Walker Unstoppable On Final Day
His swing, simply put, was all over the place.
"(Friday) night, it was real shaky," Walker said. "(Saturday) night, there was a lot of movement. So, I just tried to simple it up (Sunday) — stand up, see the ball and just be real quiet."
That one alteration changed everything. Walker recorded hits in his first six at-bats Sunday. He finished 7-for-8 in Arkansas' two NCAA Fayetteville Regional games — a 6-0 victory over Creighton and a 7-6 loss to Oklahoma State. And he nearly kept the Razorbacks' season alive with his suddenly-improved approach.
Before Sunday's first game, Walker had just two hits in his previous 20 at-bats.
But against Creighton, the junior catcher from Tulsa, Okla., blasted a pair of home runs at Baum Stadium, his 10th and 11th this season. It was Walker's first multi-homer game this season and the third of his career. Walker drilled two homers at Southwest Missouri State on April 19, 2005, and homered twice against Auburn in Fayetteville on May 20, 2006.
Walker's first hit in the first game was a third-inning single. In the fifth, Walker smacked a fastball from Creighton starter Ben Mancuso to deep right-center field. The ball just cleared the fence, a few feet to the right of the 400-foot sign.
His next at-bat, the first for Creighton ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte, produced the same result. Walker hit a towering homer to right field on a sweeping slider from Venditte. Walker finished his four-hit game with a slicing double down the left-field line.
In Sunday night's game, he had a single and two doubles, the last two-base hit coming during Arkansas' eighth-inning rally. In just one day's time, Walker raised his batting average 32 points.
"Brian had an unbelievable day offensively," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He just was centering up ball after ball. He absolutely crushed the baseball."
Fritsche In Relief
Still in Oklahoma State black and orange attire, pitcher and Scranton native Josh Fritsche, couldn't stop smiling after turning in his best performance this season.
"It means more this year to me, to be able to knock out (Arkansas) again, because I had more family here," Fritsche said. "I'm still in my jersey, and I'm still pumped."
Fritsche entered the game with one out in the fourth inning, making his 17th appearance, in relief of Cowboys starter Jeff Breedlove. The 6-foot left-hander thoroughly dominated in 3 2/3 innings.
Breedlove had given up two runs in the fourth, putting Arkansas up 4-3, when Fritsche came in. He escaped further trouble by getting Jake Dugger to fly out and Ben Tschepikow to ground out.
The only hit Fritsche allowed was a two-out double by Danny Hamblin in the fifth. He struck out a season-high five and walked just one in his longest stint this season.
He came out after finishing the seventh, even though left-handed hitting Jeff Nutt was set to lead off the eighth
"I talked to Josh, and he was honest," Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson said. "He said ‘I'm about done.'"
Fritsche simply trusted right-handed reliever Jordy Miller.
"I hadn't gone more than three innings in a long while, and I knew Jordy was chomping at the bit to get out there," Fritsche said. "I have so much faith in him, and that's what I told (Coach Anderson)."
Knight Sets HBP Record
Creighton center fielder Robbie Knight was hit by a pitch twice Sunday afternoon, giving him 35 this season and allowing him to break the NCAA single-season record.
Arkansas starter Nick Schmidt plunked Knight, Creighton's leadoff batter, in the bottom of the first inning. It was the 11th time Knight was hit to start a game. Knight was forced out at second and received a loud ovation as he retreated to the Bluejays dugout.
Schmidt hit Knight, an Omaha native, again in the fifth, marking Knight's 7th multi-plunk game this season. Richmond's Andrew Slater held the previous record. He was hit 33 times in 1997.
Oklahoma State assistant coach Craig Evans was ejected for arguing with umpires, stemming from a ruling on a bat used by second baseman Tyler Mach. The umpires deemed the bat was too flat in a certain area and ordered it pulled from play. "We took it too far," Anderson said. "And he deserved (to be ejected)." ... Walker's two home runs put Arkansas' season-total at 75, which ranks third on the school's all-time list behind the 1999 and 1997 teams. ... Sunday's first game drew a crowd of 6,848. The second game drew 8,128 fans.
P—Oliver Odle, Oklahoma State; Nick Schmidt, Arkansas
C—Brian Walker, Arkansas
1B—Rebel Ridling, Oklahoma State
2B—Tyler Mach, Oklahoma State
SS—Chad Ogden, Creighton
3B—Steve Winkelman, Creighton
OF—Ty Wright, Keanon Simon, Corey Brown, Oklahoma State
DH—Brett Mieras, Creighton
Most Outstanding Player—Ridling
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