Arkansas deserved to lose Friday. The Razorbacks dodged several bullets before one found its mark in the 11th inning of a 4-3 loss against Oral Roberts in the NCAA Regional in front of 7,467 in Baum Stadium.
With the first-round loss, the Hogs (38-20) play Princeton (19-25-1) at 2 p.m. today in a loser's bracket elimination game. The fourth-seeded Tigers lost 4-1 to top-seeded Oklahoma State in Friday's opener.
There were several bone-head plays, mostly by freshmen middle infielders Matt Willard and James Ewing, that had the Hogs flirting with disaster in the late innings and led to their first three-game losing streak of the season.
The final nail in the coffin was hammered in by Ewing when he was unable to handle a grounder with one out in the 11th inning. That run would end up scoring when Kelly Minissale bounced a two-out single up the middle that tipped Hogs reliever Charley Boyce's glove before rolling into center field.
Boyce (3-3) immediately pounded his right fist in his glove as he knew that if he could have snagged the ball, the inning would have been over.
"You've got to get the job done at the right time," said Hogs first baseman Danny Hamblin. "If a ball game goes 11 innings, then those things hurt you."
Ewing's 11th-inning error was just the last in a string of late miscues.
The Hogs possibly could have taken their first and only lead of the game in the seventh inning had Ewing not attempted to advance from second to an uncovered third base on a sacrifice fly by David Hum that tied the score at 3-all. Ewing was beat to the bag by third baseman Carter McQuigg, who caught the relay throw from left, to end the inning.
"I know what he was thinking," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "He looked up and saw that third base was unoccupied ... He thought he could beat him there, but he's not that fast."
Willard's offensive blunder came with one out in the eighth when he tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance Brian Walker from first to second. Instead, he bunted back to reliever Sean Jarrett, who had plenty of time to throw to second to put out the lead runner and prevent the Hogs from scoring in the inning.
Both made routine plays look difficult in the ninth. Willard started the inning by airmailing Hamblin with a throw after picking up a soft grounder by Brendan Duffy that was ruled a hit.
A pair of walks -- one intentional -- by Devin Collis then loaded the bases with one out. After Collis struck out Chad Rothford, Ewing provided some drama by one-hopping a short throw to first that Hamblin fortunately scooped up to end the threat.
Jarrett (7-1), who struck out six in three scoreless innings to beat the Razorbacks 5-4 on May 2, gave Arkansas fits again with his sharp breaking ball and running fastball. He mowed the Hogs down in order in the bottom of the 11th and retired 13 of the final 15 batters after coming on in relief in the seventh inning.
UA starter Nick Schmidt gave up a season-high 10 hits while striking out 10 while ORU starter Nick Jones matched him pitch for pitch by allowing two runs on six hits through five innings
Arkansas found itself playing from behind from the opening inning as Oral Roberts used a couple of doubles by Tim Torres and Andy Bouchie to take a 1-0 lead in the first.
The Golden Eagles would never trail although the Razorbacks did tie the score three times.
In the third, Ewing followed back-to-back singles by Craig Gentry and Clint Arnold with an RBI single to left that evened the score at 1-all.
Then after ORU regained a 2-1 lead when Andy Bouchie grounded into a run-scoring double play in the top of the fifth, the Hogs answered in the bottom of the inning with Hamblin's team-leading 17th homer, a solo shot to left center, that tied the score at 2-all.
A freakish play helped ORU break the tie in the sixth. With a runner on second, Brian Aguailar lifted a deep fly ball to the warning track that right fielder Jake Dugger nearly corralled before dropping it with a diving, over-the shoulder catch attempt.
As Dugger held up the ball to signal that he caught it (even though he didn't), Minissale alertly raced around third and into score to give ORU a 3-2 advantage.
With one out and the bases loaded in the seventh, Hum hit a sacrifice fly to left to score pinch runner Stephen Robison from third at even the score at 3-all.
11th Inning Heartbreak
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