OMAHA, Neb. -- Oregon State's pitching rotation, pristine and clean heading into the College World Series, has turned into a jumble during the Beavers' run-scoring binge through the loser's bracket with top arms Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel struggling in two starts each.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have gotten three solid starts from Blaine Knight, Kacey Martin and Isaiah Campbell and are in perfect order with better-than-normal rest heading into tonight's best-of-3 championship series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Advantage Razorbacks from a pitching standpoint.
Knight (13-0, 2.88 ERA), the right-hander from Bryant who returned for his junior year for precisely this moment, will open the series tonight at 6.
"I don't think you can ask for much better than that, you know," Knight said. "We get to keep our normal rotation. ... I feel really good going into this thing."
The No. 5 seed University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (47-19) is in pursuit of its first baseball national championship in its second appearance in the finals following the 1979 team. Coach Dave Van Horn, in his 16th year, has guided his fifth Razorback team to Omaha and his seventh overall.
No. 3 seed Oregon State (53-11), the favorite heading into the CWS, is chasing its third title following back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007 under Coach Pat Casey, who is in his 24th year in Corvallis, Ore.
Both pitching staffs will square off against deep lineups. Oregon State's .323 batting average ranks No. 3 nationally, while Arkansas' .302 average is No. 11.
The Razorbacks have been on a postseason tear, averaging 8.3 runs per game while going 8-1 in the NCAA Tournament.
"What I've seen of Arkansas is what everybody else has seen, pretty darned good," Casey said. "I don't know if I've seen a more complete team: Pitching, defense, speed, power.
"People think we've got power. I think we've hit 60 home runs. I think they hit 98. Just a terrific team, well-coached, discipline, you name it. There's not any weakness they have on their team."
Oregon State is hitting. 351 at the CWS with 6 home runs and 21 hits and 13 runs per game.
"Look at what they've been doing all year long and what they've done right here so far at the College World Series," Knight said. "They can swing it. Their 1 through 5 is really dangerous. We've got our work cut out for us, but I think we can handle it."
Van Horn said he watched several Oregon State games on TV during the year and figured the Beavers would find their way to Omaha.
"Once we got here and watched them play, I told Pat that I figured that they would fight their way through like they did," Van Horn said. "And I think it's going to be a great series."
Casey did not name his starting pitcher for the opener, saying he needed to talk to the entire staff at Sunday's practice. However, the ace left-hander Heimlich (16-2, 2.80) could pitch tonight on four-day's rest after throwing 59 pitches in 2 2/3 innings of a no-decision against North Carolina.
Heimlich, who entered the CWS with a 16-1 mark, has not made it out of the third inning in his two starts in Omaha. He threw 63 pitches in 2 1/3 innings of a 8-6 loss to North Carolina in the opening game, allowing 6 runs on 4 hits and a walk. Pitching on three day's rest, Heimlich allowed 3 runs, 2 of them earned, on 6 hits last Wednesday in Oregon State's 11-6 victory over the Tar Heels in an elimination game.
The right-hander Fehmel (10-1, 3.16) has two no-decisions in Omaha and has given up 6 runs on 11 hits and no walks in 7 2/3 innings and 114 pitches in starts against Washington and Mississippi State.
"Now we haven't got one quality start out of our two best guys in four starts," Casey said. "And so therefore -- I'm being up front -- that's puzzling to me."
vs. Oregon State
WHEN 6 p.m., today
WHERE T.D. Ameritrade Park (24,000) Omaha, Neb.
RECORDS Arkansas 47-19, Oregon State 53-11-1
SERIES RECORD Arkansas leads 2-1
LAST MEETING Arkansas won 5-4 in San Jose, Calif., on March 17, 1995
STARTING PITCHERS Arkansas RHP Blaine Knight (13-0, 2.88 ERA); Oregon State (probable) LHP Luke Heimlich (16-2, 2.80)
COACHES Dave Van Horn (642-362 in 16th year at Arkansas, 1,227-602 in 30th year overall); Pat Casey (898-457-6 in 24 years at OSU, 1,069-566-7 in 31 years overall)
RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings.
Oregon State went 12-3 against common opponents with the Razorbacks in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Arizona, Missouri State, San Diego, USC, LSU and Mississippi State, while the Razorbacks went 5-9 against those teams. … The Razorbacks and Beavers split a pair of one-run games in 1986 at the NCAA Stillwater (Okla.) Regional. Arkansas won 4-3 on May 22, then Oregon State prevailed 1-0 two days later.
TODAY Oregon State, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
TUESDAY Oregon State, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
WEDNESDAY Oregon State, 6 p.m. if necessary (ESPN)
The Beavers' best start came from freshman Kevin Abel, who pitched a three-hitter over seven innings, allowing one run in Oregon State's 5-2 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Fehmel would only have three day's rest by game 2, so he's probably only available for a potential game 3.
"I'm not positive how we got to that point to where we can continue to play when the freshman gives us the biggest start that we've had," Casey said.
"Everybody knows that we've played five games and we're going to find out who feels good. and we've got a couple of different options. ... But we're not in sequence, because we got in the loser's bracket, and therefore we can't stack it up the way we want to stack it up."
The Razorbacks can stack it up, starting with Knight on seven day's rest today. Behind the junior from Bryant, the left-hander Murphy (8-5, 3.15) would be on five day's rest for game 2 after picking up a no-decision in 7-4 victory over Texas Tech last Wednesday, and right-hander Isaiah Campbell (5-6, 4.12) would be on four day's rest for a potential game 3 after picking up the victory in the Razorbacks' 5-2 decision over No. 1 Florida on Friday.
"You can't say enough," pitching coach Wes Johnson said of having his rotation in order. "Really excited. Blaine's going to be ready to go and we'll get after it."
Additionally, top relievers Matt Cronin (2-1, 3.15 ERA, 13 saves), Barrett Loseke (4-2, 2.86, 4 saves) and Jake Reindl (3-1, 2.87, 5 saves) will be on good rest for the final series.
"Getting three good starts out of the leaders, having the lead going to the bullpen, it was nice," Campbell said.
Cronin said he thinks TD Ameritrade Park is going to be stacked with enough Arkansas fans that it'll feel like a home game at Baum Stadium, where the Razorbacks were 34-4 this season.
"I like to look at this as kind of a a home game away from home for us," Cronin said. "We've got our three guys going and we've been pretty good at home this year."
Said Reindl, "We didn't have to play five games like they had to do. We got to start our Friday-Saturday-Sunday guys and we're going to get to do it again. That's very advantageous for us."
Arkansas freshman Casey Martin, whose .571 average is tied with teammate Dominic Fletcher for tops among players with more than three at-bats in Omaha, likes how the rotation is positioned.
"We're definitely ready, you could say," Martin said. "We've got a lot of faith in them. They're going to go out there and do their jobs and we're going to do ours."
Sports on 06/25/2018
Print Headline: On schedule: Hogs rotation set vs. Beavers with Knight on mound