State of the Hogs: Small Ball

Washington State peppered Arkansas with bunts on the way to a 10-7 victory in the first championship game of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional. They'll play again Monday night.

Arkansas hit the home runs, but couldn't field bunts. Hence, Washington State lives to play another day.

The Hogs and Cougars, evenly matched the last two years, will play a winner-take-all game Monday night in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Baum Stadium.

WSU defeated Arkansas, 10-7, with three unearned runs, mostly because the Hogs couldn't handle bunts or the Cougars speed down the first base line.

It was enough to make Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn hint that Zack Cox, battling a back injury, could be back at his regular spot at third base after Andy Wilkins mishandled some plays there Sunday.

"Yeah," Van Horn answered when asked if Cox could play third. "It will be his call."

The Hogs were charged with three errors. Wilkins made one on a mishandled bunt, but could have been given another when he hesitated on an infield fly rule out that fell in front of him, letting two runners advance. Starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger threw wildly into center on a come-back grounder that could have been a double play. Shortstop Tim Carver booted another double-play grounder.

"We had cut it to one and then gave up three in the eighth," Van Horn said. "That was a disappointing inning. We probably could have gotten the force at second (on the infield fly), but we botched it. We didn't get it done.

"As far as home runs versus bunts, the bunts are part of the offense. We are playing some guys out of position and didn't make some plays."

The Hogs hit three solo homers while the Cougars were extending innings with the bunt.

"I think that's the difference between the SEC and the Pac-10," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. "We play a little more small ball (in the Pac-10)."

WSU hitting star Derek Jones, who had four hits, said, "We are a little different. We have to bunt. We put the ball in play and just try to play scrappy baseball. That's what we did tonight. It's kinda how we play."

The Cougars pitched well in stretches, too. Chad Arnold, their Friday night starter, closed out with four solid innings. He gave up two homers and a triple, but made quality pitches to UA star Zack Cox in the bottom of the eighth to get a strikeout with two runners aboard.

"I'd kinda been struggling before that at bat," Arnold said, who got a visit from the WSU pitching coach before the Cox at bat.

"The message was to slow down and take it one pitch at a time. He tried to relax me. I got him with two good back door curve balls. So (the visit) seemed to work."

The Hogs got one runner in the ninth. Van Horn had injured Brett Eibner (hamstring) waiting with a batting helmet in the dugout if another runner had reached.

"We probably would have used him if we got two on," Van Horn said.

Can Eibner play Monday? Could he pitch?

"He might (pitch)," Van Horn said. "I think he'll be ready (Monday). It's a do-or-die situation. He was feeling better the longer the game went tonight. It's a little pull. We had it checked and there is no blood there. I think he will play."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories