By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE – The field is set for the College World Series with Arkansas and Stanford meeting at 1 pm Saturday and televised on ESPN.
Games will begin Friday with Oklahoma and Texas A&M meeting at 1 pm Friday’s 6 pm game will pit Notre Dame against Texas. Both games will be on ESPN. On Saturday night at 6 p.m., Ole Miss and Auburn will meet and will be televised on ESPN2.
The Razorbacks and Stanford met on February 27 with the Cardinal winning 5-0 in Round Rock, Texas. Arkansas was limited to three hits for the day and Hagen Smith was the Hogs’ starting pitcher. The Razorbacks won both SEC series against Ole Miss and Auburn by 2-1 margins. They fell to Texas A&M by a 2-1 margin. So the Razorbacks are 5-5 against the other teams in the College World Series.
Brady Slavens delivered the big shot that allowed Arkansas to advance to the College World Series. Before he hit, the Tar Heels were making a pitching trade and shortstop Jalen Battles, who like Slavens and a few others on this team, might have turned pro after last season. However, Battles had a message for Slavens.
“Well, we had a whole year to think about it,” Slavens said of losing to North Carolina State. “A lot of the players were on last year’s team this year. That was basically the motivation that we are not going to lose this year. Let’s give him everything we have. I remember Jalen coming up to me in my last at-bat and saying, ‘Hey, this is what we came back for. So do it. All I could think about stepping up to the plate was the angst from last year and wanting to do it for this year’s team and last year’s team, honestly not being able to do it.”
The Tar Heels turned to lefty Caden O’Brien to face Slavens. O’Brien pitched three innings in Saturday’s loss to the Razorbacks to give Slavens an idea of how they would pitch him.
“I knew when Braydon (Webb) hit that, they were going to bring him in,” Slavens said. “They were heating it up. I faced him yesterday. I had seen it, seen all his pitches and I felt comfortable. I put a good swing on the first pitch I saw in the zone.”
This will be the ninth College World Series for Dave Van Horn. He took Nebraska twice before coming to Arkansas, making it the seventh time he’s headed to Omaha while he was with the Hogs.
“It never gets old, it’s hard,” Van Horn said. “What never gets old is the satisfaction and the smiles on the faces of the players. I mean, it’s something they’ll never forget. That’s probably what I honestly enjoy the most right now.”
Arkansas, Stanford, Auburn and Ole Miss are on the same side of the pack. The College World Series will take place June 17-27.