Arkansas baseball players make history in CWS win over Auburn
OMAHA, Neb. — Expectations have defined Arkansas baseball’s 2022 season, but perhaps for no one more than first baseman Peyton Stovall.
The highly-touted freshman turned down “life-changing” money and the MLB Draft to play at Arkansas, but hit .251 before the NCAA Tournament. Bigger numbers were expected for Stovall after he racked up preseason accolades.
Since tournament play began, however, Stovall has been one of Arkansas’ biggest offensive weapons. He’s hitting .525 in the Razorbacks’ nine postseason games, and he can improve on that figure when Arkansas plays Ole Miss in a must-win game Wednesday (6 pm CT, ESPN).
Stovall’s impressive postseason prompted Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn to shuffle his batting order Tuesday before the Razorbacks (45-20) beat Auburn (43-22). He swapped Stovall and designated hitter Brady Slavens, moving Stovall from the eight-hole to the two-hole.
It worked. In the 11-1 win over Auburn, Stovall became the first player since 2009 and the first Razorback with five hits in one College World Series game. He was 5-for-6 with four singles, a double, three RBIs and two runs. The last player with five hits in Omaha was North Carolina’s Dustin Ackley.
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“He had unrealistic expectations of him because he was a guy that turned down a lot of money,” Van Horn said of Stovall. “He just felt a lot of pressure… (But) we’ve really been able to see the future in the last month.”
Stovall was the star of an offensive effort that helped Arkansas stave off elimination from the College World Series. But on the mound, starting pitcher Will McEntire was making history of his own.
The redshirt sophomore righthander made just his fourth start against a Power Five team Tuesday. He lasted seven innings and struck out a career-high nine batters, including six straight in the second and third innings.
McEntire’s nine Ks were second all-time among Razorback pitchers in a single College World Series game. Isaiah Campbell fanned 10 against Florida State in 2019.
“He didn’t get many opportunities early, and when he got the opportunity, he shined,” catcher Michael Turner said of McEntire. “We hope he continues to do that.”
McEntire’s exceptional start helped Arkansas’ chances at advancing to the CWS final. Arkansas only used two bullpen arms, Zebulon Vermillion and Austin Ledbetter, for an inning each. That leaves plenty of fresh pitching for Wednesday’s must-win game against Ole Miss.
“You never know how this thing’s going to go,” Van Horn said. “Baseball’s a funny game, and whatever it takes, that will be what we do (Wednesday).”
Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @christinalong00.