The Texas Tech baseball team kept their run in the 2019 College World Series alive, defeating No. 5 Arkansas, 5-4, in the loser's bracket on Monday in Omaha, Nebraska.
"We had a hunch these guys were going to be fun to watch with their backs against the wall," head coach Tim Tadlock said."We really hadn't been in that position throughout the year. Played really good baseball pretty much, and we try to approach each day and good win that day and play the game the right way."
Tech’s starting pitcher, junior RHP Caleb Kilian, opened the game retiring three-straight batters to keep Arkansas off of the bases in the first inning. In the bottom of the inning, junior Brian Klein earned the first hit of the game for a single but a fly out ended the inning with no runs on the scoreboard for the two teams.
Kilian opened the second inning with a strikeout but gave up a home run over the left-field wall to Heston Kjerstad, giving the Razorbacks an early 1-0 lead. Kilian then struck another batter out and fielded a grounder for the final out in the top of the inning.
Arkansas’ Franklin Christian Franklin was the first Razorback on base in the third inning with a single to center field. Franklin stole second on a strikeout and was sent home as Casey Martin tripled to left field. With Martin on third, an infield hit by Matt Goodheart sent him home, growing Arkansas’ lead, 3-0 in the third inning.
"(Kilian) was commanding the ball," Tadlock said. "The pitch to Kjerstad was a fastball away, and we just didn't -- we really thought it would be a hard fly ball to center or left, and he just got every bit of it, back-spun it and the ball went out of the ballpark. And then the other two runs scored in that inning, ball barely lands in front of Kurt. You're talking about a foot, maybe two feet from being out of the inning. And then the other one is supposed to be an elevated fastball, and it's a ground ball in the 6 hole with a left-handed hitter."
The Red Raiders found success in the fourth inning as Kilian retired three-straight Razorbacks. Junior Brian Klein drew a walk in the bottom of the inning but was tossed out at second off a fielder’s choice hit by junior Josh Jung. Senior Cameron Warren then put some runs on the board for Tech with a two-run dinger over the left-center wall, cutting Arkansas’ lead 3-2.
"Yeah, that was huge, that gave me a ton of confidence," Kilian said regarding Warren's home run. "Man, that was awesome because I was kind of just grinding it out, out there, hoping for some run support, and then Cam comes through with that. I kind of knew it was coming. I had a feeling about it, so when it happened I was pumped and that got us going on a little roll, and then our hitters started getting some hits, so it was good."
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the former Razorback sophomore Eason Murrell stepped up to bat with two outs. Murrell then hit his first home run of the season over the right-field wall, tying the game 3-3.
Kilian kept the Razorbacks from scoring a run in the sixth inning, striking two batters out for his eighth of the day. The eight strikeouts tied the school record for the most in a College World Series game.
The No. 8 overall pick in the MLB Draft, Jung, gave the Red Raiders their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run over the right-center wall. The home run was the Red Raiders’ third of the day, giving Tech a 4-3 lead.
A Tech program record was broken in the top of the seventh inning as Kilian struck his ninth batter out of the day for the most by a Red Raider in the College World Series. Following a strong seven innings at the mound, Kilian was relieved by junior LHP Dane Haveman in the eighth.
Haveman struggled in the eighth as he put runners on the corners after he walked Dominic Fletcher and gave up a single to Kjerstad. Jack Kenley then hit a sac fly to left field, sending Fletcher home on an off-target throw home from the outfield, tying the game 4-4. Junior RHP John McMillon relieved Haveman with two outs in the top of the eighth and struck a batter out to send the Red Raiders to the dugout.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Warren drew a walk. Sophomore Cody Masters fired a hit to the right-center wall for his first triple of the season, sending Warren home for the 5-4 lead.
"Prior to that, didn't have many good at-bats before that, and so whenever I was stepping on deck, just kind of took a deep breath, tried to forget everything and tried to come through for the squad that's always come through for me when it mattered," Masters said. "Just basically flushing it, I guess."
Junior Taylor Floyd took the mound in the ninth inning after McMillon hit a batter with a pitch and gave up a single, putting runners on first and second. An infield fly and strikeout gave the Red Raiders two outs, looking for one more to eliminate Arkansas. Wilson then caught a fly ball to secure the Red Raiders' win.
With the win, Tech eliminated the No. 5 national seed out of the College World Series. The Red Raiders will continue their run in Omaha on Wednesday against the loser of Michigan and Florida State's game at 6 p.m.