Andy Wilkins and Zack Cox combined for a pair of homers and 8 RBIs as Arkansas downed Cal-State Fullerton 10-6 before 23,549 at Rosenblatt Stadium in the opening game of the College World Series.
The Razorbacks – who have now won all six of their postseason games - scored 9 of those 10 runs with two outs, including 5 that came on just three pitches in the fifth.
"I am just really proud of the team," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I thought they came out and played hard obviously, but they seemed really comfortable to me. They didn't seem nervous. They played like they had been here before and obviously they hadn't. They just kind of picked it up where we had left off the last couple of weekends - just playing hard and coming up with big hits, making good pitches and really just giving ourselves a chance early in the game to get comfortable."
It was Van Horn's first win in the CWS after six straight losses, including four when he was head coach at Nebraska and an 0-2 stint in the Razorbacks' last appearance here in 2004.
"It's really not about me," Van Horn said. "I mean obviously I am glad that is over with - now I have a College World Series winning percentage. But I just wanted the win, for these guys to win and get to stay here. I've been a part of two-and-outs and it's no fun."
Arkansas (40-22) - in its sixth-ever trip to the CWS - will have Sunday off and will play Monday at 6 p.m. against LSU, who beat Virginia 9-5 on Saturday's second game. They will no doubt play before thousands of Arkansas and LSU fans in the stands as there were on Saturday.
"To be honest, I thought it almost felt like a home game hearing the fans Calling the Hogs," Wilkins said. "It was awesome. Playing at Arkansas, it's kind of like that a lot because we have a lot of fans. This team is really focused on trying to win and we are pretty focused in between the white lines. Nothing really distracts us."
Cal-State Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano was obviously not pleased with the loss by his Titans (47-15).
"That didn't work out as planned," Serrano said. "We just didn't play Titan baseball today. We gave them too many opportunities early. We threw too many pitches early. We went too deep in counts with some of the guys.
I don't want to take anything away from Arkansas, but we still had opportunities to win this game," Serrano added. "We just didn't get it done."
Wilkins, perhaps the hottest bat in college baseball right now, had five of those RBIs on his 19th homer of the season, a single and a sacrifice fly that got the deluge of runs going.
He is now batting .593 (16-of-27) with 4 homers, 5 other extra base hits and a whopping 17 RBIs in the Razorbacks' six postseason games.
"He played well all year, but he is playing extremely well down the stretch as have four or five other of our offensive players," Van Horn said. "I just Andy is feeling it and he's confident and that will take you a long way."
Wilkins is just riding the wave.
"I got hot in the Norman Regional and tried to keep it going in the Super Regional and now here," Wilkins said. "I am definitely trying to do whatever I can do to help the ballclub."
Arkansas – which got a very solid effort from Dallas Keuchel (8-3) - turned the game into a rout on reliever Tyler Pill's first three pitches in the top of the fourth.
Scott Lyons' drilled his first one for a two-run single and Wilkins crushed his third one for a three-run homer that made it 9-2.
While Wilkins wasn't sure about what he hit, Van Horn sure was.
"The first pitch was a fastball and the second pitch was a change-up and you hit it into the seats," Van Horn said.
The Razorbacks had chased CSF starter Noe Ramirez (9-2) by leading 4-2 and loading the bases with two outs in the top of the fourth.
That was Ramirez' shortest outing this season in 15 starts.
"I think Noe's performance was probably a D-minus and I think he would agree with me,"Serrano said. "He was excited coming into the game and when he gets excited, he loses his mechanics. I think it was more of a mechanical thing than a mental thing."
Keuchel was very sharp in his six innings of work before his back tighten. He fanned two, walked on and gave up three earned runs on five hits.
"I thought Dallas did a tremendous job going out and really peppering the zone the first couple of innings," Van Horn said. "We got him the lead and he hung in there."
The Titans used small ball in the fifth to get back a pair of runs with a trio of singles – two bunt ones – and a sacrifice fly that cut it to 9-4.
"I felt like we kind of fell into a little bit of a trap. I thought we had every opportunity to get back into that game...but guys were just taking it too much on themselves to do something big for us instead of just staying within themselves and just chipping away."
Arkansas then pushed its margin to 10-4 in the eighth when Wilkins took reliever Nick Ramirez' first pitch into right for his fifth RBI of the day.
Cal-State Fullerton threatened to make it a game in the bottom of the eighth when it loaded the bases with nobody out.
But Mike Bolsinger, who entered in the seventh for Keuchel and finished to pick up his second save, worked out of it with just one run scoring that cut it to 10-5.
Bolsinger served up an inning-ending double play when he induced Dustin Garneau into a 4-6-3 double play.
The Titans added another run in the ninth, but it was simply cosmetic.
Arkansas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first – a rally started when Chase Leavitt led off with a walk and Tschepikow singled.
Lyons' sacrifice bunt moved both runners up with Wilkins' sacrifice fly and Cox' two-out single plating the runs.
"I think it was just big for us to go out and show we were going to be in the game, we were a pretty good club and we could swing it," Van Horn said. "Scoring early was huge for us. It put a little pressure on them."
Cox then crushed a two-run homer in the third to put his team up 4-0.
"We had two outs and I was just looking to extend the inning and I was just hoping to get a pitch I could hit," Cox said. "Luckily he left me one high enough to hit."
Indeed he need as he hit it nearly totally out of the Rosenblatt Stadium - now as maginificent a shot as his homer at the SEC Tournament that hit the top of the scoreboard, but still a poke nevertheless.
"As soon as I got it, I knew I got all of it," Cox said. "It's one of those ones where it hits the bat and you know it's gone. It's a great feeling." Tschepikow had 3 of his team's 13 hits while Andrew Darr, who was 4 of 5 in the Super Regional clinching game, has now been on base 7 of his last 8 plate appearances after singling, getting hit by a pitch and walking on Saturday.
Christian Colon had 3 hits for the Titans, who had 9 hits – only one of which was an extra-base hit.
"We just want to keep this going as long as we can," Cox said. "This is a lot of fun, a lot of fun."