OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Arkansas” trip to the College World Series was over quickly, and coach Dave Van Horn had no regrets.
The Razorbacks, after all, weren”t expected to make it this far, not after entering April as a .500 team and going into the postseason with a pitching staff sorely lacking depth.
After Miami”s Jacob Heyward delivered the walk-off RBI single that beat Arkansas 4-3 on Monday, the mood around the Hogs afterward was surprisingly upbeat.
The Hurricanes (50-16) move to a Wednesday game against Florida. The Razorbacks (40-25) went two-and-out at the CWS for only the second time in eight appearances.
“You”ll never see me shed a tear,” coach Dave Van Horn said, “when you finish your season in Omaha.”
Heyward”s two-run homer in the fifth opened the scoring, but the Hogs came back to tie. After Heyward came home for the go-ahead run in the eighth, Arkansas responded with a nice piece of hitting from Brett McAfee, who made it 3-3 with a hit through a hole in the right side of the infield.
Arkansas loaded the bases in the ninth, but Miami”s Bryan Garcia (6-2) got Nomura to ground out to end the threat.
“I appreciated the effort this team put out this year,” Van Horn said. “We”ve come a long way and I”m so proud of them. We”re just continuing to play so hard. You kind of saw a little bit of what we”ve been doing for the last 45 days in today”s game just grinding and staying in games and trying to find ways to win.
“We”ve played a lot of close games. These guys are pretty tough mentally and we never shut it down.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Heyward was supposed to bunt before he drove the ball into left-center field. He squared up twice and got down 0-2 against Zach Jackson (5-1). That forced Heyward to swing away.
“I”ve got to be honest, when we were bunting in the bottom of the ninth, he didn”t get it over, and I was almost glad,” coach Jim Morris said. “I just had a feeling he was going to get a hit.”
Heyward hit a two-run homer and reached base all four times he went to the plate Monday. Heyward rounded first base, tossed his helmet high in the air and waited for teammates to mob him after Carl Chester scored the winning run. Chester pinch ran for Willie Abreu, who started the ninth with a double off the center-field wall.
“We were trying to win a ballgame, and it would have been terrible if I had struck out with a man on second base,” Heyward said. “I had to have a good at-bat, and I tried to put the barrel on the ball. It happened.”
Heyward, the younger brother of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward, has reached base in six of eight plate appearances in two games.
“It looked like he was seeing a beachball out there, everything we threw him,” Arkansas” Joe Serrano said. “He was handling the bat real well, and I wish him the best of luck the rest of the College World Series.”
Heyward drilled a Jackson Lowery pitch into the left-center seats in the fifth inning for the first CWS home run between the power alleys in the five years the event has been held at the spacious TD Ameritrade Park. It was Heyward”s fourth of the season.
“For us, huge win, huge win,” Morris said. “Mr. Heyward”s day, goodness gracious. He had an unbelievable day.”