NORMAN, Okla. — They already had smacked 13 hits and scored 10 runs off Oklahoma pitchers Saturday night at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Arkansas Razorbacks needed only five innings to put up those gaudy numbers, but they went on to crush the top-seeded Sooners 17-6 because of what followed. OU finally energized its fans that comprised the Norman Regional crowd of 3,064 with a five-run sixth, drawing within 10-6.
But the Hogs quickly halted the Sooners' rally, responding with three runs and giving their boisterous fans ample reasons to call the Hogs again and again.
"I think the momentum had definitely swung to their side of the field, in their dugout, with their fans," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "And we had to answer. Even if it was only one run, we had to score. It was big to punch in three."
Arkansas' sixth-inning retort merely capped an offensive outburst that landed the second-seeded Razorbacks in tonight's 7 p.m. game against today's Oklahoma-Washington State winner. The Hogs need only one victory tonight or Monday night to advance to their first Super Regional since 2004, and they'll surely exude confidence as they try.
After all, Saturday's hitting exhibition was a team effort. The Razorbacks (36-22) matched their season high in hits (17) by the sixth inning, snapped it on Andrew Darr's eighth-inning single and finished with 20.
The Razorbacks scored in six different innings for the first time since March 4, and eight of Arkansas' nine starters recorded at least one hit. Four players — Ben Tschepikow, Andy Wilkins, Scott Lyons and James McCann — had at least three hits, the first such occurrance this season for the Razorbacks.
"This was probably a couple months of frustration coming out at the right time," Van Horn said.
The Razorbacks scored early and often — four runs in the first, two in the third, one in the fourth and three in the fifth. Wilkins said Arkansas' nine-run eighth against Washington State on Friday "carried over," but the Hogs still needed more to put Oklahoma away.
OU tallied its five runs in the top of the sixth, seemingly out of nowhere, all after Arkansas starter Brett Eibner retired its first two hitters. But two developments kept the Sooners from creeping closer.
First, a stellar defensive play by Tschepikow got Arkansas and reliever Mike Bolsinger out of the sixth.
Tschepikow moved fast to his left, snagged Bryant Hernandez's hard grounder and threw strongly to first for the out. If the ball squirted past Tschepikow, OU would've cut Arkansas' lead to 10-8.
Van Horn called Tschepikow's play "the play of the game."
"He hit it hard up the middle and I got a good break on it," Tschepikow said. "It had been kind of a long inning. So in that situation, when pitchers are working (hard) to make a pitch, you want to work (hard) to make a play for them."
Arkansas then followed with its three-run sixth.
Bo Bigham tripled to lead off the inning and pinch hitter Jacob House singled him in with a hard liner up the middle. Arkansas then got another single from McCann, his third hit of the night, and Tschepikow came through two batters later with a two-run double to make it 13-6.
"Top to bottom, one through nine, we did a great job offensively," Van Horn said. "We got a lot of two-out hits, two-out RBIs."
Arkansas 17, Oklahoma 6
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