FAYETTEVILLE — No. 1 Arkansas scored early and often as well as got good pitching from Patrick Wicklander to blast North Carolina State 21-2 in the opening game of the Fayetteville Super Regionals in Baum-Walker Stadium.
The Hogs hit four home runs, blasted 17 hits and scored three runs in the second and fifth, four in the third, six in the sixth and five more in bottom of the eighth to turn the game into a rout. Arkansas moved to 50-11 on the season while NC State fell to 33-18.
NC State got onto the scoreboard first in the top of the second when shortstop Jose Torres led off the inning with a solo shot over the fence in left field. But that was the lone highlight of the night for the Wolfpack until the top of the ninth when they added another run on an Austin Murr triple that scored Eddie Eisert.
Arkansas answered back in the bottom of the second when Charlie Welch hit a one-out double to left field. Robert Moore followed by hitting an 0-2 pitch over the fence in right field for a 2-1 lead. Casey Opitz then got a one-out single. He stole second and then scored on a double to left field by Jalen Battles to go up 3-1.
In the bottom of the third, the Hogs got four more runs. Matt Goodheart singled to start the inning. Cayden Wallace was hit by a pitch. Then with two outs, Moore walked to load the bases. Cullen Smith then took a 2-2 pitch and hit it over the fence in right center field for a grand slam and 7-1 lead.
Wicklander pitched out of a jam in the top of the fourth. NC State had the bases loaded and two outs. Wicklander got Tyler McDonough to fly out deep center field to Braydon Webb to end the threat.
Charlie Welch blasted a one-out home run over the fence in right field to also plate Wallace, who had walked. Arkansas took a 9-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Moore doubled then and Opitz singled to score him with two outs. Smith just missed his second home run of the game in the inning. He flied out deep to center field. The Hogs took a 10-1 lead after five innings.
Arkansas continued to pour it on in the bottom of the sixth with six more runs. With one out, Goodheart singled and then Wallace doubled. Brady Slavens then broke out of a slump with a nice double to right field that plated both Wallace and Goodheart. Welch then singled to get Slavens home. Moore and Smith followed with singles to load the bases with one out. Opitz, Webb and Goodheart then walked with the bases loaded to force in Welch, Moore and Smith for a 16-1 lead after six innings.
Arkansas added five runs in the bottom of the eighth on a bases loaded walk to Welch that scored Battles. Zack Gregory then scored on a wild pitch. Moore hit his second home run of the game with Welch and Jacob Nesbit scoring on the long ball.
Wicklander worked six innings to move to 7-1 on the season. Wicklander allowed six hits, one run (earned), two walks, struck out six, faced 26 hitters, threw 99 pitches with 65 going for strikes. Heston Tole replaced him to start the seventh. Tole worked two innings, didn’t allow a hit, walked one and fanned four. Kole Ramage pitched the top of the ninth.
Reid Johnston lasted three innings. He allowed six hits, seven runs (all earned), one walk, hit a batter and struck out five. His pitch count was 76. Garrett Payne replaced him to start the bottom of fourth. Payne worked 2.1 innings. He allowed three hits, three runs (all earned), walked one and fanned a trio. John Miralia replaced him with one out in bottom of sixth. Miralia faced three hitters and didn’t get anyone out. So NC State brought in Coby Ingle. Andrew Tillery followed Ingle to the mound. Tristan Sipple then came onto pitch for the Wolfpack. Cooper King was the final pitcher of the night for the Wolfpack.
The two teams will return to the field Saturday at 2 p.m. and televised on ESPN2. The Hogs need to win one of the two remaining games to advance to the College World Series for the third consecutive year. That is an accomplishment that has never happened previously at Arkansas.