TEMPE, Ariz. - Arkansas' 2010 season is over.
The promising campaign ended as the Razorbacks dropped a 7-5 decision in 12 innings to Arizona State Sunday night at Packard Stadium. Arkansas lost the best-of-three game NCAA Tempe Super Regional 2-0 and the No. 1 Sun Devils advanced to next week's College World Series.
Drew Maggi's two-out, two-run home run in the top of the 12th inning was the game-winner as Arizona State overcame several Razorback rallies on the night.
The game looked as if it would end sooner but Brett Eibner added one more highlight to his memorable Razorback career with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game 5-5.
"It doesn't surprise me that we tied it," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "It was a hanging slider and Brett just hammered it. I just wish there had been someone on base.
"We knew coming in here we were the underdog and probably not playing our best baseball. Our best baseball was probably about five or six weeks ago...but we played hard and never quit. That's why I'm proud of our guys."
"My job is to get on base and score," Eibner said. "With two strikes I was just looking to put the ball in play and it just so happened I hit it out."
The difference in the two games was the Razorbacks won last year. Maggi made sure it wouldn't end the same way this time around with the dramatic home of his own off Arkansas reliever TJ Forrest to give the Sun Devils a 7-5 lead.
"I was just looking for something to hit," said Maggi, who was 0-for-5 before the home run. "I just forgot everything that happened and put a good swing on it."
After a 12-inning loss Saturday night Arkansas had hoped ace left-hander Drew Smyly would be its ticket to a winner-take-all game Monday. But Smyly struggled in what was likely his last game as a Razorback, giving up three home runs in the first three innings to put Arkansas in a 4-0 hole it could never overcome.
Smyly finished the game by pitching a season-low 4 2/3 innings and throwing 117 pitches.
After sitting out Saturday's first game of the series, Arizona State designated hitter Zach Wilson was the sharpest thorn in Smyly's side, hitting first-pitch solo home runs in the second and third innings.
Wilson's third inning home run came one pitch after Riccio Torrez' two-run home run had given the Sun Devils a 3-0 lead. Smyly, who had given up just six home runs in the regular season, allowed five home runs in his two postseason starts.
"They had a great game plan trying to attack him and get his pitch count up," Van Horn said. "Normally Drew just peppers the zone and tonight he didn't. Sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't. But he's had some great outings and we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him."
DJ Baxendale made up for Smyly's pitching woes. The freshman had struggled in his last several outings but went a career-high 6 1/3 innings on the mound, allowing one run (none earned) on four hits. He struck out four batters.
Baxendale's lone blemish came in the seventh inning. Riccio Torrez reached on a Carver error to begin the inning and scored despite his team recording no hits. He advanced to second on a walk, to third on a bunt and scored on Deven Marrero's sacrifice fly to give the Sun Devils a 5-3 lead.
But Baxendale responded with a strikeout to get out of the inning to strand a runner at second. That was a recurring theme as the right-hander entered the game in the fifth inning with runners on second and third but struck out Marrero to kill the threat. Baxendale induced an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, stranded another runner at third base in the 10th and yet another at first base in the 11th.
"He grew up a lot tonight," Van Horn said. "I think the way he pitched tonight will help him this summer, next fall and help us next year in 2011."
Arizona State (52-8) stranded 14 runners for the game and an eye-popping 33 for the series.
"I just tried to go out there and give us a chance to come back," Baxendale said. "I knew our bats had plenty of firepower and could come back. My defense made a lot of great plays behind me and I stayed in it long enough for the bats to wake up.
"You win some and lose some but I've never been more proud to wear a Razorback jersey."
Baxendale's performance allowed Arkansas to crawl back into the game. The Razorbacks scored two runs in the fourth inning to pull within 4-2 despite recording one hit in the frame.
James McCann was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for the first run and Matt Vinson followed with a walk to force home the second. Tim Carver grounded out to end the inning, however, stranding three of Arkansas' nine runners left on base for the evening.
The Razorbacks (43-21) added another run in the fifth on an Andy Wilkins RBI single to score Zack Cox and pull within 4-3 and within 5-4 on McCann's second RBI of the night to score Bo Bigham in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"Arkansas gave us everything they had," Arizona State coach Tim Esmay said. "Those were two of the best games I've ever been a part of."
Eibner's home run appeared to give Arkansas the momentum heading to the extra innings and it looked like the Hogs might tie the series when Monk Kreder singled to leadoff the 10th inning. But Bigham struck out for the first out and McCann hit into an inning-ending double play.
It was Arkansas' only real threat of the extra innings as Swagerty shut the door. Though he blew the save, the right-hander picked up his second win of the season by pitching 4 1/3 innings. Like Sun Devil reliever Mitchell Lambson did the night before, Swagerty struck out seven Razorback batters in the late innings.
It was a disappointing end to another great season for an Arkansas program that made back-to-back super regionals for the first time in school history. But injuries played a prominent role late in the year and the Razorbacks played with a makeshift lineup for the better part of the last four weeks.
Arkansas dropped three of its last four games with the lone win over Washington State in the championship game of the Fayetteville Regional. The Hogs also dropped seven of their final nine games entering the NCAA Tournament.
Still, a combined 84-44 record over the last two years is one most teams would love to have and one Van Horn was appreciative of in the moments following the game.
"We're going to lose a lot of quality players that have been in our program the last three years," Van Horn said. "They've really brought us up and helped us make a move the last couple of years."