The Central Connecticut baseball team fell to fifth-ranked Arkansas, 11-5, on Friday in the NCAA Regional opener at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville, AR. Sophomore TT Bowens drove in five runs and hit a homerun for the Blue Devils, but the Razorbacks churned out 13 hits and held the lead all afternoon. CCSU will play an elimination game on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
Central slips to 30-22 overall following the setback.
Arkansas got the scoring started when Heston Kjerstad led off the second inning with a single through the right side. He would move to third on a 3-2 single to left by Jack Kenley who advanced to second on the throw to set up the Razorbacks. Casey Opitz would ground out with a ball up the first baseline, but Kjerstad was able to come home and make it 1-0 while Kenley scooted to third. After a fly out to right field, Christian Franklin drew a walk, but a wild pitch on ball four allowed Kenley to come home and make it 2-0.
Arkansas' starter Connor Noland was perfect through 3.0 innings. He induced four ground outs and got a pair of strikeouts before Central settled in in the fourth inning. Junior Chandler Debrosse and sophomore Sam Loda led off with back-to-back singles in the fourth to put runners on the corners. Sophomore TT Bowens would hit a fly ball to deep centerfield and drive in Debrosse and make it 2-1.
The Razorbacks got the run back to lead off the bottom of the fourth when Kjerstad hit a homerun to right field on an 0-1 pitch to make it 3-1. Arkansas tacked on three runs in the fifth. Trevor Ezell hit a one-out single and moved to second on a passed ball before a string of three straight hits. Matt Goodheart doubled in a run and scored on Dominic Fletcher's single. Kjerstand would double to right field with two outs to drive in a run and make it 6-1 before he was thrown out trying for third base.
The Blue Devils took advantage of a trio of defensive miscues in the sixth inning to score a run. Sophomore Matt Bertochi and Debrosse both reached to begin the inning following two Razorbacks errors. After a groundout pushed them to second and third, Bowens hit a grounder to short that was dropped and allowed Debrosse to score and make it 6-2.
Arkansas drew a pair of walks around a ground out in the bottom of the sixth. Back-to-back singles by Franklin and Ezell would plate a pair of runs and make it 8-2. Senior Patrick Mitchell would get a strikeout for the second out, but in an attempt to throw out a baserunner stealing second, the throw skipped into centerfield and allowed Franklin to come across home.
In the eighth, sophomore Matt Bertochi led off with a single and Loda drew a one-out walk. Bowens would follow with a homerun into left field on a 2-2 pitch to cut the deficit to 9-5.
Ezell closed out the scoring for Arkansas with a two-run homerun to left field with one out in the eighth.
The Blue Devils finished with five hits as a team. Bowens was 1-for-3 with five RBIs and a homerun. Debrosse and Loda each had a hit and run, while Bertochi had a hit and scored twice. Freshman Tim Buchek had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning.
Fox went 4.2 innings in the start and kept CCSU close through the first four innings before running into trouble and taking the loss. Mitchell tossed 2.1 innings in relief and junior Andrew Braun closed the game out with an inning.
Central will play in an elimination game on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. against the loser of the California-TCU contest.
HEAD COACH CHARLIE HICKEY
Opening Statement: "I thought it was a terrific environment and great crowd. We were going to have to play a perfect game and unfortunately we didn't come up with that, but we battled hard and I'm proud of our team. We needed to stick closer to put some pressure on them and unfortunately we lost but I'm proud of our team."
On the return of Bowens: "Halfway through the year changed our team. He does what he's capable of doing and that's part of the reason why we're here. He has a presence in the middle of our order to get us three runs with one swing, unfortunately at the time it was 9-2, but I think he can build on this. I'm proud of and happy for the team that we came out here and competed. It's a lot to ask of 18, 19, 20 year-olds to play in front of a crowd like this but when they go to bed tonight they can be proud."
JUNIOR STARTING PITCHER BRANDON FOX
On pitching against the Arkansas lineup: "I thought they were really aggressive and overall as a lineup they came ready to play today. They hit some good pitches"
On his approach to pitching against the Razorbacks: "Every pitch I had to compete and I couldn't take a pitch off because they would capitalize. A lineup with depth is tough you just have to grind through it. It's what you work for all offseason is to face guys like this and prepare for it best you can.
SOPHOMORE FIRST BASEMAN TT BOWENS
On how they were pitching him: "I could tell early they tried to attack me with off-speed pitches. I knew they were going to try and get me off-balance."
On his homerun in the 8th inning: "I knew their intentions were to get a double-play. He just missed his spot and the goal was to take advantage of mistakes and he gave me one and got into it.
On the experience of playing at Arkansas: It's an amazing experience. Being a smaller Northeast school and being able to earn the privilege to come down here to compete against with these teams is definitely a very good experience to play in this atmosphere. The fans were screaming and yelling the entire game, you can't recreate that experience."