Hogs put 2018 flub behind them on way to CWS; Michigan opens with Texas Tech
By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. — Arkansas was so close to winning its first national championship in baseball last year that Casey Martin, from his position at third base, started seeing the celebratory dogpile in his mind’s eye.
Oregon State was batting in the top of the ninth inning with two outs and a runner on third base. Arkansas led 3-1 and was on the verge of a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals.
“Man, I was starting to get real excited, real jumpy,” Martin, now the shortstop, recalled Friday. “Then when it happened, something just kind of dropped.”
In perhaps the most memorable play at TD Ameritrade Park since it opened in 2011, Oregon State’s Cadyn Grenier popped a ball high behind first base and toward the stands. Three fielders converged. No one took charge. The ball hit the ground.
Given another chance, Grenier singled to start a three-run ninth that gave the Beavers a 5-3 win, and the next night OSU wrapped up the national title on Kevin Abel’s two-hitter in a 5-0 win.
Now No. 5 national seed Arkansas is back at the CWS, and the Hogs might be better than a year ago with an offense in the top 20 nationally in the major categories and four pitchers drafted in the first nine rounds.
“For me, personally, it was hard to let go,” Martin said of last year’s missed opportunity. “But what a ride it was. I’m just happy we were able to get back.”
Arkansas (46-18) opens play Saturday night against Florida State (41-21), which will be trying to win retiring coach and NCAA all-time wins leader Mike Martin his first national championship in his 17 visits to Omaha.
The CWS opener Saturday afternoon pits Michigan (46-20) against No. 8 Texas Tech (44-18). Sunday games match No. 7 Louisville (49-16) against No. 2 Vanderbilt (54-11) in the afternoon and Auburn (38-26) against No. 6 Mississippi State (51-13) at night.
Saturday: Michigan RHP Karl Kauffmann (10-6) vs. Texas Tech RHP Micah Dallas (7-0) and Florida State LHP Drew Parrish (8-5) vs. Arkansas RHP Campbell (12-1).
Sunday: Louisville LHP Reid Detmers (12-4) vs. Vanderbilt RHP Drake Fellows (12-1) and Auburn LHP Jack Owen (4-2) vs. Mississippi State LHP Ethan Small (10-2).
Texas Tech shortstop Gabe Holt is day-to-day with a fracture between the knuckle and tip of his left thumb. He was hurt in the second game of the super regional against Oklahoma State and sat out Game 3.
“He’s as tough a kid as they come,” coach Tim Tadlock said. “He’s got a contraption to get his thumb in his glove. It wouldn’t surprise me at all tomorrow if he says he’s playing. If he says he’s playing, he’s hitting leadoff.”
Michigan hasn’t been to the CWS since 1984, but the Wolverines were at TD Ameritrade Park just three weeks ago for the Big Ten Tournament.
They won three of five games, enough to get them one of the last four at-large bids to the national tournament.