OMAHA, Neb. – The fifth-seeded Arkansas Razorback baseball team is one win away from the program’s first-ever NCAA title after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over No. 3 Oregon State in the opening game of the 2018 College World Series finals.
Junior Blaine Knight collected the win to improve to 14-0, setting the program record for wins in a single season. Offensively, Grant Koch reached base three times including a two-hit effort with an RBI and run scored.
Game two of the College World Series finals is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPN. Tuesday’s championship series opener was played in front of 25,321 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Big Inning
After being held scoreless with one hit through four innings, the Razorbacks batted around and plated four runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead. With runners on the corners and one out, Koch delivered an RBI single to left field to score Carson Shaddy from third and tie the ballgame. Arkansas’ inning benefitted from two hits, two walks, two hit batters and an Oregon State error. On the way to knocking Beavers starter Luke Heimlich out of the game, Arkansas also picked up RBIs from Eric Cole, Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad during the rally.
Koch had two of Arkansas’ five hits with singles in the third and fifth innings, good for his 12th multi-hit game of the season. Tuesday’s game is just the fifth time this season the Razorbacks were held to five or fewer hits, however, Arkansas is now 4-1 in those games
Knight finished the game with six strikeouts in six innings of work Tuesday, scattering seven hits and allowing just one run in the process. On the way to eclipsing the 100-strikeout mark for the season, he registered his 10th outing of the year with five or more strikeouts. With the victory, Knight breaks the program’s single-season record of 13 he shared with Rich Erwin (1979) and Steven Krueger (1980).
The Razorbacks’ bullpen duo of Barrett Loseke and Matt Cronin were rock solid over the final three innings. Loseke struck out three hitters and allowed just two hits in two-plus innings of work. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native now has 16 strikeouts in 12.0 innings during the Razorbacks’ NCAA Tournament run.
Loseke gave way to Cronin who entered the game with a runner on first but retired the next three hitters with the help of two strikeouts on the way to his 14th save of the season. Cronin’s save was also record-breaking as he broke Colby Suggs single-season save record of 13 set in 2012.
Arkansas and Oregon State have met just three times prior to Tuesday’s game, and not since the 1995 season. Two of the three matchups have postseason ties with the teams splitting a pair of games during the 1986 NCAA Midwest Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma.