OMAHA, Neb. (KTHV) - For the second time in program history, the University of Arkansas baseball team will finish as the national runner-up after Thursday evening’s 5-0 loss to No. 3 Oregon State in Game 3 of the College World Series finals.
As the game ended, you see the immediate toll the loss had by looking at the faces of the Arkansas Razorbacks team.
The THV11 Crew caught up with some of the players in the locker room as they hugged one another and consoled one another.
“These 27 guys are some of my closest friends. It’s a brotherhood. I’m going to miss everybody that’s going to the draft, separate teams. Bottom line, I just love this team,” said pitcher Isaiah Campbell. He added that they had a good mindset going into game 3. “Yeah, we needed just another game. We weren’t down. We fought all year. We’ve had the ups and downs. This team knows how to compete and fight until the end. And that’s what we did.” Campbell said all the guys from the coaches, managers, trainers are his brothers and he just loves everybody.
Infielder Jax Biggers credits the loss to the Beavers pitching staff. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we want it to, that’s kind of just how baseball goes,” he said. THV11’s Rob Evans asked Biggers about the closeness of the team and Biggers said, “This team means more to me than I can ever explain. I’ve been on a lot of good teams, a lot of different sports, and not one team comes close to the closeness of this team.” Biggers said he would give anything just to do this season over again.
You can see the sadness in pitcher Blaine Knight’s eyes. “It’s been a lot of fun. A lot of memories I’m gonna look back on down the line. And I’ve made a lot of really close friend that I’m gonna have for the rest of my life,” said Knight. When asked what the best part of Arkansas baseball is that he would take onto the next step in his life, Knight replied, “Just the mindset that I have when I pitch. You know we all have that same mindset, the bulldog mindset, that’s what it is. You have to have that to get through in this league. Whether you’re a hitter or pitcher, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to be able to grind through stuff, and that’s what’s going to be at the next level as well. I’m going to take that mentality and just keep rolling.” Knight explained the Razorback baseball program is elite and always will be and has no doubt the team will be back. “You know, I’ve bled red my whole life and that ain’t going to stop now, so hopefully I’ll be able to catch them up here again here on down the road,” said Knight.
Outfielder Eric Cole said they just ran into a really hot pitcher who threw unbelievably against Mississippi State in that elimination game. “He threw amazing last night [Game 2] when he came in against us. And he threw great again today [Game 3] and we just kind of ran into the wrong guy on the wrong day,” explained Cole. He thought the Hogs had a couple of good approaches but all-in-all the Beavers freshman pitcher threw a better game than the Hogs played. “To kind of look back at what this team has accomplished throughout the years is really special. It’s something that I’ll never forget. It’s kind of going to be tough to find stuff in life that’s a better feeling than putting on this jersey with this group of guys,” said Cole. He added that he’d actually be shocked if the Razorbacks didn’t return to the College World Series finals next year.
Infielder Carson Shaddy said the team met as a group the morning of game three and we ready to go but it didn’t help them out as planned. “The mentality was there, for sure. We were ready to play, we didn’t feel like anything was going to hold us back,” said Shaddy. Following the ending of game two, head coach Dave Van Horn told the team that it wasn’t the end of the world. Evans also asked Shaddy about the bond he has with this team. “The family bond is incredible. You know, I feel like I’m so close with the guys that I’m four years older than. So, I thank them for buying in this year and having a great season and a great run,” said Shaddy.
Looking back on this last game infielder Hunter Wilson said if you’ve ever been in a situation like the Razorbacks, the game when you’re behind moves fast. And when you’re winning it seems like it takes forever. “Last night [Game 2], I felt like the game was never going to end and then everything just went for a turn. And today [Game 3], I felt like the game took 20 minutes,” said Wilson. He added that everything happens for a reason and that you can really ask for anything else of this Razorback team. Evans asked about how Wilson feels looking back on the run the Hogs have had this year and in the College World Series championship, “I’ll be able to tell my kids and my family,” said Wilson. He got so choked up he had to pause from finishing his answer. He then continued with, “And the people in Fayetteville… and my hometown, I can’t ask for anything else. It’s been unreal. And I appreciate it.” Wilson said if you’ve ever played baseball, this is it. “It’ll break your heart, it’ll lift you up. And I can’t explain to you enough how much this game has… the way it’s treated me. It’s taught me so much. And these guys are the best, man.”
The finish equals the standard set by the 1979 team that was runner-up in the program’s first-ever trip to Omaha.
The Razorbacks’ appearance in the College World Series finals caps the program’s ninth trip to Omaha, and its fifth under head coach Dave Van Horn. Arkansas ends the season with a 48-21 record, good for the highest win total in the Van Horn era.
Five Razorbacks were named to the 2018 College World Series All-Tournament Team. Arkansas was represented by senior Jared Gates, junior Blaine Knight, sophomore Dominic Fletcher and freshmen Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin.
What DVH Said
“First, I’d like to thank the city of Omaha and this incredible tournament by the NCAA…was so well run. We’re so appreciative of everything you’ve done for us. Tonight, will be our 15th night in a hotel and it’s been a great experience to be here for so long.”
“I figured it would take eight or nine (runs) today and I thought we’d score some runs. I thought we’d break loose but they didn’t give us that opportunity. (Oregon State) pitched us extremely well for three days in a row so hat’s off to them. In a two-out-of-three series this week, they were the better team.”
Arkansas’ biggest scoring threat of the night came when the team loaded the bases with one out in the third. Junior catcher Grant Koch led things off with a double off the wall in left field. After a walk to Eric Cole and infield single by Martin, the bags were full of Razorbacks. However, Oregon State starter Kevin Abel got his team out of the jam with a strikeout and fly out to right field.
The Beavers jumped out to an early advantage with two runs in the first inning off redshirt sophomore Isaiah Campbell. The relief trio of Jake Reindl (2.1 IP), Cody Scroggins (1.2 IP) and Kole Ramage (2.0 IP) allowed just two runs on five hits over the final six innings.
College World Series Finals | CWS Bracket
Oregon State wins series, 2-1
Tuesday, June 26
Game 1: No. 5 Arkansas 4, No. 3 Oregon State 1
Wednesday, June 27
Game 2: No. 3 Oregon State 5, No. 5 Arkansas 3
Thursday, June 28
Game 3: No. 3 Oregon State 5, No. 5 Arkansas 0
Portions of this story were written with information provided by the University of Arkansas.