Omaha, NE – The No. 5 Arkansas baseball team opened its 2018 College World Series with an 11-5 victory over Texas Sunday evening at TD Ameritrade Park. With the help of an eight-run sixth inning, the Razorbacks’ 11 runs were a program high for a College World Series game. Luke Bonfield hit Arkansas’ 95th home run of the year while Jared Gates and Heston Kjerstad each had three hits in the game.
With the win, Arkansas improves to 45-19 overall and advances in the winner’s bracket to face the winner of Florida-Texas Tech. The Razorbacks’ next game will be Tuesday, June 19 at 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPN.
The Big Inning
Texas broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the top of the fifth inning, but the Razorbacks answered immediately with two runs of their own in the home half of the frame. With Kjerstad on first, Bonfield drove a 1-1 offering from Texas starter Nolan Kingham into the seats in left-center for his ninth home run of the season. The two-run shot was Bonfield’s first home run since May 17 (Game 1 at Georgia) and the first home run of the 2018 College World Series.
The Big Inning: The Sequel
Arkansas padded its lead with eight runs in the sixth with the help of its first 10 hitters of the inning reaching safely. Two of the Razorbacks’ eight runs scored before a nearly three-hour weather delay. Overall, Arkansas sent 14 hitters to the plate and five different Razorbacks collected a hit including redshirt senior Carson Shaddy who tallied two singles and an RBI in the outburst. Kjerstad and sophomore Dominic Fletcher each had two-run singles in the inning.
With his effort at the plate, Gates is hitting .382 (13-for-34) since the start of the SEC Tournament with four multi-hit games including Sunday’s three-hit showing, his first of the year. He has at least one hit in eight of the last 10 games. Additionally, Gates has now scored at least one run in eight of the past 10 games, crossing the plate in 11 times in that span.
The Razorbacks’ offense combined for 15 hits, the most by the team since April 7 in a 17-hit outing against Auburn. Arkansas now has double-digit hits in six of seven NCAA Tournament games. Sunday also marked the team’s 17th game of the year with 10 or more runs, four of which have come in NCAA play.
In five innings of work Sunday, junior ace Blaine Knight allowed two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk. The Longhorns had runners at second and third with one out in the top of the fifth, but Knight limited the damage to just one run on a sacrifice fly before getting out of the jam with a strikeout. Knight is now 13-0 this season.
The win for Knight ties him with former Hogs Steve Krueger (1980) and Rich Erwin (1979) for the most wins in a season in school history.
Arkansas scored in the first inning for the 25th time this season and are now 22-3 when doing so. Junior Eric Cole led things off with a double to left center and came home to score on an RBI single by Kjerstad. The Razorbacks also move to 30-8 when scoring first this season.
We Have Weather
The game entered a weather delay in the bottom of the sixth inning after lightning was detected in the area. At the time of the delay, Arkansas had the bases loaded with no outs and Casey Martin due up. The delay lasted 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Sunday’s game marked the fifth College World Series meeting between Arkansas and Texas, and the first since the teams met in Omaha in 2004.
From the Head Coach
“I told the team after the game, the big swing of the day was Luke Bonfield. We went from down 2-1 to up 3-2 and it happened with two outs. That was the swing we were looking for to get us going a little bit. And then obviously we set up the big inning, had a couple of runs in, had a rain delay, and came out and really just did a nice job scoring some runs there in the sixth inning that gave us an opportunity to relax a little bit. So proud of the guys. They hung in there. They stayed focused for five or six hours.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on the win over Texas
“Heston all day. He was just a force at the plate. Tough out. Fouled off a lot of pitches, even his last at-bat. He struck out but I think he saw seven or eight pitches at a minimum. Casey didn't get off to a good start offensively. First couple of at-bats were frustrating for him. But he made that nice play, got up and threw the ball real accurate, threw it across the grass a little bit. But it was a perfect throw. And who knows, but it might have saved a really big inning there. He's been playing outstanding defense. Making all kinds of plays. He's a good player.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on the performances of Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin in their first College World Series game.
“Fastball command was average for me. I had the big breaker working a little bit. Slider was working and change-up a little bit as well. And did enough to keep them off the board and enough to keep them off the board enough for us to come back and get a win. And the 13-0 thing, I just chalk it up as another win for the team. And I'm just going to do what I can the next outing to get another win for this team and keep going.” – Blaine Knight on his day on the mound
“It's special. That's all you can say. The way they go about themselves is just special. They don't act like freshmen once they get on the field. They're very respectful off the field to the upperclassmen which you don't really see a lot with guys that are that good as freshmen, they're never scared. It's something I've never seen here. And it's pretty cool.” – Luke Bonfield on playing in the College World Series as a freshman in 2015 and as a senior in 2018