June 17, 2009

Game 9 Notes

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Razorbacks Rally Past Cavaliers in 12

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

OMAHA, Neb. – Maybe it's Hogs that have nine lives.


After Brett Eibner (left) tied the game with a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth, Andrew Darr had a double to score Jarrod McKinney in the 12th with the game-winner as Arkansas outlasted Virginia 4-3 in an elimination game at the College World Series Wednesday in front of 21,383 fans at Rosenblatt Stadium.


The Razorbacks (41-23) will face LSU on Friday at 1 p.m. CT. Arkansas will have to beat the Tigers on both Friday and Saturday to advance to the championship series. The Cavaliers finish the season with a 49-15-1 record and their first trip to the College World Series.


“It was a great ballgame to be a part of as a coach,” Arkansas skipper Dave Van Horn said, “rollercoaster, dramatic, a lot of moves, and really tough kids that didn’t want to lose, didn’t want to go home. It was fun. It’ll be one that I’ll never forget.”


Virginia held a 3-1 after eight and had its closer, Kevin Arico, on the hill. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Zack Cox had a base hit to keep the season alive. On a 1-1 pitch, Eibner crushed the ball deep into the left field bleachers to tie the score at 3-3.


“I was looking for an off-speed pitch,” Eibner said. “I really wasn’t looking for a fastball with a guy on base. I was looking for that pitch and happened to get it and put a good swing on it.”


James McCann and Jarrod McKinney followed with base hits, but Andrew Carraway came on to get Chase Leavitt to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.


The Cavaliers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but a double play ended the threat.


After the Razorbacks went in order in the top of the 10th, UVa got a runner to third with one out in the bottom of the 10th, but Dallas Keuchel was able to fan the final two hitters to keep the game going.


Arkansas again went in order in the 11th. Franco Valdes had a leadoff single in the bottom of the frame, was sacrificed to second and moved to third on a two-out walk, but was stranded as Keuchel got an inning-ending groundout.


The Hogs finally broke through in the 12th. McKinney had a one-out single and stole second. On the 10th pitch of his at-bat, Darr doubled down the left field line to plate McKinney with the go-ahead run.


“I was just trying to have a good at-bat,” Darr said. “[McKinney] was on second, he can absolutely fly. I just tried to look for something up in the zone and I got a breaking ball to hit.”


The Cavs would not go quietly. Steven Proscia ripped a leadoff double to left. He stole third as Jarrett Parker struck out swinging. Keuchel fanned John Hicks and Valdes to end the contest.


Virginia had its leadoff hitter reach in each of the final four innings, but stranded eight over those final four frames.


“We had an opportunity every inning from the bottom of the ninth all the way to the end,” Virginia outfielder Dan Grovatt said. “We just didn’t come up with the big hit and Arkansas did.”


After goose eggs were put up for the first four innings, the scoreless tie was finally snapped in the bottom of the fifth. Hicks (right) hit a ball to the left field fence that Chase Leavitt jumped to catch. The ball landed back in the field and Hicks stopped at second as Tony Maners, the third base umpire, ruled the ball still in play. Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor came out to question the call and, after the umpires conferred, it was ruled a home run. On the TV replay, it showed that the ball hit a cap and a glove in the stands and fell back in play, so it was a homer, the eighth for Hicks.


One out later, John Barr singled to right and moved to third on a base hit to right by Tyler Cannon, who was gunned down at second by rightfielder McKinney trying to stretch it to a double. Danny Hultzen helped his cause with a double to left, scoring Barr to make it 2-0.


Arkansas finally got on the board in the seventh as Bo Bigham reached on a one-out error, moved to third on a double by Zach Cox and touched home on a sac fly by Eibner.


UVa got what looked like a huge insurance run in the eighth on a two-out homer by Grovatt, his eighth, to make it 3-1.


Keuchel (9-3) tossed four innings with three hits, three walk and five strikeouts to earn the win.


“I was telling myself out there that we’ve been through so much, this whole team, and I wasn’t going to let them go out like that,” Keuchel said. “I just wanted to make pitches one pitch at a time. I kept throwing that slider up there and got some swings and misses.”


Andrew Carraway (9-2) retired the first eight he faced before Arkansas rallied, going 3.1 innings with three hits, one run, no walks and three strikeouts.


Eibner finished with three RBI for the Razorbacks. McCann had three hits for Arkansas.


Hicks and Steven Proscia both had three hits for the Cavaliers.


“This was an unbelievable ballgame,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “It took everything from Arkansas, it took everything from Virginia. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of the stick. I thought we pitched really well tonight. We swung the bats, had a lot of opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them sometimes, but that’s to credit Arkansas’ pitching. They pitched in the clutch and made some clutch plays.”


(Eibner photo courtesy of Arkansas Media Relations Office, Hicks photo by Jimmy Jones)