OMAHA, Neb. – Big Mac thrived in a big way on a big stage Tuesday night and thus Arkansas is one step closer to playing for the big prize.
Razorback starter Will McEntire (6-4, 225) tossed seven innings of three-hit, one-run baseball as Arkansas downed Auburn 11-1 in an elimination game at the College World Series.
“Unreal and I don’t know what to say,” McEntire said. “I just knew the team needed somebody too step up and I wanted to be that guy. It was survive and advance and get to the next day.”
McEntire (2-2) fanned a career-high nine batters and walked just one while his offense backed him with a 16-hit attack.
“He was throwing the ball down and mixing his pitches, getting them to look for the cutter a little bit and then he’d throw the fastball and vice versa,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “Just really did a great job.
“I thought we played outstanding defense behind him. And he knows that he can throw the ball around the plate and we’re going to field it most of the time. Just a good win for us.”
McEntire, who was making his eighth start and 12th appearance of the season, was clear about where this performance ranked for him.
“I’d say that’s No. 1,” the mild mannered and humble McEntire said. “I knew after yesterday’s game. I was told I was going to start today.
“And today just laying around the hotel room, just trying to get my mind right and I knew I needed step up for my team so we can get to tomorrow.”
Arkansas catcher Michael Turner, who had three hits and three RBIs, said McEntire did just that and had all this pitches working.
“Everything, fastball, curveball, cutter, change-up, and all for strikes,” Turner said. “Whenever you’ve got a four-pitch mix like that and you’re throwing them all for
strikes, it’s a pretty good game plan for sure.”
McEntire passed the praise on to Turner, whose Razorbacks moved to 45-20 while ending Auburn’s season at 43-22.
“I give credit to him,” McEntire said. “He’s a really good pitch caller.”
Auburn’s Brody Moore said McEntire, who did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, basically did whatever Turner wanted him to do.
“I think he had all his pitches working for him,” Moore said. “I think wherever Turner put his glove, that’s where the ball was going. I thought he had really good command, and didn’t make as many mistakes as a starting pitcher usually does. And just he spotted up really well and all his pitches were working well for him tonight.”
Arkansas led 8-0 by the end of the fourth inning.
“Just a really well-pitched game by Will and gave us an opportunity to build on a lead,” Van Horn said “Obviously offensively we got some big hits, big two-out hits. And we didn’t put it away completely after the fourth, but we felt really good because of the way Will was pitching.”
Stovall had five of his team’s 16 hits, including a first-inning RBI single that got Arkansas on the scoreboard in a game that would lead wire-to-wire.
“Just a gutsy performance,” Stovall said of McEntire. “He is someone we needed to go a long time. He went, I want to say seven innings and he just left it all out there.
“He’s actually a guy that didn’t travel with us early in the season. Then he got his opportunity to start traveling and he’s made the most of it. I couldn’t be more proud of him and this team.”
Arkansas will play Ole Miss (39-22) Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
The Razorbacks will need to win that game and down the Rebels again on Thursday to reach this weekend’s championship series.
Oklahoma and Texas A&M meet at 1 p.m. with the Aggies needing to win both Wednesday and Thursday to keep the Sooners from playing for the title.