OMAHA, Neb. – The No. 5 University of Arkansas baseball team opened its 2018 College World Series with an 11-5 victory over Texas Sunday evening at TD Ameritrade Park. With the help of an eight-run sixth inning, the Razorbacks’ 11 runs are a program high for a College World Series game. Luke Bonfield hit Arkansas’ 95th home run of the year while Jared Gates and Heston Kjerstad each had three hits in the game.
— Razorback Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) June 18, 2018
With the win, Arkansas improves to 45-19 overall and advances in the winner’s bracket to face the winner of Florida-Texas Tech. The Razorbacks’ next game will be Tuesday, June 19 at 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPN.
The Big Inning
Texas broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the top of the fifth inning but the Razorbacks answered immediately with two runs of their own in the home half of the frame. With Kjerstad on first, Bonfield drove a 1-1 offering from Texas starter Nolan Kingham into the seats in left-center for his ninth home run of the season. The two-run shot was Bonfield’s first home run since May 17 (Game 1 at Georgia) and the first home run of the 2018 College World Series.
The Big Inning: The Sequel
Arkansas padded its lead with eight runs in the sixth with the help of its first 10 hitters of the inning reaching safely. Two of the Razorbacks’ eight runs scored before a nearly three-hour weather delay. Overall, Arkansas sent 14 hitters to the plate and five different Razorbacks collected a hit including redshirt senior Carson Shaddy who tallied two singles and an RBI in the outburst. Kjerstad and sophomore Dominic Fletcher each had two-run singles in the inning.
With his effort at the plate, Gates is hitting .382 (13-for-34) since the start of the SEC Tournament with four multi-hit games including Sunday’s three-hit showing, his first of the year. He has at least one hit in eight of the last 10 games. Additionally, Gates has now scored at least one run in eight of the past 10 games, crossing the plate in 11 times in that span.
The Razorbacks’ offense combined for 15 hits, the most by the team since April 7 in a 17-hit outing against Auburn. Arkansas now has double-digit hits in six of seven NCAA Tournament games. Sunday also marked the team’s 17th game of the year with 10 or more runs, four of which have come in NCAA play.
In 5.0 innings of work Sunday, junior ace Blaine Knight allowed two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk. The Longhorns had runners at second and third with one out in the top of the fifth but Knight limited the damage to just one run on a sacrifice fly before getting out of the jam with a strikeout. Knight is now 13-0 this season.
The win for Knight ties him with former Hogs Steve Krueger (1980) and Rich Erwin (1979) for the most wins in a season in school history.
Arkansas scored in the first inning for the 25th time this season and are now 22-3 when doing so. Junior Eric Cole led things off with a double to left center and came home to score on an RBI single by Kjerstad. The Razorbacks also move to 30-8 when scoring first this season.
We Have Weather
The game entered a weather delay in the bottom of the sixth inning after lightning was detected in the area. At the time of the delay, Arkansas had the bases loaded with no outs and Casey Martin due up. The delay lasted 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Sunday’s game marked the fifth College World Series meeting between Arkansas and Texas, and the first since the teams met in Omaha in 2004.