FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Washington State Cougars live to see another day.
In fact, they plan to keep living out their baseball dreams for about three more weeks. That’s when the College World Series ends.
The 23rd-ranked Cougars upset No. 15 Arkansas, 10-7, Sunday night to force a rematch this evening to decide the Fayetteville Regional championship in the NCAA tournament.
The winner of today’s 5:05 p.m. PDT contest advances to the best-of-three Super Regionals next weekend against Arizona State, the national No. 1 seed. ASU is expected to serve as host.
WSU snapped a two-year, five-game losing streak against Arkansas one night after a 6-4 loss to the Razorbacks. The Cougars had to pull off their 20th come-from-behind win, a 9-6 win over Kansas State on Sunday afternoon, to get a second crack at Arkansas.
“We’re just scrappy,” WSU right fielder Derek Jones said. “We’re going to grind it out.”
The Cougars (37-21) and Razorbacks (42-19) are both running low on rested pitchers. Coaches on both sides said they’re not certain who they will start tonight.
Jones played pivotal roles in both WSU wins Sunday. He went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer and five RBI against Kansas State (37-22), then followed up against Arkansas with a 4-for-5 effort that included two RBI hits.
“He’s a dangerous, dangerous hitter,” WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. “Everybody knows when they’re facing us. When he’s going good, good things for us usually happen.”
Marbut gambled and won when he started junior James Wise (4-1) in both games.
Kansas State battered Wise and chased him in the third inning, but Wise jumped at the chance to start against Arkansas and held the Razorbacks to one run and two hits for three innings.
“If that can’t inspire your team, you can’t be inspired,” Marbut said.
“My teammates picked me up in the first game … I just felt it was my turn to answer the bell for my teammates and do my job,” Wise said.
An enthusiastic crowd of 8,236 turned out on a pleasant evening at Arkansas’ Baum Stadium. The Razorbacks were uncharacteristically sloppy in the field, and the Cougars applied pressure by bunting four times.