Andy Wilkins homered and drove in five runs to help Arkansas start off the College World Series with a 10-6 victory over Cal State Fullerton Saturday afternoon at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Razorbacks ripped freshman pitcher Noe Ramirez while stunning the No. 2 seeded Titans and giving Arkansas coach (and former Husker coach) Dave Van Horn his first victory in seven CWS games.
The Razorbacks reached a double-digit run total for the fourth time in six games. Nine of their runs scored with two outs. Van Horn likes the way his team has responded to his challenge after the Hogs lost 10 of 13 games heading into the national tournament.
"The No. 1 goal was to win the national championship and the only way to do that was to play in Omaha. That's all they had left. I asked them what people are going to remember this team by, the one that started great and faded or the one that finished strong? They took it to heart and have been lights out."
The Hogs (40-22) play Monday night against LSU. Fullerton (47-15) meets Virginia in a Bracket 1 elimination game Monday afternoon.
Arkansas manufactured a couple runs in the first inning, scored two more in the third on Zack Cox's homer, and then broke open the game with a five-run fourth.
Wilkins highlighted the big inning with a three-run homer to right off freshman Tyler Pill, who was making his first relief appearance.
Ramirez (9-2) lasted just 3.2 innings, the shortest of his 15 starts, and gave up seven runs. The first freshman pitcher to start a CWS game for Fullerton left after loading the bases with a walk in the fourth.
Scott Lyons grounded Pill's first pitch between shortstop and third base for a 6-2 lead and then Wilkins hit his team-leading 19th homer. Wilkins is batting .593 (16-for-27) with four homers, five other extra-base hits, and 17 RBIs in six NCAA tournament games.
"I'm trying to keep it going," he said. "I got hot in the Norman Regional and tried to keep it going in the Super Regionals and now we're here. I'm doing what I can to help the ballclub."
Dallas Keuchel (8-3) allowed four runs on five hits to win his first decision since May 2nd. Mike Bolsinger pitched the last three innings for his second save.
Fullerton, in the CWS for the 16th time and going for its fifth national title, is one loss away from an early exit. "I don't think I have to say much to this team," Titan first baseman Jared Clark said. "We can't lose another game. All I can tell them is to play better. We got off our game today. You have to give Arkansas some credit. They made some outstanding plays in clutch situations to stop our pressure. All I can say is let's get back to playing Titan baseball."
Before Saturday, the Titans had trailed in just one inning over its past nine games. "That didn't take anything out of us at all," Clark said. "We fought back really well. We just didn't come through in some situations."
"Today wasn't their day," said Fullerton coach Dave Serrano. "Arkansas did a good job against those guys and they'll get another opportunity on Monday. All we do is ask guys to give us quality at-bats. We didn't do that enough today."