Arkansas defeats Oregon State in front of ‘rocking’ crowd, moves one game from first CWS title

Arkansas defeats Oregon State in front of ‘rocking’ crowd, moves one game from first CWS title
Arkansas' Carson Shaddy celebrates after scoring on a hit by Grant Koch. (World-Herald News Service)

Arkansas’ homegrown second baseman, who’s been immersed since childhood in the same iconic hog calls that echoed across TD Ameritrade Park Tuesday night, bounced in the air and swung his right fist.

The first game of the College World Series finals wasn’t over yet.

But senior Carson Shaddy was letting himself embrace the moment.

Right there in the seventh inning — just after his teammate had thrown out an Oregon State runner trying to stretch a single into a double, and well after Arkansas had seized control because the Beavers unraveled in a four-run fifth — Shaddy stood on the cut of the infield and soaked it all in.

“Wooooooo … Pig sooie!”

The chant rang out from the stands as the Razorbacks’ dugout went wild. Party on.

Arkansas has more work to do. Shaddy was adamant about that. The 4-1 win over Oregon State means the Beavers will be extra motivated to keep the Razorbacks from celebrating the program’s first national title Wednesday.

But Tuesday’s triumph in an atmosphere that felt like their own stadium’s electric environment? That couldn’t have been scripted any better.

“We all looked around at each other and said, ‘gosh, this is crazy,’” said Shaddy, who grew up in Fayetteville and whose dad played for Arkansas. “It was so loud. Everybody’s wanting a championship so bad.”

The Razorbacks played that way, too — whether it was first baseman Jared Gates diving in foul territory for a highlight-reel grab. Or undefeated starter Blaine Knight pitching out of jams with grit and guile. Or a lineup finding a way to keep the pressure on an Oregon State squad that seemed a bit wobbly Tuesday night.

It was in the fourth and fifth innings when the game was decided.

OSU sophomore Adley Rutschman was called for runner’s interference while Arkansas attempted to turn a double play in the fourth — he ducked as he approached second base but didn’t slide or veer out of the way as the rule requires. The call wiped a run off the board and credited the Razorbacks’ defense with two outs. The Beavers, up 1-0 at the time, never seemed to be the same after Knight escaped the fourth-inning jam with a strikeout.

Moments later, Arkansas was chasing starter Luke Heimlich — a sudden unraveling by the OSU ace, who’d tossed four impressive one-hit innings to that point.

There was an error by the normally sure-handed Nick Madrigal. Two walks. Two hit batsmen.

“All hell broke lose,” Shaddy said.

And Arkansas never looked back.

The Razorbacks strutted, flexed and yelled after zeros illuminated the scoreboard in the final seven OSU innings, much to the delight of the red-stained crowd of 25,321. The Beavers had scored an average of 9.7 runs per game in the NCAA tournament heading into Tuesday.

Yet every attempt by Oregon State to claw back seemed to be met with some rally-killing barrier.

Madrigal, the No. 4 overall MLB draft pick, lined out with two men on base to end the fifth. Razorback left fielder Heston Kjerstad threw out a runner with one out in the seventh — the play that prompted Shaddy to react with glee.

There was the high foul ball in the ninth that wasn’t caught by any Oregon State fielder as Rutschman and third baseman Michael Gretler collided instead. Even a Razorback fan hauling in a foul ball barehanded in the second deck produced a roar throughout TD Ameritrade Park.

“This place was rocking,” Knight said. “We really appreciate them making the trip up and giving up some really good, positive energy to go off of. I know that’s what I was feeding off of.”

That’s been the case since Razorbacks got here, really.

Ten days ago, Shaddy and his teammates were taking the field and taking in the atmosphere during Arkansas’ CWS opener. He saw red-hued shirts all over the place. When the Razorback fans joined together for a hog call before the game, Shaddy marveled.

He couldn’t believe how loud it was — more than 370 miles away from home.

It doesn’t get any better than this, he thought.

Then Tuesday happened.

“This game, the fans were so rowdy and ready for us to play our best,” Shaddy said. “I’m glad we could get this one.”

Spotlight

Play of the Game

Oregon State starter Luke Heimlich was on the ropes when Eric Cole came to the plate in the top of the fifth. The lefty had just hit Jax Biggers with a pitch to load the bases after Arkansas catcher Grant Koch had tied the game 1-1 with an RBI double. Heimlich needed an out. Instead, he also hit Cole with a pitch that bounced well in front of the plate. The go-ahead run scored for the Razorbacks and an ensuing error on second baseman Nick Madrigal led to a decisive four-run frame.

Star of the Game

Blaine Knight did what he’s done all year, hold the opposing team in check while allowing Arkansas’ offense to do its thing. The Razorback ace had only two 1-2-3 innings, but he pitched his way out of trouble when necessary to improve to 14-0 with six innings of one-run ball.

Close Play

Arkansas was content to allow a run in exchange for a double play in the fourth inning, but Oregon State designated hitter Tyler Malone beat the throw to first by the shortstop, Biggers. Trevor Larnach scored from third on the play, but he was forced to return as baserunner Adley Rutschman was called for interference when he didn’t slide at second. The Razorbacks were given a double play and escaped without allowing a run.

Key Decision

If Oregon State had a chance to rally in the latter innings, it may have been in the seventh when Zak Taylor ripped a one-out pitch from reliever Barrett Loseke down the line. The ball hooked off the hop into the railing in foul territory and caromed right toward left fielder Heston Kjerstad. The charging freshman fired a dart to second base to nail Taylor, who was trying for a double. Down by three runs, the Beavers didn’t need the extra base. OSU had only one batter reach base after.

Quirky Moment

Larnach lofted an opposite-field fly ball to left to lead off the OSU fourth. It appeared Kjerstad would have a play on the ball, but then he couldn’t find it in the sun. The ball landed and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Larnach appeared to score later in the inning as Arkansas attempted to turn a double play. An interference call stranded him.

Our Take

Arkansas moved within a win of its first championship as Oregon State’s All-Americans faltered in the decisive inning. Heimlich struggled with his control to open the door for a four-run outburst, and Madrigal made a key error that added to the trouble.

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