Kansas State scores 6 vs. Hagen Smith, sends Arkansas baseball to losers bracket at Fayetteville Regional | Whole Hog Sports (2024)

FAYETTEVILLE — A Big 12 team wearing purple tagged Arkansas left-hander Hagen Smith for a six-run inning at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional again.

This time it was the upstart Kansas State Wildcats, the region’s No. 3 seed who moved into the driver’s seat with a 7-6 victory over the top-seeded Razorbacks on Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 11,213 at Baum-Walker Stadium.

K-State (34-24) advanced to Sunday’s regional championship round at 6 p.m. The Wildcats defeated Louisiana Tech 19-4 earlier Saturday in the resumption of a game that was suspended late Friday night.

Arkansas (44-15) must defeat Southeast Missouri State (35-26) on Sunday at 1 p.m. to join K-State in Sunday night’s game, then must beat the Wildcats twice without losing a game to avoid a home regional exit for the second consecutive year.

The Razorbacks defeated SEMO 17-9 on Friday in the regional opener. SEMO avoided elimination with a 9-3 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon.

Arkansas out-hit K-State 13-5 but left 13 runners on base — at least one in every inning but the second — to lose a stunner. The Razorbacks stranded multiple base runners in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and Peyton Stovall struck out against K-State closer Tyson Neighbors in the ninth after Ty Wilmsmeyer drew a two-out walk to put the tying run on base.

Peyton Holt hit a two-run home run against Neighbors with one out in the ninth to close the gap to 7-6.

“If you look at the line score, it looks like we should be scoring more runs than they did,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Thirteen hits, six runs, no errors — that’s usually going to be enough to get you a W, especially when Hagen’s on the mound. Hats off to K-State for putting together a really good inning against him.”

K-State’s six-run fifth inning against Smith evoked memories of a year earlier when TCU scored six against him in the first inning of the winners bracket game at the 2023 Fayetteville Regional. Smith exited the TCU game in the second inning after allowing 8 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks.

His bad inning Saturday followed a two-run top of the fifth inning that gave the Razorbacks a 2-0 lead. Arkansas was the designated visitor for the game, meaning Smith pitched in the bottom half of innings.

Smith’s undoing began with a pair of walks to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Danniel Rivera and David Bishop both went to 3-1 counts against him and took 3-2 pitches outside.

They were bunted over by Raphael Pelletier and scored on back-to-back RBI singles by Chuck Ingram and Brendan Jones to tie the game 2-2.

Jaden Parsons’ squeeze bunt scored Ingram from third base to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead before Kaelen Culpepper cleared the bases with a three-run home run to right-center field that increased the lead to 6-2.

It was the second homer of the regional for Culpepper, whose eighth-inning homer against Louisiana Tech earlier in the day completed a hitting cycle.

“It was the third time going through the lineup, so we had a sense of how his pitches moved and what he threw and things like that,” Culpepper said.

Smith threw 33 pitches during the fifth inning and looked gassed as he walked back to the dugout. He had thrown 38 pitches by the end of the third inning, but K-State began to show signs of success against him during a 21-pitch fourth.

Brady Day’s two-out single against Smith in the fourth was the Wildcats’ first hit of the game.

The six-run inning was the biggest this year against Smith, whose previous high was three runs against James Madison and Missisippi State. He entered the game with an NCAA-best earned run average of 1.48.

His final line vs. K-State: 5 innings, 6 runs, 4 hits, 4 walks and 7 strikeouts. He threw 55 of 92 pitches for strikes.

“We’re not going to get many of those opportunities against Hagen,” Kansas State coach Pete Hughes said. “I knew it was going to be a tough one. It was either going to be a pitching duel where a defensive miscue would have decided the game or it was going to be one of those fluke big innings. We’re fortunate enough to be on the right side of it.”

Jared Sprague-Lott homered in the seventh to cut K-State’s lead to 6-3 and Hudson White’s one-out RBI double in the eighth made the score 6-4.

White’s double followed a leadoff double by Jack Wagner and an infield single with no outs by Wilmsmeyer. With the tying run in scoring position, Sprague-Lott popped up to the infield and Ben McLaughlin struck out looking against Neighbors.

Nick English hit a two-out solo home run against Arkansas reliever Ben Bybee in the eighth to push the Wildcats’ lead to 7-4, a huge swing in the game as it turned out.

“I really liked the way we fought back and almost caught them,” Van Horn said. “Obviously, that was a big swing there for them in the eighth with two outs, hit that home run to get them back to three. We had a couple chances in the seventh and the eighth to punch in a couple more but we didn’t put the bat on the ball, or we didn’t get the ball out of the infield.”

The Wildcats made much more of their scoring chances. The Razorbacks were 6 for 22 with runners on base and 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Starter Jackson Wentworth allowed 2 runs, 7 hits and 3 walks and struck out 3 in 5 2/3 innings to earn his fifth victory. Arkansas scored both runs against him in the fifth inning.

Wilmsmeyer led off the fifth with a single, stole second base, went to third base on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by the catcher Pelletier. Stovall drew a four-pitch walk in the inning and scored on White’s RBI single.

With runners at first and second base, McLaughlin and Wehiwa Aloy flied out against Wentworth to keep the score 2-0. Then K-State’s bats took over.

Neighbors replaced Wentworth with two runners on base in the sixth inning and induced an inning-ending ground out by Stovall. Neighbors earned his ninth save by pitching the final 3 1/3 innings. He allowed 4 runs, 6 hits and 1 walk and struck out 5.

Bybee pitched three solid innings in relief. The solo home run was the only hit against him and he struck out four.

Arkansas lost for only the fourth time at Baum-Walker Stadium, where the Razorbacks have a 34-4 record. They will need 37 wins by Monday or their season will be over.

“I wouldn't want to play us right now, honestly, the way we're swinging the bat and we are fighting at the plate,” Van Horn said. “We’ve got to go beat Southeast Missouri State tomorrow if we want to get another chance at K-State. That's going to be our focus is to figure out how to beat them. They're very offensive, so that's our battle right now.

“We can [win the regional]. We might not do it, but we can.”

Why Arkansas lost

Like the Razorbacks' win over SEMO on Friday, the three-run home run was the difference. K-State took advantage of two walks with no outs before a homer that changed the game.

Player of the Game: Kansas State RHP Tyson Neighbors

It wasn't a great game statistically, but Neighbors did enough to get the Wildcats out of jam after jam in the late innings. He stranded seven of the Razorbacks' 13 base runners while pitching in a hostile environment.

“It’s that time of year when people go above and beyond,” Hughes said, “and you get to see what kind of competitors you have and know that you have in your dugout.”

Big 12 banner

Kansas State is one of three Big 12 teams in the driver's seat at their regional, along with Oklahoma State at home and West Virginia in Tucson, Ariz.

The Big 12 is 9-3 through the tournament's first two days. Oklahoma, Central Florida and Texas are also still alive.

Correction: The runs against Smith were scored in the fifth inning, not the sixth.

Kansas State scores 6 vs. Hagen Smith, sends Arkansas baseball to losers bracket at Fayetteville Regional | Whole Hog Sports (2024)
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