Benintendi sparks Arkansas' 18-4 rout of Missouri State
Jun. 06, 2015
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Joe Serrano thought he had played his last career game in Baum Stadium.
The Arkansas outfielder made the most of his surprising return home on Friday, finishing 3 for 4 and blasting a three-run home run as the Razorbacks opened their NCAA super regional with an 18-4 win over Missouri State.
Arkansas (39-22) was the visiting team against the nationally seeded Bears (48-11), but Fayetteville served as the host site because the Double-A Springfield Cardinals were already schedule to play this weekend in Missouri State's home, Hammons Field.
That was just fine with Serrano, the senior who put the Razorbacks up 10-1 in the sixth with his home run and finished with four RBIs.
"It was, honestly, just a relief to know that I could come back here and play one more time," Serrano said. "... I wasn't trying to do anything special; I was just trying to compete and get good at-bats so we could win the ballgame."
Serrano delivered the knockout punch, but it was Andrew Benintendi who sparked the six-run sixth inning with a solo home run off Missouri State ace Jon Harris (8-2). Benintendi, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, tied for the national lead with the home run — his 19th of the season.
The win puts Arkansas one win away from its first College World Series appearance since 2012 in the best-of-three series, with the second game set for Saturday.
"I feel good that we won the first game, but we haven't won anything yet," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We won one game; big deal."
The runs are the third most in an NCAA Tournament game for Arkansas, which scored 20 against Eastern Kentucky in 1985 and 19 against Grambling State in 2010.
Eight of them came against Harris, a top prospect in next week's Major League Baseball draft who came into the game with a 1.85 ERA. The right hander was perfect through the first three innings against the Razorbacks before being pulled after 5 2/3 — allowing nine hits and struggling mightily the second time through Arkansas' lineup.
"I didn't miss a barrel," Harris said. "... No matter if we're in Baum Stadium, Hammons Field or a neutral site, we've still got to come out and play ball. They came out swinging, and we couldn't put two hits together and bring guys in, and it cost us."
Missouri State entered Friday on a 19-game winning streak, and it defeated Arkansas 2-0 on March 31 in Fayetteville.
Those winning ways came to a sudden and crashing halt in front of a Baum Stadium record crowd of 11,869, many of whom were lined up more than two hours before the first pitch to cheer on a Razorbacks team that started the season 11-12 before turning things around.
Jake Burger finished 4 for 4 for the Bears, including a home run to put Missouri State up 1-0 in the second inning, but his performance was one of the few bright spots, as Arkansas' Trey Killian (3-4) earned the win.
"We knew (the winning streak) was going to come to an end at some point," Burger said. "... It didn't really matter that we lost the streak of 19 games. We've just got to come out tomorrow and bounce back."
Arkansas 000 316 260_18 18 2
Missouri St 010 002 001— 4 10 1
Killian, Teague (7), Phillips (8), Stone (9) and Pennell and Gosser (7); Harris, Merciez (6), Knight (7), Brown (8), Archer (8) and Castro. W — Killian. L — Harris.