With Missouri State facing elimination, the Bears turned to their All-American lefty Matt Hall, and he pitched a gem. Hall threw a complete game one-hitter to lead Missouri State to a 3-1 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks and force a decisive Game 3 in the Super Regional.
In Game 1 of the series, Jake Burger homered to left in the second inning to give Missouri State the lead, but Arkansas rattled off 10 unanswered runs and went on to win 18-4. Junior Jon Harris, Baseball America’s 25th ranked draft prospect, uncharacteristically gave up 9 runs in just 5.2 IP.
Hall picked up his fellow junior in the second game by gutting through nine innings and 125 pitches to keep the Bears’ College World Series dreams alive. College Baseball’s strikeout leader had eight more on Saturday. Hall gave up his lone hit in the first inning. He cruised through the first six innings before he appeared to be tiring. All four of his walks came in the seventh or later, including putting on the leadoff runner with a walk in all three innings. The only Razorback run scored on a error on a ball that skipped over the shortstop’s backhand attempt.
Hall pitches with a continuous smile on his face and bounces off the mound after every inning. While some pitchers grimace or glare at the umpire after they fail to get a call, Hall just smiles wider and chuckles to himself. Not everyone was a fan of his animated style though. Arkansas’s Golden Spikes nominee and SEC Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi barked at Hall after Hall let out a celebratory scream when he struck out Benintendi. The two exchanged words for a brief second, but Hall laughed it off as he bounded off the field.
The Bears’ bats were once again left searching for a big hit. After leaving nine runners on base in Game 1, Missouri State left 11 stranded in Game 2. They scored first, again in the second inning, off a single by Blake Graham, but a double play left the bases loaded. Missouri State added two more to their lead in the third inning with a single by Shane Johnson and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Graham.
Even though the game is being played in Fayettevillle, Arkansas, Missouri State is technically the home team and batted last in the first game and will again in the third and final game of the series. The Bears were given the last of the top eight national seeds before the tournament, guaranteeing them the right to host a super regional if they advanced that far. However, Missouri State shares Hammons Field with the St. Louis Cardinals Double-A affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals. Springfield has a home series this weekend, so Missouri State could not put in a bid to host. Their punishment for sharing a stadium: traveling to Fayetteville to play in front of crowds of more than 12,000 raucous Razorback fans chanting “Woo Pig Sooie” all game long.
The Bears will have to win won more time in front of that hostile “home” crowd on Sunday to make their first trip to Omaha since 2003. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT.
(Photo Credit: Springfield News-Leader)