Super regional win one of redemption for Hogs

Arkansas infielder Jalen Battles (2) runs to first, Sunday, June 12, 2022 during the ninth inning of the NCAA Baseball Super Regional game 2 at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. Check out nwaonline.com/220613Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery...(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas infielder Jalen Battles (2) runs to first, Sunday, June 12, 2022 during the ninth inning of the NCAA Baseball Super Regional game 2 at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. Check out nwaonline.com/220613Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery...(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Arkansas Razorbacks refused to lose another 3-2 super-regional game to a team from North Carolina.

One day shy of the 2021 anniversary of their season-ending 3-2 loss to North Carolina State in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to beat North Carolina 4-3 at Boshamer Stadium on Sunday and add a significant chapter to their redemption story.

The University of Arkansas was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2021 but did not make the College World Series while playing only home games. This time, the Razorbacks won five of six postseason games away from home and punched their ticket for the program's 11th trip to the College World Series, the sport's pinnacle event in Omaha, Neb.

"This is special because of the way it went down last year, honestly," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "It was tough last year at this time. This is awesome."

Seventeen of the 27 players who made the trip to Chapel Hill were part of last year's team, although some were not on the postseason roster in 2021.

Following Sunday's game, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek recalled what Van Horn told the players when they huddled following the loss to NC State.


"Remember this, because at some point in time in the future some of you guys may be a part of going and doing this and celebrating on somebody else's home field," Yurachek said. "It's ironic that it happened to be a very similar scenario where you've got a team -- like NC State did last year -- that got hot at the right time. We're in North Carolina playing a higher-seeded team just after we upset Oklahoma State on their home field.

"It's all clicking for our team right now. ... It's pretty neat to see this team come together."

Brady Slavens, whose one-out RBI single scored Peyton Stovall to win the game, received a word of encouragement from shortstop Jalen Battles during the pitching change before his at-bat.

According to Slavens, Battles told him, "Hey, this is what we came back for, so go do it."

"We had a whole year to think about it. A lot of the players were on last year's team this year," Slavens said. "That was basically the motivation, was we're not going to lose this year. We're going to give it everything we have.

"All I could think about going up to the plate was last year's heartbreak and wanting to do it for this year's team and last year's team, honestly, not being able to make it."

Battles, who grounded out on the final swing of last year's decisive loss to NC State, began the ninth-inning rally that won Sunday's game. His single off the glove of third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi gave the Razorbacks a leadoff runner after the Tar Heels took the lead 3-2 in the top of the ninth.

Stovall followed with a single to send Battles to third base and pinch hitter Kendall Diggs walked to load the bases with no outs. Braydon Webb's fielder's choice RBI tied the game 3-3 and brought Slavens to the plate.

"Jalen hit the first pitch, Webb hit the first pitch, Brady hit the second pitch," Van Horn said of three players who opted to return this season.


Arkansas is in Omaha after an up-and-down season that included a 4-8 stretch entering the NCAA Tournament -- a stretch that likely cost the team the SEC West championship and a chance to host a regional.

The Razorbacks' win, coupled with No. 1 seed Tennessee's season-ending loss to Notre Dame earlier in the day, was a reminder the teams with the best records don't always make the College World Series -- a lesson Arkansas players know firsthand.

"It's hard to get there," said Van Horn, who added, "It's tough getting this far in the season and falling one game short."

The Razorbacks made sure it didn't happen again.