Three Arkansas players watch as a foul pop-up falls between them, giving Oregon State new life (Aaron Fitt)

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Stunned Hogs Try To Regroup

College World Series


OMAHA — Arkansas fans slumped in their seats, their mouths agape, their eyes hollow. They dropped their heads into their hands. They looked legitimately ill. The game was over, and many of them could not move toward the exits. You could read their minds: How did we lose that game?

Down below, the Arkansas players wore similarly stunned expressions into the postgame press conference — but they said all the right things. Yes, Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to Oregon State in Game Two of the CWS Finals was a fierce blow, the kind that can knock the wind out of a team. But there’s a difference between getting your wind knocked out, and getting knocked out. The season is not over for Arkansas; the Hogs have another game left to play, with a national championship on the line.

But it was a tough loss,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “What do you do? You got a chance to play for a national championship going down the last day. Just gotta fight through it.”

That elusive first national title appeared seconds away Wednesday night, as Cadyn Grenier hit a high pop-up up the first-base line, and three Razorbacks gave chase. It was not an easy play, but it was a makable play, and if second baseman Carson Shaddy or right fielder Eric Cole hauls it in, Arkansas wins 3-2 and the celebration begins.

But as Shaddy, first baseman Jared Gates and Cole all converged on the warning track, the ball dropped onto the dirt between them.

“You know, it’s a tough play,” Shaddy said. “I was running, and didn’t hear anybody call it. So I just kept running trying to make the play and overran it. It’s a tough break.”

The pop-up finds the dirt (Aaron Fitt)

You know what happened after that. Down to his final strike, Grenier singled through the left side to tie the game. And the next batter, Trevor Larnach, smacked a go-ahead two-run homer into the right-field bullpen, propelling the Beavers to a 5-3 win — and leaving Arkansas to grapple with a gut-wrenching turn of events.

“Just have to get back out tomorrow, and we’re really confident in Isaiah (Campbell), and we’re ready to go,” Shaddy said.

Give Shaddy major credit for showing up to the postgame press conference and taking responsibility for the mistake — he showed a lot of character. He didn’t pout, and he didn’t look defeated. Stunned, sure. But still determined.

So were the other veteran Razorbacks who sat next to Shaddy on the dais.

“We’re all ready to play. I think for a lot of us, a lot of us are local and some of the guys that aren’t, but it’s one more day for us to be a Razorback, and that’s all you can ask. One or two teams left standing in the last day of the College World Series. You can’t ask for much more. We’re still standing, alive and ready to go for sure.”

And Arkansas will have the advantage on the mound, with the talented Campbell coming off a strong performance against Florida in Friday’s bracket championship and slated to start on five days’ rest. OSU’s pitching staff has been taxed far more during its seven games in Omaha, compared with Arkansas’ five games.

“We’re expecting the same stuff he’s had for a little while now. And we have all the confidence in the world in him,” Koch said. “He’s got four pitches that, you know, at times will command all of them. And that’s what we expect tomorrow. He’s going to battle out there for us. He’s been really, really good of late. And he’s been really good in big-time situations, when we need him. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

And those are all exactly the right answers. This loss surely stings more than a little — but the Razorbacks have no time to feel sorry for themselves. On Thursday, the Hogs will get to show the college baseball world what they’re made of. And that was the thrust of coach Dave Van Horn’s postgame message to his team.

It was quick,” he said of his talk. “It was just, ‘Hey, we get to play one more game.’ And what more could you ask for, you know? You gotta move on. You can’t take it back, you know? It’s over. So get your head up and start getting your mind right because it’s going to be tomorrow before you know it. And we need to come out here and give ourselves a chance.’”

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