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story.lead_photo.caption Casey Martin (left), Arkansas third baseman, celebrates with second baseman Carson Shaddy as he crosses the plate to score in the 8th inning vs Texas Tech Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in game eight of the NCAA Men's College World Series between at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. - Photo by Ben Goff

OMAHA, Neb. -- Dominic Fletcher went 4 for 4 and hit a titanic home run to help put the Arkansas Razorbacks into prime position at the College World Series on Wednesday.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville scored the first five runs and received sterling pitching for eight innings from Kacey Murphy and Barrett Loseke for a 7-4 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders before a crowd of 13,637 at TD Ameritrade Park.

Fletcher and Jared Gates hit solo home runs during the 5-0 start to push the Razorbacks' season total to a school-record 97.

Arkansas (46-19) advances to Friday's Bracket 2 championship-round game at 7 p.m. Texas Tech (45-19) is scheduled to face Florida in an elimination game today at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Florida-Texas Tech winner will have to beat the Razorbacks twice to advance to the CWS championship series.

"Like I told the team, been here before and it didn't go very good," said Van Horn, referencing the Razorbacks' 2-0 start in the 2012 CWS before losing twice to South Carolina.

Gallery: Arkansas defeats Texas Tech in Omaha

"We haven't really done anything yet. We're 2-0. It's a great feeling. What it gets us is a day off so you can rest some guys."

Texas Tech Coach Tim Tadlock's team fell to 0-2 against the Razorbacks this season.

"Arkansas [has] got a really nice club," Tadlock said. "Got a really nice lineup. They threw three quality arms at us, and they played awful good.

"The neat thing is nobody's picking us to beat Florida or Arkansas, and we're going to show up tomorrow and try to earn that right."

Fletcher hit a two-run double in the first inning with the aide of colliding Texas Tech defenders, then launched a towering home run beyond the right-field bullpen to extend Arkansas' lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning.

"It's about as far as I can hit one, probably as far as I've ever hit one," Fletcher said of the home run ball that was estimated at 415 feet by ESPN.

Fletcher fouled off six consecutive pitches, seven total in the at-bat, before getting a center-cut fastball off starting pitcher Davis Martin.

"He left a fastball right over the middle of the plate," Fletcher said.

Gates also hit a home run off Martin (7-6), a solo shot to right field, to give the Hogs a 3-0 lead in the second inning.

"You've got to give them credit, they've got a great lineup," Martin said. "I think both home runs were mistakes."

Gates improved to 21 of 61 (.344) in his postseason career.

"I was on a first-pitch fastball and I just missed it," Gates said. "Then he threw a change-up and I honestly capped it. I don't know how it got out, but I'm glad it did."

The Razorbacks scored two insurance runs in the ninth inning on singles by Fletcher and Carson Shaddy to make it 7-2. Closer Matt Cronin gave up two runs in the ninth.

Murphy almost got through the requisite five innings to earn the victory. He gave up only two hits -- to Gabe Holt leading off the first inning and a double to Brian Klein in the fifth -- but the latter drove in two runs to end his outing with a 5-2 lead and two outs in the fifth. Murphy walked 2, struck out 7 and threw 50 strikes among his 81 pitches.

"I had all my pitches for strikes," Murphy said. "But I mean, they felt it was right to pull me at that time and it worked out. So I can't really complain about that. I had everything for strikes, and I was working ahead in the count, so I felt pretty good."

Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson, asked to describe Murphy's start, said: "Loved it. Thought he was awesome. You know everything we worked on this week he was able to take out to the mound. He really attacked the strike zone."

Loseke (4-2) struck out 5 batters and did not allow a run on 2 hits in his 3 innings to pick up the victory. Cronin, getting his first work of the College World Series, ran into ninth-inning trouble but rallied after giving up two runs. He recorded the last four outs.

The Hogs got it going in the first inning against Martin with help from the Red Raiders. Cole got behind 0-2 before lacing an opposite-field single into left field to open the game. Casey Martin ripped a double just inside the third-base bag and into the corner to put runners at second and third.

Martin struck out Heston Kjerstad and Luke Bonfield, then induced a fly ball to right-center from Fletcher that should have ended the threat, but the ball popped free after outfielders Cody Farhat and Holt collided, allowing both runners to score.

"At this time of the year, we always talk about you have to be a little lucky, and in the first inning we had two players run into each other," Van Horn said. "Cost them two runs. But we set up that inning pretty good."

After Gates' sixth home run in the second inning, Arkansas added two more in the fourth, highlighted by Fletcher's shot as the leadoff man. Carson Shaddy walked after that, but Martin retired the next two batters. Jax Biggers laced a single into right-center field to bring Shaddy around and make it 5-2.

Murphy struck out shortstop Michael Davis to open the fifth, but the pitch went in the dirt and catcher Grant Koch couldn't get to it in time to throw Davis out at first base. Farhat drew a walk before nine-hole hitter Braxton Fulford flew out to left. Murphy struck out Holt and was on the verge of escaping any damage before Klein roped a two-run double into the right-field corner.

Cronin got the final out of the eighth inning with a runner at second base but got into trouble in the ninth.

He walked Cameron Warren to open the inning, allowed a double to Davis, then a two-run single to Farhat inside the first-base bag. With Farhat at second, he struck out pinch hitter Cody Masters, retired Holt on a come-backer, then got Klein to fly out to Kjerstad in left field to end the game.

Sports on 06/21/2018


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