The University of Arkansas' trip down the Road to Omaha got off to a banner start on Friday night.
Jacob Julius got three early RBIs, Logan Forsythe touched off a 3-run homer and Duke Welker combined with Evan Cox to hurl a shutout as the Razorbacks blanked Albany 9-0 before 8,372 fans at Baum Stadium.
"It was great to get out and set the tone with a win," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We made a few baserunning mistakes their early on, but got some big hits, real good pitching and good defense over a team that we didn't know a lot about."
The opening-round win moved Arkansas (42-19) into a Saturday night battle at 6:37 p.m. with Oklahoma State (39-19), who downed Creighton 6-4 in the day's other game.
It is a rematch of last year's regional matchup when then top-seeded Oklahoma State won the battle.
"They're probably better than last year offensively," Van Horn said. "They put big numbers up and down the lineup. They're a solid team."
The Razorbacks had 11 hits while Welker and Cox - who piched the last three innings in relief - limited the Great Danes (29-28) to just three - the same amount of errors they had.
"I thought Welker commanded all of his pitches really well tonight and and threw with good velocity which we had trouble trying to hit," Albany head coach Jon Mueller said. "Our errors and their hitting early on got us behind the eight-ball and we were never able to mount a comeback."
Julius got Arkansas started with a RBI single that plated Forsythe in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead, but Casey Coon was gunned down at the plate.
Yet another runner was thrown out at the plate in the second, but Julius' double sent Coon and Danny Hamblin home in the third for a 3-0 advantage.
Van Horn made the decision earlier in the week to insert Julius in the lineup and put him behind Danny Hamblin in the sixth hole.
"It was a gut feeling," Van Horn said. "I wanted to get somebody in there behind Danny to hit and a little better runner in the lineup. He came through a couple of times."
Ben Tschepikow's RBI single in the fourth was followed by Forsythe's blast that brought home Tim Smalling and Jake Dugger for a 7-0 lead.
The shot off Forsythe's bat was actually in the glove of left fielder Mike Konstanty, whose wrist snapped as it hit the fence and the ball went on over for a homer.
"I didn't think it was gone at all, Forsythe said. "I was just trying to get it into the air in the outfield and get Jake home. I heard he kind of slam dunked it over the fence.
It became 9-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Wayne Hrozek and Dugger.
"We got outstanding pitching and solid defense with the field wet," Van Horn said. "We had a couple of baserunning mistakes, but overall it was a good game."
Welker tossed the first six innings, fanning seven and allowing just two hits and walking a trio.
Cox came on for the seventh, worked himself out of a bases-loaded jam and then breezed through the final two innings to finish up.
"Welker is one of the best pitchers I have faced," Van Horn said. "He pounded the corners with good velocity, but I wish I could face more pitchers like him," Albany third baseman Steve Wyland said.
Arkansas will have Jess Todd on the mound tonight with Nick Schmidt ready to go on Sunday.
Action will get underway Saturday at 2:37 p.m. with Creighton and Albany battling in an elimination game.
Logan Forsythe is greeted by his Arkansas teammates after his three-run homer boosted the Razorbacks ahead 7-0 in the fourth inning.
Jacob Julius races to second after his two-run double.
Pictures by Marc F. Hennig
Arkansas 9, Albany 0
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