Razorbacks swat Texas, set to face Red Raiders

Old-home week continues for the Arkansas Razorbacks at 6 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN 11 a.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 when the Hogs get a crack at their second former Southwest Conference foe Texas Tech in the winner’s bracket of pool play in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

The Red Raiders topped defending national champion Florida, 6-3, Sunday night, after the Razorbacks pounded the Texas Longhorns, 11-5, in a game that included a two-hour and 49-minute rain delay in the sixth inning.

The Longhorns (42-22) face the Gators (47-20) in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

In the other side of the bracket, Pac 12 foes Oregon State (49-11) and Washington (35-25) play a 1 p.m. elimination game today, while North Carolina (44-18) and Mississippi State (38-27) play in the winner’s bracket at 6 p.m.

The Razorbacks (45-19) defeated the Red Raiders (45-18) in the regular season, 5-1, on April 24 at Baum Stadium in what proved to the Hogs’ final non-conference game of the regular season. The two were scheduled to play again on April 25, but the game was canceled for inclement weather.

Arkansas’ victory over the Longhorns Sunday played out like so many other of the Razorbacks’ games this season. The game was extremely tight in the early going before the Hogs broke the game open with a big inning.

The Hogs led 1-0 after the first, but Texas carried a 2-1 lead into the fifth when Arkansas designated hitter Luke Bonfield swatted the first home run of this year’s CWS to center field, driving in left fielder Heston Kjerstad, who beat out a grounder to first. The homer was the Razorbacks’ 95 of the year, setting a new school record.

Kjerstad ran through first base and turned to the right, preserving his right to the bag, but when Texas worked to throw him out just in case, the 6-3, 203-pound freshman rushed back to first, plowing over a Longhorn. Texas stud second baseman Cody Clemons approached Kjerstad fussing and sneering, but cooler heads prevailed.

Following the game, Kjrestad, who went 3 for 5, said he raised his arms just to protect himself in the collision, but even if the contact was unintentional, a clear message was sent that this bunch of Razorbacks weren’t going to roll over against the Longhorns or any Texas mystique conjured up from the past.

If there were any bully boys on the field Sunday, they were wearing Cardinal red, not burnt orange. Bonfield’s homer drove the message home for a 3-2 lead, but Arkansas made it abundantly clear in the sixth when the Hogs rolled up eight runs in the rain-delayed inning.

The Razorbacks scored two before the nearly three-hour rain delay, but they returned to the field with the bases loaded and no outs.

It wasn’t a surprise that Texas pulled its ace Nolan Kingham after the long delay, but when Longhorn coach David Pierce put Chase Shugart, his second-best pitcher if not his co-ace, on the mound when the game resumed, it showed just how desperate the Longhorns were to cut off the Hogs’ water.

The ploy didn’t work. The Hogs worked the Steers over for six more runs in the inning, and coasted for a 11-5 victory. Arkansas chased Shugart after he gave up three runs on 2 hits.

Shugart didn’t work long, but Longhorns fans have to be scratching their heads about Pierce using so much of his front-line pitching in a non-elimination game and still losing.

How impressive was the Razorbacks’ thumping of Texas?

The Hogs branded the Steers with 15 hits for 11 runs. In six Regional and Super Regional games, the Longhorns had yielded only 14 runs total.

In the sixth-inning outburst, the first 10 Razorback hitters reached base, and 14 Hogs went to the plate in all with five different Hogs getting a hit. Second baseman Carson Shaddy had two singles and an RBI in the inning, while Kjerstad and Dominic Fletcher each belted two-run singles.

Like Kjerstad, first baseman Jared Gates went 2 for 5 in the game, staying on his torrid postseason hitting spree. Since the start of the SEC Tournament, the senior is hitting .382 with four multi-hit games.

Arkansas starter Blaine Knight went five innings to collect the victory, running his record to 13-0 on the season, which ties him with former Razorbacks Steve Krugeger (1980) and Rich Erwin (1979) for the most wins in a season.

Knight didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled to leave the Hogs and middle reliever Barrett Loseke in a good spot. Loseke pitched before and after the delay, but Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn also called Kole Ramage, Bryce Bonnin, and Cody Scoggins to finish off the Longhorns. None of the relievers threw more than 38 pitches, while Knight capped out at 81.

The Razorbacks’ pitching staff is in solid shape for the showdown with Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders’ offense is as potent and defense is tough. You have to respect any team that can take down top-seeded Florida.

But anyway you slice it up, it was an impressive first game by the Razorbacks in the College World Series, and for longtime Hog fans, there is nothing sweeter — short of a championship — than whipping Texas on a national stage.