OMAHA, Neb. -- The Arkansas Razorbacks clinched a spot in the College World Series finals Friday night, eliminating defending national champion and No. 1 seed Florida 5-2 behind a gem from Isaiah Campbell.
Closer Matt Cronin struck out Blake Reese with the backdrop of the chant of "Go Hogs Go!" from the Razorback partisans in the crowd of 25,106 at TD Ameritrade Park to punch the program's first ticket to the finals since 1979.Gallery: Arkansas defeats Florida in Omaha
The Razorbacks (47-19) advanced to the best 2-of-3 championship series and will play the winner of tonight's Bracket 1 final between Mississippi State and Oregon State starting Monday night in pursuit of the first baseball championship for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
"Top to bottom, it was a good effort by our team," said 16th year Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn. "It means a lot to be here, but we still have work to do."
Arkansas outhit the Gators (49-21) 11-3, sparked by a 4-for-5 performance from Casey Martin, who scored the Hogs' first three runs, and Dominic Fletcher's second home run in two games.
"Honestly, I never thought I'd be here, to be honest," Martin said. "I dreamed about it my whole life. Dreamed to play for this team. Dreamed to start my freshman year. I'm just super excited."
Said Arkansas senior Carson Shaddy, "Getting closer to the final step is incredible. I can't believe we're playing for a national championship. I'm so excited."
Campbell (5-6), who outpitched Florida ace Brady Singer, carried a perfect game into the fifth inning and turned in one of the strongest performances of his career by allowing 2 runs on 2 hits through 5 1/3 innings.
"I came in with the same mentality I had for the super regional, that every inning was the ninth inning and it was a closer situation," Campbell said. "I just went with a fastball and cutter today. It was actually funny because the cutter was my worst pitch in the bullpen."
Cronin pitched the final two innings for his school-record tying 13th save, helped by Eric Cole's leaping catch over the railing deep in right field in foul territory to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
Fletcher went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and is now 8 of 13 in Omaha.
Florida had won seven consecutive elimination games in the NCAA Tournament dating back to last year.
"I like playing Arkansas," Florida Coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They're always well coached. It's almost like we're playing ourselves. They're playing at a very high level right now.
"The way they're pitching and playing offensively and defensively, they've got a really good chance at this thing."
The Razorbacks' victory assured that the national No. 1 seed would not win the series for the 19th consecutive year. Miami in 1999 is the only No. 1 seed to win the CWS since the super regional format and seeding process was added in 1999.
The Gators, playing in the CWS semifinals for the third time in the last four years, fell to 2-3 against Arkansas in 2018.
The Razorbacks chased Singer (12-3) after five innings. The No. 18 pick by the Kansas City Royals allowed 4 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk and left with an 11.93 career ERA against the Hogs. Singer fell to 0-3 against the Razorbacks in his career.
Arkansas worked Singer for 29 pitches in the first inning, highlighted by Luke Bonfield's 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in an RBI single.
Martin slashed a one-out single into left field and moved up on Heston Kjerstad's fly ball down the right-field line. Bonfield fouled off five pitches before slapping a single into right-center field to score Martin.
The Razorbacks increased their lead to 2-0 in the second with Martin again serving as the spark plug. The freshman led off with a single and advanced when the second baseman Reese could not make a back-hand stop on Kjerstad's ground ball for an error.
After Bonfield's infield pop-up, Fletcher went after the first pitch and belted a single over first baseman JJ Schwarz's head to send Martin home.
Martin led off the fifth with a double into the left-field corner to spark another Arkansas' rally. Kjerstad's grounder got Martin to third, then Bonfield drove him in with a ground ball to third base.
Two pitches later Fletcher barreled up a Singer pitch and sent it over the right-field wall for his second home run in two games and his 10th of the season for a 4-0 lead.
Florida cut its deficit in half in the bottom of the inning after Austin Langworthy broke up Campbell's no hitter with a two-out single to left field. Campbell hit Reese with the next pitch, then Brady Smith stroke a two-strike pitch into right field to make it 4-1. Campbell's wild pitch allowed Reese to score before he struck out Nick Horvath to escape the inning.
The Razorbacks broke through for another run in the sixth off Florida reliever. Jared Gates hit a hot-shot single off third baseman Jonathan India to open the frame, then Reese threw wide of first on Jax Biggers' chopper, allowing the runners to reach second and third.
Mace struck out Cole to get on the brink of wriggling out of damage, but Martin out-ran a dribbler to second base that allowed Gates to score from third.
Arkansas reliever Jake Reindl retired SEC Player of the Year India and clean-up man Will Dalton to finish up the sixth but he got himself in trouble in the seventh with a pair of one-out walks to Langworthy and Reese.
After a visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson, Reindl struck out Smith and got Horvath to hit into a force play.
Sports on 06/23/2018
Print Headline: Hogs to play for national title