FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Thunder, lightning and driving rain bombarded Fayetteville on Monday morning.
By nightfall, all that remained was the thunder, and that was provided by the booming bats of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The 15th-ranked Razorbacks squashed Washington State’s visions of an extended postseason run by downing the Cougars, 7-2, in the championship game of the Fayetteville Regional.
The Cougars, ranked 23rd and seeded second behind Arkansas at Fayetteville, finished the year 37-22. Arkansas (43-19) advances to one of the 16 best-of-three Super Regionals – the final hurdle leading to the College World Series – at top-ranked Arizona State (50-8).
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A boisterous Baum Stadium crowd of 7,065 watched their Razorbacks outhit WSU 12-6 and turn double plays in the second, third and fourth innings. The first three Arkansas hitters reached base and scored, and the Hogs chased WSU starter Paris Shewey while building a 6-1 lead in the third inning.
“As a coach, all you can ask is if a club (gives) it’s best effort, and I thought we did,“ Washington State coach Donnie Marbut said.
“We got beat by a better team. That’s hard to say sometimes. Arkansas is a really good club. We just came up short. I can’t even express in words how proud I am of this club.”
Shewey, a junior left-hander, pitched all four days at regionals. He had thrown just one-third of an inning against three batters since pitching two innings of relief Friday against Kansas State.
Shewey (7-3) led the Cougars in wins and started the night with the lowest earned run average (2.80) on the team. He walked four in his second start of the year and tied Dane Renkert’s school record of 30 pitching appearances in a season.
Shewey was matched up against senior TJ Forrest, Arkansas’ No. 3 starter. Forrest, a lanky right-hander, left to a standing ovation and the familiar “Wooooooo, pig sooie!” chant of Razorbacks fans after improving to 8-0 by limiting WSU to four hits and two runs in 5 innings.
Forrest had rested since throwing 42/3 innings in a Friday start against Grambling (La.) State. Arkansas played four games at regionals, one fewer than the Cougars, who went 1-2 against the Razorbacks. WSU made the Monday game necessary by downing Arkansas, 10-7, Sunday night.
“We were trying to get over it in the locker room (after Sunday’s game),” said Arkansas catcher James McCann, who played with and against several Cougars before moving from Washington to California. “The next thing you know, TJ walks in and says, ‘Don’t worry, fellas, I’ve got this.’
“I knew he’d have a good outing.”
Arkansas ace Drew Smyly relieved Forrest and threw 22/3 innings of shutout ball.