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 on 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, propelled the SEC Tournament runner-up Razorbacks, 43-17, into the winners bracket game scheduled Saturday night against the Missouri Valley Conference champion Missouri State Bears, 6-5 winners Friday afternoon over the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Oral Roberts, the Summit League champion shut out for the first time this season, and Big 12 Tournament champion Oklahoma State were scheduled to meet in Saturday afternoon’s rain-delayed losers bracket game.
Stephan threw a four-hit shutout through 7.1 ,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.
Righthander 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 fly outs, 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 Nick Roark to send Stephan home a winner and Arkansas into the winner’s 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.
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.
Trevor 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.
“I thought it was a very well-pitched game by both teams,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “I thought Trevor Stephan and Miguel Ausua went at it. It reminded me of a Friday night SEC game where maybe one big hit or mistake made the difference. ORU (in caliber) that’s a SEC team there.”
ORU coach Ryan Folmar said the game lived up to its billing as the fourth-seeded Golden Eagles, 42-15, being up to the challenge but that, “Their guy (Stephan) was really good. I thought he was the difference in today’s game.”
The capacity crowd helped, too, Stephan said.
“It’s awesome,” Stephan said. “It gives you chills down your spine.”