The finals. #OmaHogs pic.twitter.com/CvWJyINOQW
— Razorback Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) June 24, 2018
Fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks have been “calling the hogs” in the state of Nebraska for more than a week, and who could blame them?
They’re probably warming up again right now, as we, err, speak.
So far, the Razorbacks are undefeated in Omaha at the College World Series. They’re 3-0 and playing great in all phases of the game.
Perhaps more importantly, they’re pitching more effectively at the moment than the 4-1 Oregon State Beavers.
As a result, the Arkansas bullpen has also worked fewer innings than its counterpart since the tournament opened on June 16.
Given the disparity, even the most neutral observers likely favor the Hogs to beat the Beavers in the finals, a best-of-three series that starts Monday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
But whether such conventional analysis proves accurate in this case, I don’t know if I’m buying into that or not.
I don’t know how you can ever count out an Oregon State offense that’s averaged nearly 10 runs per game in five CWS games.
Count ’em. The Beavers have scored 48 runs in five-game ride to the CWS finals.
From what I’ve seen on television, I’m not sure Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach and Adley Rutschman and those guys couldn’t, on a good day, beat just about any pitcher in the nation.
Against Arkansas, they’ll face Blaine Knight (13-0, 2.88) in the opener, followed by Kacey Murphy (8-5, 3.15) and, if necessary, Isaiah Campbell (5-6, 4.12).
They’ll also likely see a lot of Barrett Loseke, Jake Reindl and Matt Cronin out of the bullpen.
That’s the heart of a staff that has withstood challenges from solid offensive teams in Texas, Texas Tech and No. 1 Florida.
It’s a staff that has held opponents to a combined 11 runs in Omaha in an impressive three-game stretch.
Then again, I also think Madrigal and Co. are extraordinary talents that could cause major problems, forcing the Razorbacks to go deeper into their rotation than anyone they’ve seen at the CWS thus far.
Who will win? I don’t know.
I just really like Oregon State’s swagger right now, and, in spite of spotty pitching from Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel, I strongly suspect this series will go the distance.
I think, for certain, we’ll see three highly entertaining baseball games.
Arkansas is shooting for its first national title in baseball. The Razorbacks last reached the CWS finals in 1979.
Oregon State won titles previously at the CWS in 2006 and 2007. The Beavers haven’t been back to the CWS finals since.
Oregon State coach Pat Casey:
“What I’ve seen of Arkansas is what everybody else has seen, pretty darned good,” Casey said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a more complete team: Pitching, defense, speed, power.”
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn:
“Once we got here and watched them play, I told Pat that I figured that they would fight their way through like they did,” Van Horn said. “And I think it’s going to be a great series.”
Here are stories that appeared in Monday’s editions of the Corvallis (Oregon) Gazette-Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Once a two-sport athlete for @BeaverAthletics, Adley Rutschman traded in a helmet and shoulder pads for a bat and catcher's mitt full-time this season.
Now, he's got the hottest @BeaverBaseball bat in Omaha: https://t.co/wzPBkfPA2N pic.twitter.com/7Df4zOUU5R
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 25, 2018