Diamond Hogs’ competitive Fall World Series ends with exciting finish

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2023-10-17 19:56 PM


It was no surprise to head coach Dave Van Horn that Arkansas’ last fall baseball scrimmage came down to the final batter on Tuesday afternoon.

That’s because almost all of the Razorbacks intersquad skirmishes in September and October were close.

Parker Rowland’s monster 3-run homer for the White in the top of the seventh deadlocked the contest, but then a sacrifice bunt plated the winning run from second as the Cardinal downed the White 9-8 in a winner-take all Fall World Series game.

Freshman pitcher Jawoo Cho made that lead stand up by fanning a pair of batters and getting a fly out after having the tying run on third and nobody out.

That result came a day after the two teams tied 9-9 in the opener of the FWS, an event in which Arkansas used mostly freshmen hurlers and did not pitch any of its likely weekend starters in Hagen Smith, Brady Tygart and Mason Molina.

“That’s the first thing I said to the team,” Van Horn said.  “All fall has been competitive. The scrimmages have been really tight. It’s been good, and there’s a lot of competition. 

“If we started tomorrow, I could put you a lineup on the field, but I’m sure there would be guys right there to play that aren’t on the field, and then there’s a fall off. 

“You’ve got, as far as offensively, you’ve got about 12 guys that look like they’re ready to go, and then there are some other guys who are not quite there yet, at least day in and day out. It was real competitive today.”

“You just saw a lot of clutch things happen, whether it’s Jaewoo finishing up the game throwing a bunch of sliders that start out knee-high and end up about ankle-high.  Guys didn’t make an adjustment, and he did what he needed to do. He got ’em out.”

The Cardinal took an 8-4 lead in the top of the seventh with three runs against Tucker Holland after he loaded the bases with one out.

Wehiwa Aloy singled before Hudson White and Jack Wagner both walked  to load the bases. Reese Robinett doubled in a pair and Hunter Grimes added a run-scoring ground out.

But the Cardinal answered back against Jake Faherty with a rally that began with Ben McLaughlin being hit by a pitch and Jayson Jones’ doubling him to third.

Kendall Diggs popped out, but McLaughlin scored on a wild pitch and Faherty issued a free pass to Jared Sprague-Lott.

Rowland then crushed the first pitch he saw to tie it up 8-8.

It was one of five homers in the contest with Diggs, Wagner, Robinett and Kade Smith all hitting round trippers as well. 

“The three-run homer, that was awfully clutch, and there were some swings earlier in the game,” Van Horn said. “It was competitive all fall, and I’m just glad it looks like we got through this week without anybody getting hurt, and we can move on to what we need to be doing, and that’s getting into our groups of hitters and infielders and get stronger and just get better and ready for spring.”

In the extra inning, Arkansas used Major League Baseball’s rule of putting the last batter making an out on second to begin the half inning.

Missouri transfer Ty Wilmsmeyer, who was 2 of 4 hitting on Tuesday, took off to steal third and kept running all the way home when Smith got a bunt down and the throw went to first.

The White’s Nolan Souza was placed on second in the bottom of the eighth and went to third on a wild pitch, but Cho then fanned fellow freshman Ty Waid, Will Edmonson and got McLaughlin to fly out to end the game.

“We haven’t worked on it.” Van Horn said of the MLB rule. “We had this rule in the SEC, I think we might have voted it out this year. I’ll have to look at the new rule. I think that’s what I remember from our meeting. I don’t really like it. 

“But we were to the point now that we had one inning (of pitching) left maybe. It worked out. The guys have watched some games. The MLB does it pretty much all the time and I don’t watch a lot of MLB except maybe now, just like everybody else. Just too busy. 

“It’s fairly exciting. My philosophy on it is don’t bunt, you better score two because they’re going to score one. We had a guy stealing third who had the base stolen and we had a guy bunt. We had a guy score on that play, so how lucky can you be? That’s exactly what happened there.”

The Cardinal outhit the White 9-7 with Wilmsmeyer and Robinett both having two each and combining to drive in five and Smith’s home run accounting for his trio of RBIs.

Rowland’s three RBIs and Diggs two came on their home runs.

Despite allowing the four runs, sophomore Faherty got the win when his team rallied and Cho the save.

Jack Smith followed Cardinal starter and fellow freshman Tate McGuire with Jordan Husky also pitching for the winners before Faherty and Cho while combining for 13 strikeouts and walking six.

Freshman Colin Fisher, sophomore Ben Bybee and freshmen Diego Ramos and Holland all pitched for the White team with the group fanning 11 and walking five.

“I guess I don’t know if I really want to mention names, but I just feel like some guys definitely got better,” Van Horn said. “This time of the year, usually the freshmen are kind of fading or falling apart, whatever you want to say. They’re just flat worn out from summer ball or dealing with the draft or coming in here with school and baseball and lifting weights. It’s tough on them. 

“I feel like some of the freshmen…I mean, the two starters today. You’ve got Colin Fisher, he looked really good, but then he’d make a mistake. He’d get behind a hitter and give up a hit. Tate McGuire, he’s got really good stuff. Excited about those two guys.

“Even Bybee. He’s a sophomore now and his stuff is so much better than it was last year, but he seems to make that one mistake. He gives up the homer, he gives up another homer. He just can’t quite finish. He’s really close. 

“I like the depth. I like the potential. I think, again, when we’re playing against somebody else and these guys are just fighting to get in the game, you’re going to see a lot more sharpness, so to speak, and focus, and I don’t think some of these mistakes are going to be made.”

While the scrimmages are over, Arkansas will still be getting in some work.

“Just finishing up this week, tomorrow will be off and then Thursday we’ll have a team meeting,” Van Horn said. “We’ll start next week with what we call skill work and we’ll pick up the strength and conditioning. 

“A lot of strength and lifting four times a week instead of two. A lot of hitting in groups starting inside, just working on things, working on bunting, working on base running. 

“And then a lot of defense with the infielders. Outfielders will be out here a little bit. That’s what we do from now until Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, we get them for another week max and then they’re out of here for a long time.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2023-10-17 19:56 PM)