STILLWATER, Okla. – Arkansas scored eight runs in the top of the eighth inning to complete a rally from down five runs, and the Razorbacks shocked Oklahoma State with a wild 20-12 victory Saturday night at O’Brate Stadium.
Arkansas (40-19) advanced to the championship of the NCAA Stillwater Regional, where it will play Oklahoma State or Missouri State on Sunday at 6 pm The Razorbacks have two chances to record one victory that would send them to the super regional round.
Oklahoma State (40-21) will play Missouri State (31-28) in an elimination game Sunday at noon. Either of those teams must win three games in two days to win the regional.
Missouri State saved its season by rallying from a six-run deficit in the final two innings to defeat Grand Canyon 8-7 earlier in the day.
Arkansas tied a season high with seven home runs, including a grand slam by shortstop Jalen Battles on the first pitch from reliever Trevor Martin to punctuate the top of the eighth inning, which saw the Razorbacks go from a 10-8 deficit to a 16- 10 lead.
Battles’ home run sent many orange-clad OSU fans to the exits as hundreds in red called the Hogs.
Before Battles came to the plate, Arkansas put seven runners on base with just one hit, a leadoff single by Peyton Stovall.
Zack Gregory and Braydon Webb were hit by pitches before OSU reliever Roman Phansalkar was replaced by closer Nolan McLean, the Cowboys’ third baseman. McLean struck out Brady Slavens for the first out, but walked Cayden Wallace and Michael Turner in consecutive at-bats to tie the game 10-10.
McLean then hit Chris Lanzilli with a pitch to give the Razorbacks the lead, 11-10. Robert Moore also drew a bases-loaded walk to force home another run and another pitching change, from McLean to Martin.
Arkansas tacked on four more runs in the ninth inning. Lanzilli hit a three-run home run – the 50th of his career – before Moore scored on a two-out RBI single by Stovall.
The Razorbacks’ 20 runs tied for their second most in an NCAA postseason game, one shy of the record of 21 runs scored in a super regional victory over North Carolina State last year.
Arkansas trailed Oklahoma State by five runs on multiple occasions, including 10-5 after the Cowboys scored three runs against relievers Zack Morris and Kole Ramage in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Razorbacks cut OSU’s lead to 10-8 in the top of the seventh on a pair of two-out-home runs by Turner and Moore.
After Jake Thompson led off the bottom of the seventh with a double against Zebulon Vermillion, Arkansas called on its closer, Brady Tygart, to keep the game close. Tygart walked a pair of batters to load the bases, but Chase Adkison grounded out to Moore at second base to strand the bases loaded.
The Cowboys scored twice against Tygart in the bottom of the eighth. Caeden Trenkle walked and Zach Ehrhard was hit by a pitch before Brett Brown scored both with a two-out single.
Will McEntire replaced Tygart and induced an inning-ending flyout from David Mendham. McEntire retired all four hitters he faced to close the game.
Arkansas played from behind for most of the game after the Cowboys scored five runs in the bottom of the third to take a 7-2 lead.
McLean socked a two-run home run to left-center field against reliever Evan Taylor to give the Cowboys a 4-2 lead. Taylor allowed two more base runners before he was replaced by Morris with one out in the inning. Morris hung his first pitch to Roc Riggio, who drove the breaking ball over the right-field fence to put OSU ahead 7-2.
Arkansas made its first comeback bid in the middle innings. Wallace led off the fourth inning with the Razorbacks ‘third home run of the game, and Turner’s two-run single in the fifth cut the Cowboys’ lead to 7-5.
Turner, Lanzilli, Moore and Battles all had 4 RBI for the Razorbacks.
It appeared Arkansas would cut further into the lead in the sixth after Battles singled and Stovall was hit by a pitch in consecutive one-out at-bats. With runners on the corners, Webb drove a two-out liner that was caught on a running dive by the center fielder Trenkle to rob the Razorbacks of at least one run.
Arkansas fared well against OSU’s All-America right hander Justin Campbell, who allowed 5 runs and 7 hits in 5 innings. But the Razorbacks did not get a good start from freshman left hander Hagen Smith, whose 1 1/3-inning start was his shortest of the year.
Smith labored through a 38-pitch first inning that ended when Marcus Brown hit into a fielder’s choice at third base with the bases loaded.
Smith was taken out after 46 pitches, 22 of which were strikes.
Slavens and Moore hit one-out solo home runs in the first and second innings to give Arkansas the lead.
OSU answered both runs in the bottom of the inning. Riggio walked, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by the third baseman Wallace to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the first.
Riggio doubled against Taylor in the second inning to score Adkison, who led off with a walk against Smith.