FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas routed South Carolina, 14-4, in the third game of the Fayetteville Super Regional Monday night at Baum Stadium to send the Razorbacks to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
Senior Luke Bonfield, redshirt senior Carson Shaddy and junior Eric Cole, a fourth-round pick in last week's Major League Baseball Draft, starred in their farewell Monday in front of 11,217 fans in Fayetteville. The win leaves Arkansas (44-19) as one of the final eight teams remaining to play for the Division I baseball national championship.
Right fielder Cole was 3-for-3 with a home run, a double, a single and two walks, including one with the bases loaded. He scored five times as the Razorbacks routed the Southeastern Conference rival Gamecocks (37-26) following Arkansas' 9-3 victor Saturday night and South Carolina's 8-5 success on Sunday.
Second baseman Shaddy was 2-for-5 with a three-run home run as Arkansas scored five runs in the first inning against South Carolina starter Carmen Mlodzinski (3-6). Designated hitter Bonfield was 3-for-4 with a sacrifice fly an four RBIs.
Arkansas is matched up with Texas (42-21) in the first round of the College World Series on Sunday at 1 p.m. TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The Razorbacks are also bracketed with SEC regular season champion and reigning national champion Florida (47-19) and Big 12 member Texas Tech (44-18), who will play the late game Sunday.
The Razorbacks have wins against all three opponents this season. Arkansas defeated the Gators once in Gainesville, Fla., to start an SEC series in March. They swept a two-game midweek series with the Longhorns the same month and won the first of two scheduled games of a midweek series with the Red Raiders in April. The second game was canceled due to inclement weather.
The other side of the double-elimination bracket features Mississippi State (37-27), of the SEC; Washington (35-24), out of the Pac-12; Oregon State (49-10-1), also of the Pac-12; and North Carolina (43-18), from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Beavers and Tar Heels will start the tournament on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Huskies and Bulldogs will follow at 7 p.m.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn congratulated first-year South Carolina coach Mark Kingston and his Gamecocks, who rallied from a slow start to the season. Van Horn then paid homage to his own team.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this team," Van Horn said.
"It's just pure excitement," Shaddy said. "I'm so happy for my brothers and everyone getting to experience it like I did my freshman year."
Bonfield and Shaddy were with the team in 2015 when Arkansas last made the College World Series. Both said they were joyful to return and humbled by the standing ovations they each received in their final at-bats by the fans at Baum Stadium.
Bonfield got his ovation in the eighth inning. It was the lone at-bat in which he did not hit one of his three singles or a sacrifice fly, yet he said he would never forget it.
"It was pretty special," said Bonfield, a native of Skilling, N.J. "Hard not to get choked up. This has been the best four years of my life at this stadium -- these fans. I thank coach Van Horn for letting me come here and experience this because this is a dream."
Shaddy is the son of former Razorbacks shortstop and Van Horn's 1982 teammate Chris Shaddy. The redshirt senior was originally a walk-on and said he "almost choked up" at the ovation before singling in his final at-bat in the eighth.
"I just thank coach Van for letting me walk on," Shaddy said.
"Well, you earned that scholarship," Van Horn said. "I can tell you that."
The coach also lauded Cole for "being locked in and getting us rolling" igniting an 11-hit attack, pummeling the Gamecocks' beleaguered bullpen of top relievers Eddy Demurias and Sawyer Bridges.
Demurias last two batters during the five-run fifth inning after throwing 59 pitches on Saturday. Bridges earned the win for South Carolina in relief on Sunday. Cody Morris held the Razorbacks to one run in five innings to start on Sunday.
Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Campbell got the start for Arkansas on Monday. He failed to record an out in his previous start, the deciding game of the Fayetteville Regional against Dallas Baptist (42-21). Junior Jake Reindl pitched seven innings as Arkansas beat the Patriots, 4-3, to advance to the super regional.
"Their pitchers the other night, I tip my hat to them," Cole said. "But we knew their best reliever had thrown like 50 pitches and that Isaiah would give us four or five."
Campbell bequeathed an 8-2 lead Monday after four innings. Both runs were scored on a fluky wild pitch that junior catcher Grant Koch and Campbell thought was declared a foul ball. Junior Barrett Loseke (3-2) pitched 2 1/3 innings Monday after closing the final three innings of Blaine Knight's victory on Saturday.
"Campbell did a tremendous job," Van Horn said. "He goes out to the first hitter and threw a couple of balls and you could hear people kind of moan and groan and he bounced right back and got through that first inning.
"We told him, 'You are going out with a closer's mentality whether it's one, two innings, three innings. Don't hold back and when it's time to get you we will.' He listened, and he did that. We're proud of him being thick-skinned and tough and taking what happened last week and turning it into a positive to get us to Omaha."
Loseke, Reindl, freshman Kole Ramage and sophomore closer Matt Cronin took it from there. Loseke allowed one of Jacob Olson's two solo home runs Monday with the game already in hand.
Reindl was pulled quickly in an ineffective outing on Sunday, but was effective Monday. Ramage allowed Olson's other home run. Cronin retired three of the four batters he faced in the ninth inning.
Cole caught the final out in right field before a brief Hogpile in the infield. Kingston gave Arkansas its due.
"Congratulations to Arkansas, clearly one of the best teams in America," Kingston said. "Tip our cap to them. We had a heck of a season, but just fell nine innings short tonight."
Kingston was asked about being at bullpen disadvantage.
"We thought the guys we gave the ball to tonight would do the job but they just didn't," Kingston said. "Everything we threw up there, they hit hard. Sometimes you just have to give credit to a very good opponent.
"I think there's no doubt we are one of the 10 best teams in America, but we ran into maybe the best team in America tonight and it was a roadblock for us. They just have no weakness and they are playing in one of the best environments in America."Sports on 06/13/2018
Print Headline: Arkansas powers way back to Omaha