Texas opened play in the College World Series Sunday afternoon, facing a familiar foe in Arkansas. The Longhorns and Razorbacks squared off for the third time this season, and similar to the first two contests, Arkansas came out on top. The 11-5 loss puts Texas in the loser’s bracket, meaning the Longhorns will have to win 4 straight elimination games to advance to the Championship series.
Texas starter Nolan Kingham took the loss, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings. Arkansas starter Blaine Knight improved his record to 13-0 with the win. Knight lasted 5 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. Four Arkansas relievers combined to allow 3 runs in 4 innings.
Arkansas opened the scoring in the bottom of the 1st. Leadoff man Eric Cole opened the inning with a opposite field double into the gap in left-center. Two batters later, Heston Kjerstad roped an RBI single up the middle, giving the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead.
Texas responded in the top half of the 3rd. Tate Shaw led off the frame by smashing a triple over the head of a drawn in outfield to the wall in right-center. Ryan Reynolds followed with a RBI groundout back to the pitcher, tying the game at 1.
In the top half of the 5th, Texas took their first and only lead of the afternoon. Masen Hibbeler began the inning with a hard single off the glove of Arkansas SS Jax Biggers. Tate Shaw then laid down a perfect bunt single, putting two runners on with nobody out. After a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Reynolds, David Hamilton lifted a sacrifice fly to CF, allowing Hibbeler to trot home from third and give the Longhorns a 2-1 lead.
The Razorbacks would re-take the lead in an eventful bottom half of the 5th. With one out and a runner on first, Heston Kjerstad smashed a grounder to Jake McKenzie at first base. After a slight bobble, McKenzie fired to David Hamilton at second base for the force out, but Hamilton’s return throw to first sailed wide and got by McKenzie. Kjerstad briefly turned towards second, but returned to first and appeared to throw a forearm at McKenzie. After a brief tense moments with some words exchanged between Kjerstad and Texas players, play resumed. Luke Bonfield would end up making Texas pay for not turning the double play, as he crushed a 2-run home run into the LF seats, giving Arkansas a 3-2 lead.
Arkansas would blow the game open in the 6th thanks to some shaky relief pitching from the Texas bullpen. After back-to-back singles to open the frame, David Pierce called in Parker Joe Robinson from the bullpen. Robinson promptly walked two straight batters, forcing home a run. Josh Sawyer entered in relief of Robinson and walked the only batter he faced, stretching the Razorback lead to 5-2. After a 2 hour and 49 rain delay, play resumed with Chase Shugart on the mound. Arkansas welcomed Shugart to the game with back-to-back singles, growing the lead to 8-2. After hitting the next batter, Shugart exited the game in favor of Kamron Fields. Fields would surrender back-to-back singles, with the final single bringing home the 8th run of the inning, giving Arkansas a 11-5 lead.
Texas combined to score 3 runs in the 8th and 9th, but it was not enough as the Longhorns fell in their first College World Series game since 2014. The Longhorns will return to action on Tuesday against the loser of Texas Tech and Florida. The elimination game will start at 1 PM and will be shown on ESPN.