Lanzilli’s birthday blast keys Arkansas onslaught
BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
OMAHA, Neb. – Stanford ace pitcher Alex Williams caused a bit of a stir Thursday when he said he would take his team’s offense over Arkansas.
Chris Lanzilli answered that with his birthday bat, launching a three-run, tie-breaking blast that sparked Arkansas to a 17-2 win over the Cardinal Saturday in the College World Series opener for both teams.
Lanzilli’s homer was part of a five-run fifth inning that began the blowout for Arkansas, who is now hitting .337 in the NCAA Tournament – some 60 points higher than it regular season average.
That inning knocked Williams (8-4) out off the game after going 4 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits with two walks, six whiffs and throwing 85 pitches, 52 for strikes.
“It didn’t add much motivation,” Lanzilli said. “(Arkansas head) Coach (Dave) Van Horn has been saying, stay (focused) on us. We’re all about us the past few weeks. And we’ve been hot the whole time. It’s been working.
“We don’t think about what they think. We think about what we’re doing and what we’re thinking. And it’s definitely working.”
Arkansas (44-19) advances to a Monday night 6 p.m. game against Ole Miss (38-24), who has won all six of its NCAA Tournament games.
The Rebels, who were one of the last 64 teams in the field, downed Auburn 5-1 in Saturday’s other game.
Lanzilli’s ninth homer of the year and 51st of his college career was part of the Razorbacks’ season-high 21 hits.
“I gave them credit because Lanzilli’s home run, that was kind of the biggest pitch of the game,” Stanford head coach Dave Esquer said.
It came on Lanziill’s 24th birthday, one that saw him serenaded in the outfield by his teammates before the game.
Lanzilli transferred from Wake Forest to Arkansas after four years just for this type of moment.
“To play on this stage is really why I came here,” Lanzilli said. “And to do something like that is awesome. And to win the game is even better. I just want to keep it rolling.”
Braydon Webb jumped all over the first pitch that Williams threw Saturday, lacing a triple to the wall.
“That ball was smoked,” Lanzilli said. “The wind was blowing in. Hit a ball off the wall, lead-off, gets the game going and brings us energy, obviously. So it was huge.”
Arkansas starting pitcher and winner Connor Noland (8-5), who pitched 7 2/3 innings of six-hit baseball against Stanford, said Webb’s shot did indeed energize the dugout.
“I think you can see it,” Noland said. “Gives a lot of momentum to us and I think it gives everybody a lot of confidence — obviously on the hitting side; I wasn’t part of that. I could feel the energy in the dugout. It leads to good things.”
Noland, who threw 79 pitches with 55 strikes, and relievers Kole Ramage and Zebulon Vermillion limited Stanford to just seven hits.
It was the third loss in three NCAA Tournament outings this postseason for Williams, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.
“Their guy beat our guy,” Esquire said. “That’s all you ask when you come into the World Series. That has to happen, is you want your guy out there, and if he happens to beat you have to tip your cap.”
It was certainly a different result than Stanford’s 5-0 win over Arkansas in Round Rock, Texas on Feb. 27.
We walked out of there, limped out of there going, wow,” Van Horn said after his team was shutout on just three hits. “And we thought Stanford probably doesn’t think we’re very good, because we didn’t look very good that day.”
Michael Turner had a team-high four hits for Arkansas while Cayden Wallace had his 16th homer among his three while the other seven starters all had two each.
Robert Moore reached base his first five at bats with two hits and a trio of walks and Peyton Stovcall four RBIs for the Razorbacks, who poured it on with three runs in the seventh, two in the eighth and six in the ninth.
“I thought we played just a fantastic game,” Van Horn said. “I mean, started on the mound with pitching. Outstanding. A lot of strikes. Defense behind him was
outstanding as well. Turned a couple of double plays.
Made all the plays that pretty much you would expect our team to make and maybe a couple you didn’t expect. We did a great job.
“And offensively swung the bat extremely well up and down the lineup. Got production 1 through 9.”
Photo courtesy of Arkansas
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