WACO, Texas - Either Arkansas or Baylor are hours from punching their ticket to the College World Series.
The Razorbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday to stun the home crowd at Baylor Ballpark and force Game 3. Arkansas actually out-hit the Bears in the win, but won when two of its batters were hit with the bases loaded.
Arkansas' pitching depth could be tested Monday against the Bears, which entered the series with a .327 team batting average at home and flexed their bats with three home runs in an 8-1 win on Saturday.
Junior left-hander Randall Fant will get the start for the Razorbacks. Fant, a 29th round MLB Draft pick last week, has been up-and-down at Arkansas, but has remained the team's No. 3 starter for most of the season because of his success early in games and a deep pool of relievers.
If the Razorbacks can get three to four solid innings from the southpaw, it should be considered a successful outing. Fant won't blow you away with his velocity, but he does possess an above-average curve ball that routinely fools batters the first time through the order.
Off-speed pitchers often rack up strikeouts against free-swinging teams, but that might not be the case against Baylor. The Bears as patient at the plate as any team the Razorbacks have faced all season.
Past Fant, Arkansas has a pair of right-handers not used to this point in the series - Colby Suggs and Nolan Sanburn. Both are flame-throwers, but Baylor hits fastballs well. Still, both have shown composure in pressure situations at times throughout the season and both could preserve a lead.
To have so many pitchers still available further proves the depth of the Razorbacks' bullpen. Arkansas' Saturday and Sunday starters, DJ Baxendale and Ryne Stanek, only lasted four innings each and the Razorbacks were forced to use three relievers in the Game 2 win.
Baylor, on the other hand, has had brilliant performances from its starters, who have pitched a combined 15 innings through the first two games. Senior right-hander Tyler Bremer (7-1, 3.08 earned run average) will get the start on the mound Monday.
Between Arkansas' depth and the Bears' need, both bullpens should be ready. Don't be surprised if starters from the first two games are called upon, either.
Offensively, Arkansas will have to get better production from the bottom of its batting order. Tim Carver, Joe Serrano, Matt Reynolds and Dominic Ficociello reached combined to reach base seven times on Sunday in the 1 through 4 holes, but the other five combined to reach just once until the ninth inning.
The Razorbacks jumped to a quick lead on Sunday and could use more of the same in Game 3. Baylor Ballpark was as quiet as you'll hear 5,038 fans by the end of Game 2 as the momentum clearly swung to Arkansas' dugout.
After being so close Sunday, a quick deficit could fill the home team with doubt. Based on the same result, the road team is already full of hope.
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