Arkansas lives to play another day

Arkansas gives itself a chance to win its NCAA Regional on Sunday because it rebounds from a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Wichita State Saturday afternoon by eliminating Missouri 10-7 late Saturday night.

Because one of Fayetteville's own helped lead a 15-hit barrage, the University of Arkansas will be around on the final day of the NCAA Regional at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Former Fayetteville High star and current Razorback freshman Blake Parker joined teammates Clay Goodwin and Haas Pratt in getting three hits each and senior pitcher Jay Sawatski gutted out six innings as the top-seeded Razorbacks bested Missouri 10-7 late Saturday night in an elimination game.

That game began just 64 minutes after Wichita State stunned Arkansas 4-3 in 11 innings on Danny Moffitt's game-winning homer, but the Razorbacks came out in a fighting mood instead of hanging their head.

"We just came back out and said if we go down we are going to do swinging, running and sliding and making plays," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We were not going to go quietly and we didn't and live to play another day."

The win set up a Sunday afternoon matchup between the Razorbacks (41-22) and the Wheatshockers (49-14) with Arkansas having to win that game to force a winner-take-all battle at 6:30 in Sunday night.

"We are just going to go out there and see what we can get done," Van Horn said. "This team has risen to the occasion and it's going to be a tough challenge, but I think our guys will be up to it."

Parker, who raised his average from 28 points from .293 to .321 during the day, was 4-of-5 in the two games and made a big impact against Missouri when he moved into the clean up spot and the struggling Scott Hode moved down a couple of spots.

His RBI single plated Goodwin and put Arkansas up 1-0 and another single sparked what proved to be a three-run Razorback rally in the fourth before a crowd of 5,354 fans.

Danny Hamblin's RBI double chased home Parker and then Brady Toops and Hode both got run-scoring bunts down later in the fourth to send the Razorbacks ahead 4-1.

Goodwin's double started the Razorback fifth and Pratt, Hamblin and Hode all added RBI singles as Arkansas zoomed ahead 7-1.

For Hode and Toops, the earlier bunts may have actually gotten them out of skids they had fallen into in the tournament.

"It was great to do something to get a run home (with the bunt) and then that hit kind of got the weight off of my shoulders," Hode said.

Arkansas then put the game away - at least it appeared - with a three-run eighth that included RBI singles by Goodwin and Pratt sandwiched around an run-scoring sacrifice fly by Parker.

"He(Parker) and the whole team really got some great swings," Van Horn said. "Hopefully we can keep it going. We needed one of these games."

Missouri, the home team in this game, actually scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth against seldom-used Razorback pitcher James Gilbert, who had only pitched four innings this season before Saturday.

The loss ended the season for Missouri (38-23-1), who had eliminated Le Moyne 11-3 in Saturday's first game.

In game two, it looked like Arkansas might record yet another one of its fantastic rallies when the Razorbacks began to battle back from a 3-0 deficit on Jake Dugger's two-run single that cut it to 3-2 in the seventh.

Bubbs Merrill's two-out RBI single in the eight then tied it 3-3 when it chased home Goodwin.

The Razorbacks, playing before a roaring crowd of 6,834, then threatened to win it in the ninth when freshmen Stephen Robinson singled and moved up on to second on Dugger's sacrifice bunt.

But Robinson was gunned down while trying to take third on a ball that got away a short distance from the catcher.

"I can ‘t blame him for being aggressive," Van Horn said. "That has been our style the whole year. He hesitated for just a second."

A scoreless 10th inning then led to Moffitt smashing a line-drive homer off relief pitcher Trey Holloway, who pitched 3 2/3 innings of relief behind starter Charley Boyce.

That run held up as the game-winner when Tommy Hotvoy closed out the Razorbacks by finishing up 4 1/3 innings in relief of starter Kris Johnson and putting his team in the driver's seat on Sunday.

Van Horn was quick to try to take some pressure off his team and it seemed to work as the team relaxed and played well against Missouri instead of going out in the nightcap as Arkansas did last time it hosted a regional in 1999.

"I told them it was more fun to win it in five games than in three anyway," Van Horn said. "I told them to let's just go back to the season and where we've we have been....We've been here before. It's nothing new. If we come back and win this tournament then we will come back on Monday and smile on it. This is a team that finds a way."

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