Brady's grand blast, Boyce's grit spark UA wins

Brady Toops provides one of the most exciting moments in University of Arkansas sports history and Charley Boyce then pulls out one of the UA baseball program's guttiest pitching performances to lift the Razorbacks to two wins over Wichita St. and into a NCAA Super Regional date with Florida State.

Just when it looked like all hope was lost, Brady Toops caught magic in the sweet part of his bat and served up one of the greatest all-time moments in University of Arkansas sports history.

With the Razorbacks down to their final out and trailing by a pair of runs, Toops delivered a dramatic, ninth-inning grand slam to spark his team to a 11-9 win over Wichita State Sunday afternoon and set off pandemonium at Baum Stadium.

The blast capped a five-run ninth-inning rally and gave Arkansas a chance to win its NCAA Regional, something they did around four hours later.

The Razorbacks did so when pitcher and Regional MVP Charley Boyce, who went 6 2/3 innings on Saturday and came back with 7 2/3 innings on Sunday, threw his 203rd and last pitch in two days as the UA completed a unforgettable day with a 4-3 win before a frenzied crowd of 8,178 fans.

"This series was just typical of what has been a miracle season so far," Toops said . "It's been absolutely incredible. We have just defied the odds and we still have another weekend to play and who knows what is going to happen."

Arkansas (43-22) will host Florida State (45-21) Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary) this weekend in a NCAA Super Regional at Baum Stadium with times to be announced Monday.

The Super Regionals are best 2-of-3 events with the winner advancing on to the College World Series in Omaha.

"We just have a bunch of gritty guys that want to play, that want to pitch, they'll do whatever it takes to help the team," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "This is how we fought through the league, this is the way we hung around the league and we didn't do anything different than we been doing all year and that's just trying to do everything we can do to win the game.

"...This is one of the best teams - as far as being a team - that I have ever coached," Van Horn added later. "I mean I have never seen anything like it."

After a weekend in which 38,773 attended the seven games of the Regional, both coaches were left amazed by the fans.

"I just can't say enough about the fans," Van Horn said. "They were just unbelievable."

Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson was also marveling at the atmosphere.

"It was pretty difficult in this environment," Stephenson said. "This is a tough place to win for an outside team. Tremendous crowds and great games. I have been to every place in the country and I don't think it is harder anywhere for an outside team to come in and win than here because of the way the crowd is."

Stephenson was openly critical of Van Horn's decision to throw Boyce so many innings in the final two days. He entered in the second inning in relief of Daryl Maday, who got the last five outs of the first game to pick up the win.

"We are two very different types of programs," Stephenson said. "We would never pitch a guy like that under any circumstances for any victory. I don't care if it is a national championship."

However, Stephenson did let his Friday starter Mike Pelphrey throw 142 pitches in his nine-inning stint on Friday, a 3-0 win over Missouri.

Van Horn responded with a response that basically suggested that he'll coach his team, not anybody else.

"Charley is a 4.0 student and he knows when it is time to come out," Van Horn said. "It was a hot, humid day and he wanted the ball. Charley is not going to pitch summer ball - he is taking the summer off. If we didn't win, he has got three months to recover. We are not going to pitch him much in the fall, we know what he can do. If he felt like there was an issue he would have let us know.

"...It's a tough call, but would I do it again? Yes," Van Horn said. "This is our team and that's the way we have played all year. I'm okay with it. He can say whatever he wants."

Boyce, who started his day by running five miles and then getting a massage, said he made the decision on staying in and didn't really care how anybody else felt about it on a day when his fastball was topping out at 84 miles per hour.

"They kept coming up to me after every inning and asking me how I was feeling," Boyce said. "I told (Arkansas pitching) Coach (Dave) Jorn that I hadn't come this far to come out now."

None of that little bickering could take away from the day, especially what will become a legendary blast by Toops, who had just hit three home runs in 200 previous at-bats this season.

Haas Pratt's RBI infield single got it to 9-7 before Toops stepped up and stepped into one that just cleared the reach of Wichita State left fielder Phil Napolitan.

"I swung and got lucky," Toops said. "I knew when that when I hit it I had got it on the fat part of the bat and I got it up high enough, but I didn't know it was gone until right after second base. I didn't have a clue. I saw the outfielder jump and then saw him on the ground and he wasn't getting up so I kind of figured it had gone over."

Toops and Van Horn tried to jump and high five as he rounded third.

"I looked over and Coach Van Horn was going crazy," Toops said. "Our celebration needs a little work."

Van Horn was just overjoyed with his catcher's clutch hit.

"It was the biggest hit I have been around in a long time," Van Horn said. "The only way it probably could have been bigger is maybe to win the national championship or win the game to go to Omaha. That was our last out of the year. We are just about ready to pack it up and meet the kids."

Instead the Razorbacks lived to play another game and jumped ahead 1-0 in the opening inning of the winner-take-all nightcap, but Wichita State got up off the deck after admittedly being in a state of shock in between games because of Toops' homer.

"I'm glad we didn't start 30 minutes after that previous inning because we might not have been awake the first four innings because we still didn't know what hit us and what happened, but we got refocused," Wichita slugger Logan Sorenson said.

Nick McCoola's two run homer put Wichita up 2-1 and the Shockers extended that to 3-1 on Brandon Green's RBI single.

But seldom-used Bubbs Merrill, starting at second base, homer ed to cut that deficit in half in the fifth and Arkansas then tied it 3-3 later in that frame when Jake Dugger walked, moved up on a balk and scored on an error.

It stayed that way until the eighth when Haas Pratt led off with a single, pinch runner Scott Bridges moved up on a bunt and raced to third when a pickoff went wild. He then scored on Wichita State's sixth error of the game.

"This team of ours played their hearts out," Stephenson said. "I am proud of them in every way. They never quit the entire season at any given time. Arkansas is a tremendously competitive team. They don't make a whole lot of mistakes and that is a great credit to the coaching staff...I don't think they are a great team necessarily, but they play well together."

Because they do, the Razorbacks were the ones doing the dog pile at the pitcher's mound rather than Wichita State and living to play another day.

"I feel great about it," Van Horn said. "It's just a wonderful, wonderful feeling."


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