers, saved Stephan in the fourth. Dylan Snypes and Michael Hungate stroked 1-out singles putting runners at first and second.
McCutchin scorched an apparently RBI base-hit bound for right. A leaping Shaddy snagged it for the out with the runners scrambling back to avoid getting doubled off. No. 9 hitter Grellner whacked one apparently through the middle but Biggers miraculously snagged it on the grass and flipped to an onrushing Shaddy making a deft play of his own beating Hungate to the bag for an inning-ending forceout.
Grant Koch and Dominic Fletcher singled leading off the Arkansas fourth but Shaddy’s sac bunt attempt right back to Ausua forced the runner at third leaving Biggers’ long fly to right just tagging the runner to third before Jake Arledge grounded out.
Spanberger and Kenley broke the drought in the fifth. Kenley singled to right leadoff off and advanced on Eric Cole’s soft grounder to second, Spanberger doubled him, his shot to right towards the foul line landing fair and rattling around in the corner.
Bonfield popping up and Koch flying to deep left, couldn’t bring him home.
The Hogs scored softly in the seventh. Arledge led off beating out an infield single to third. Ausua so had Arledge picked that Arledge broke for second. ORU first baseman Brent Williams threw it away into left-center with Arledge scooting to third. Ausua struck out Kenley and induced Eric Cole’s bloop into short left. The bloop proved about as good as a blast falling for a Bermuda Triangle RBI double between the onrushing left fielder and center fielder and backpedaling shortstop. Spanberger was walked intentionally before Bonfield’s hard shot to third against reliever Grant Glaze was whisked into an inning-ending doubleplay.
Arledge tacked on a two-out RBI single insurance run after Fletcher had been hit by a pitch and Shaddy singled in the eighth.