FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Oral Roberts proved its mettle this weekend at Baum Stadium.
The Golden Eagles twice pushed the top-seeded Razorbacks to their limit, and on Saturday eliminated 3-seed Oklahoma State.
“We had a lot of good moments,” said junior Noah Cummings. “Beat a lot of good teams. Played well the majority of the season.”
Ultimately, ORU’s baseball season concluded Sunday night with a 4-3 loss to Arkansas.
“It’s tough at the end of every year, that final game,” Cumming said, his thoughts trailing off to the opportunities he and his team had inside Baum Stadium.
“I thought we played hard and played well,” said ORU coach Ryan Folmar, “just, they played better.”
The fourth-seeded Golden Eagles finish at 43-16 and top to bottom, this was Folmar’s best team. That’s why he was able to get his first career NCAA Tournament win on Saturday night.
“Like I said earlier, that’s not a No. 4 seed,” said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn. “That team, you could put them in any league in the country with that bunch of players and you’re gonna finish in the top three or four — divisions, anyway — just because of the maturity of that offense and their lineup is really deep.
“They just keep coming at you with guys that can hit from both sides of the plate, they’ve got some runners and, obviously, a lot of power. You get to the 8-9 hole and those guys have power. So they’re a scary lineup, and the pitching was good enough. They just, probably like any team that doesn’t leave here, just didn’t get some breaks.”
The breaks they did get were pretty good.
Starter Justin McGregor retired the first eight Arkansas hitters he faced before the Razorbacks finally got to him in the fifth inning. Reliever Spencer Henson, a freshman from Pryor, pitched two scoreless innings, as did junior Kyler Stout.
“I thought early in the game (McGregor) was really sharp,” Folmar said. “Lost a little bit of his command in the inning he got hit a little bit. But he competed.”
Offensively, Cummings and Brent Williams bashed back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning, one to left field and the other to right. Sam Grellner delivered the other run in the fourth, a two-out RBI single off reliever Josh Alberius’ first pitch.
“The back-to-back home runs were big,” Folmar said. “Noah and Brent and Matt (Whatley) have hit a bunch of those. We’ve kind of lived on the home run, and we knew coming into this tournament we were gonna have to make a couple big swings, especially in this ballpark and the way it carries.”
But that hit by Grellner was one of just two allowed by Alberius and Jake Reindl over the final 5 1/3 innings. They combined for six of Arkansas’ 12 strikeouts (the Razorback staff fanned 14 Golden Eagles on Friday night) and only allowed one runner into scoring position.
“I thought their bullpen,” Folmar said, “was the difference.”
Arkansas answered with three runs in the top of the fifth off McGregor on an RBI single by 9-hole hitter Jake Arledge and a two-run double by leadoff man Eric Cole.
In the seventh, the Razorbacks took the lead on Chad Spanberger’s solo home run — the Razorbacks’ first of the tournament.
Needing some magic at the plate — or at least a couple of flare singles, an error, maybe a walk or a hit batter, something — the Golden Eagles’ final 14 hitters were retired in order.
The game was delayed nearly two hours by rain, but Folmar said his team was loose and relaxed and ready to play — just like they had been all season.
“They were very consistent,” Folmar said. “They were the same team every time we came out to play. So I’m proud of the effort that those guys had on a daily basis. … It was great core leadership, great leadership that really showed all year long.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.