FAYETTEVILLE – It was thought that the University of Arkansas had the best starting pitching staff in the NCAA Tournament's Fayetteville Regional.
Oklahoma State University's batters seemed very unimpressed.
The third-seeded Cowboys knocked UA starter Jess Todd out early and then Tyler Mach blasted a grand slam as OSU hammered top-seeded Arkansas 14-3 Saturday night before a Baum Stadium Regional record crowd of 9,572 fans.
"Obviously, we got outplayed in every aspect of the game tonight," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "They were able to get a lot of two-base hits and keep the pressure on us us throughout the game."
The loss knocked the Razorbacks (41-20) into a 2:37 p.m. elimination game Sunday afternoon against Creighton and thus they need three victories to advance to next week's Super Regional.
"If we win the first game tomorrow than we can start to look ahead," but for now, our only focus has to be on Creighton."
Oklahoma State (40-19) only needs to win a 6:37 game Sunday night against the Arkansas-Creighton winner or a Monday night if necessary game to take the title.
Ironically, Oklahoma State had lost six straight games coming into the tournament - including a 13-1 defeat at the hands of Missouri in its last Big 12 Conference Tournament outing.
"We had a team meeting when we got back from the Big 12 Tournament," Mach said. "This was an opportunity to turn it around in this tournament. It's the game of baseball. You go on winning streaks and losing streaks. We put that six-game losing streak behind us."
Arkansas, the visitor in its own park this night, got the scoring underway in the top of the first on a night when they be outhit 13-7 and commit three errors.
Ben Tschepikow led off with a double up the left-centerfield gap, moved to third on a wild pitch and then came home for a 1-0 win on Casey Coon's single.
Oklahoma State tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the frame when lead-off man Keanon Simon double, went to third on Corey Brown's single and plated on Ty Wright's RBI groundout.
Rebel Ridling's leadoff homer - his second in two games - in the bottom of the second pushed Oklahoma State ahead 2-1.
It grew to 3-1 later in the inning when Jody Mercer was hit by a pitch, moved up on a sacrifice and scored on Simon's two-out single.
Oklahoma State kept piling it on in the third when Wright was hit by a pitch, moved to second when Mark Margini's line drive hit the umpire and scored on Ridling's double.
Arkansas crowd lustily booed the play involving the umpire, but it was called right according to rule 6.F – which states that it is a dead ball and the hitter awarded a single if the ball hits an umpire and does not first hit a player.
Todd exited in the fourth after a leadoff walk to ninth-place hitter Dusty Harvard – the fourth straight inning he allowed the leadoff batter to reach.
"Jess' ball was not moving and diving like normal, but he seemed to have good velocity," Van Horn said. "They were able to get the first runner on every inning it seemed like...Once they got that lead they never let up."
It was shortest starting outing of the season for Todd, who came out of the bullpen early in the season.
He gave up five earned runs on six hits while striking out four.
"We knew Oklahoma State could hit, but we were confident in Jess to shut them down," Razorback catcher Brian Walker said. "You have to give them all the credit because even though he did not have his best stuff, they still hit one of the best pitchers in the country. "
Reliever Dallas Keuchel was in long enough to sandwich two walks around a fielder's choice before giving up Mach's grand slam that cleared the centerfield fence and a leaping Jake Dugger.
Pitcher Chris Rhodes did come in and pitched three innings in relief before yielding in the eight to Brian McClelland, but the Razorbacks could only add a couple of runs.
Those were on RBI groundouts in the fifth when Tschepikow and Forysthe both got runs home to cut it to 8-3.
Simon's seventh-inning, bases-loaded single knocked out Rhodes, made it 9-3 and brought in Chris Richards.
Richards promptly walked in a run and gave up a sacrifice fly, a two-run double by Mach and Magini's as Oklahoma State got it up to 14-3 with a sixth-run seventh.
Brian McClelland pitch the eighth for Arkansas and was the only Razorback hurler to escape unscored upon.
Joe Kent started for Oklahoma State and went four-plus inning while giving up the four runs while Justin Friend (6-3) got the win by finishing things out and not allowing a tally.
About the only thing that went wrong for the Cowboys was Wright's 35-game hitting streak coming to an end.
In the day's other game, Creighton eliminated Albany by the football score of 21-11 in a loser's bracket contest.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn argues his point with second base umpire Jim Garman during Saturday night's 14-3 loss to Oklahoma State.
Arkansas first baseman Danny Hamblin arrives at second as Oklahoma State shortstop Jordy Mercer makes a play.
Arkansas left fielder Casey Coon goes all out trying to make a play on Saturday night.
All pictures by Marc F. Henning
OSU 14, Arkansas 3
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