By Robbie Neiswanger
By Robbie Neiswanger
Arkansas News Bureau
OMAHA, Neb. — Arkansas knew the only way to win the national championship was by beating a team which had practically made Omaha its second home the past two seasons.
The Razorbacks couldn’t accomplish it Friday. The result? A season-ending loss in Omaha.
South Carolina battled back from an early deficit to beat the Razorbacks 3-2, eliminating Arkansas from the College World Series.
The Gamecocks, who have won two straight national titles, scored the game-tying and go-ahead run on bases loaded walks in the fifth and seventh innings, respectively. It helped them complete their third straight win in an elimination game this week to reach the best-of-three championship series once again.
South Carolina (49-18) will play Arizona in the CWS title series, which begins Sunday. Arkansas (46-22), meanwhile, saw its season end with two straight losses to South Carolina after a 2-0 start in the College World Series.
Nine walks issued by the Arkansas pitching staff was the primary culprit Friday.
Starter DJ Baxendale was responsible for a career-high five, walking in the game tying run in the fifth inning before being pulled after throwing 4 1/3 innings. Arkansas closer Barrett Astin issued the ninth walk, and the most costly, when he walked South Carolina’s Adam Matthews with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning to break the tie.
It was all South Carolina needed after turning the game over to dominant closer Matt Price in the seventh inning. The right-hander blew through the Arkansas lineup in his three-inning relief outing, notching another CWS save.
It was a frustrating end for Arkansas, which was in control early after snapping a 14-inning scoreless streak with a run off South Carolina starter Colby Holmes in the first inning.
Shortstop Tim Carver led off the game with a single and was eventually driven on a one-out single by Arkansas third baseman Matt Reynolds.
It was Reynolds’ first hit of the College World Series, breaking an 0-for-10 slump.
Reynolds came through again in the third, when he drove in catcher Jake Wise with a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 2-0. It was the first time Reynolds had driven in two runs in a game since May 17, a streak that spanned 13 games.
The 2-0 lead held until the fifth, when Baxendale had trouble throwing strikes.
The right-hander allowed two singles and walked three batters in the inning. The final one, which was issued to Christian Walker, came with the bases loaded to tie the game at 2-2. The five walks issued by Baxendale were a career high. He allowed two runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings in his second CWS start.
Arkansas went to the bullpen to record the final two outs, but the game was tied. And South Carolina took the lead for good two innings later, when Astin walked Matthews.
It was the first run allowed by Arkansas’ bullpen in 26 innings.
It was all South Carolina needed to win its second straight against Arkansas and take the season series 4-2. All six games between the teams were decided by three runs or less.