Arkansas used a game-tying, two-run homer from center fielder Brett Eibner in the top of the ninth and game-winning RBI double from left fielder Andrew Darr three innings later to score a 4-3, come-from-behind win over Virginia before a crowd of 21,383 Wednesday night at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Razorbacks, who are making their sixth College World Series appearance in school history, improve to 41-23 on the season and will meet third-seeded LSU on Friday at 1 p.m. CT.
The Cavaliers, who were playing in their first CWS ever, finish the campaign with a school-record 49 wins, just 15 losses and one tie.
Eibner, who knocked in Arkansas’s first three runs before Darr’s game winner, sparked the late rally with two outs in the ninth and his team down two. His 11th long ball of the year – which cleared the left-field wall – came after a pair of groundouts and single from third baseman Zack Cox.
Arkansas then kept its season alive with a run in the 12th. Right fielder Jarrod McKinney opened the frame with a single to right and stole second before Darr, who entered the contest as a defensive replacement, smashed a two-bagger past Virginia’s diving third baseman on the 10th pitch of his only plate appearance.
The Razorbacks bullpen handled things from there, allowing just one run over 7 1/3 innings. The unit allowed three walks (two intentional) and eight hits, but stranded nine Cavaliers over the final four innings.
The four-hour and 46-minute marathon began as a pitchers’ duel with the starting pitchers combining to allow just two earned runs in 11 innings. Neither starter – Arkansas left-hander Drew Smyly (4.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO) or Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO) – figured in the decision.
Razorbacks lefty Dallas Keuchel (4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 SO) improved to 9-3 on the season and 2-0 in the CWS with the win, while Cavaliers righty Andrew Carraway (3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO) fell to 9-2 with the loss.
Virginia cracked the scoreboard with two runs in the fifth, added a tally in the eighth and was just one out away from advancing to Friday’s action.
First baseman John Hicks opened the UVA fifth by belting his eighth round-tripper of 2009 – a solo shot to left. The blast was originally ruled a double, but changed to a home run after a brief umpires meeting.
The Cavaliers added a run moments later when left fielder John Barr slapped a single to right, advanced to third on shortstop Tyler Cannon’s base knock to right and scored on Hultzen’s double to left.
Arkansas responded with its first run in the seventh. Second baseman Bo Bigham reached on a fielding error, advanced to third on third baseman Zack Cox’s double to left and trotted home on Eibner’s sacrifice fly.
Virginia then pulled ahead in the eighth when right fielder Dan Grovatt clobbered his eighth dinger of the season – a solo shot to left center.
Catcher James McCann collected a team-high three hits for Arkansas, while Hicks and third baseman Steven Proscia registered three base knocks apiece for Virginia. The Razorbacks finished the evening with 12 hits, while the Cavaliers wrapped up the tilt with 16.
Arkansas was ranked No. 7 in the latest Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association polls, while Virginia was ranked No. 5 in Baseball America’s latest poll.
LSU, 53-16 overall, can advance to the College World Championship Series with a win on Friday. An Arkansas victory would force the “if necessary” game for Bracket One on Saturday.
Wednesday evening’s crowd pushes the 2009 CWS attendance total to 203,208 in just nine games (average of 22,579). The 12 inning-affair was the fourth-longest in CWS history.