June 14, 2022
This time last year I mentioned how the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team has been dubbed the OmaHogs for their ability to get to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. I have held off writing about Arkansas’ baseball team this year due to their up and down season. Last year’s team set the bar high as they lead the country in home runs while winning more than 50 games and the SEC Tournament championship. The team edged out Nebraska in the Regional and then hosted North Carolina State in the Fayetteville Regional. After crushing the Wolfpack 21-2 in the first game, the Hogs went on to lose the next two, ending their season. This year started with high hopes and impressive results, then the team seemed to collapse at the end of the year, losing both their last two SEC series and getting blanked in the SEC Tournament. Another trip to the World Series seemed a distant prospect for the OmaHogs.
While the Omahogs were floundering Arkansas women’s softball was on fire. The LadyBacks ended with the best season in program history. The Razorbacks clinched back-to-back SEC regular season championships, including the program’s first outright title, along with their first SEC Tournament crown. Along the way the Hogs captured the most wins in single season program history (48) highlighted by an impressive 19-5 record in conference play. KB Sides was the first Hog ever to be named SEC Player of the Year, Chenise Delce became the second-straight Hog to be named SEC Pitcher of the Year (Mary Haff earned that honor in 2021), and head coach Courtney Deifel became only the second coach to be named SEC Coach of the Year in back-to-back years. Arkansas hosted the Regional beating out Oregon and recorded their first ever win over Texas in the first game of the Fayetteville Super Regional before dropping the next two to end their run to Oklahoma City.
In his 20 years as Arkansas’ head coach, Dave Van Horn knows the postseason is a different game. Last year’s team entered as the No. 1 overall seed but fell short in the super regionals. This year’s team traveled to both the Regional (Oklahoma State, Stillwater) and the Super Regional (North Carolina, Chapel Hill). The Razorbacks earned a 4-1 victory in the opening game of the Super Regional series, but the second game started dicey. The first pitch was thrown at 12:06 pm CT, then stopped for a weather delay at 12:44 pm after two scoreless innings. The game continued at 2:30 pm, and the Razorbacks struck first with a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth innings. UNC answered with two runs in the seventh to tie the score before the second weather delay at 4:24 pm. When the game resumed, Patrick Alvarez scored the go-ahead run for UNC with a two-out single to center field. Brady Slavens then had a walk-off single through the right side as the Hogs scored two runs in the ninth to complete their first comeback victory of the season. The OmaHogs are going back to Omaha.
THOUGHTS: On Sunday an Arkansas baseball fan seated behind the Razorbacks’ dugout snuck a sign into North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium that read: Omahog. The sign was taken by UNC personnel in the top of the second inning, but the Razorbacks went on to complete the sweep over the Tar Heels. This is the third College World Series in four years and the seventh time Van Horn has taken the Omahogs to the College World Series. When asked about his success, Van Horne said, “What never gets old is the satisfaction and smiles on the players’ faces. It’s something they’ll never forget. That’s probably what I enjoy the most now.” In a year focused on NIL (name, image, likeness) deals, it is nice to have a different focus. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.