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NCAA BASEBALL

Arkansas knock the wind out of Stanford

In a College World Series marked by upsets, Arkansas have stuck to the script and knocked Stanford onto their backs with a clinical showing in Omaha

Update:
In a College World Series marked by upsets, Arkansas have stuck to the script and knocked Stanford onto their backs with a clinical showing in Omaha
Wesley HittGetty

For those of you who are busy pinching themselves, wondering if somehow we had slipped into an alternate dimension, it appears that we have not. This would appear to simply be the trajectory of NCAA baseball in 2022.

Every underdog so far has come up trumps. To be fair, Arkansas were only the underdog on paper. Nobody in the hogs’ dugout thought that they couldn’t win, and for that matter, nobody in Stanford’s dugout thought that their victory was a done deal.

Still, the Cardinal are the second seeded team in the College World Series. They came through their regional and super regional, in a year of upsets, seeming to be blessed. It was not unreasonable to expect them to deal with the Razorbacks handily.

For the first five innings, that looked to be the way that it would play out. Arkansas struck first with a triple by Braydon Webb in the top of the first paying dividends when Brady Slavens hit a sac fly deep into left field, allowing the tag and scored run.

Unfazed as ever, Stanford responded immediately with a solo shot in the bottom of the first by Brock Jones, and that is where the game remained for four more innings.

And then Arkansas shook the chains and started off an unstoppable run of scoring. It started with a three-run blast by Chris Lanzilli to crack open the runs, before another pair of singles and a walk brought in run number five.

The seventh inning brought more get-em-on, move-em-over, knock-em-in play to cross three more men over the plate. The eighth was the same story, a walk, a double, and a single to score two more.

Through all of this, the Razorbacks put up eleven runs with only one long ball. They played the hand that was dealt them, and often that meant taking a walk, poking a single through coverage, or sacrificing a man over 90 feet.

Finally, the Cardinal mounted a response in kind, playing the pitch and earning a walk and a single, to get men into position for the double by Carter Graham and bringing a run home. Unfortunately, that was all they cold muster and the ninth inning saw Arkansas and Cayden Wallace pile another two-run shot onto the pile.

Sticking with what brought them to the show, the Razorbacks continued putting balls into play, sacrificing them over, and then poking a single through the infield to bring runs across the plate. By the time Stanford was able to get out of the inning, Arkansas had stretched the lead to 17-2.

The bottom of the ninth saw a play that simply encapsulated the Cardinal’s day. Joe Lomuscio slapped one straight back up the middle, shading the third base side of the bag at second. Robert Moore was playing straight up second and fielded the ball on a dead run, moving toward left, pivoting and throwing a bullet to first base. The ball was dug out in a spectacular play by Dominic Ficociello. It was a bang-bang play, could have gone either way, but the on-field call was out. A review confirmed the call.

Stanford’s entire day was a mix of poor plays and balls falling when they shouldn’t, calls going the other way, and a lack of hitting. Arkansas could do no wrong and it was simply their day. In the end, it was Arkansas 17, Stanford 2.

What separates baseball from other sports is that you can’t begin to feel confident in your performance, because no matter which end of a blowout you are on, you have to play again the next day.

So far in the post season, Stanford are 5-0 in elimination games. They can’t afford to dwell on this one too long. They need to make it 6-0 if they want to stay in the hunt.

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