OMAHA, Neb. Expectations have defined the 2022 season of Arkansas baseball, but perhaps none more so than first baseman Peyton Stovall.
The highly touted freshman turned down “life-changing” money and the MLB Draft to play in Arkansas, but hit .251 before the NCAA tournament. Bigger numbers were expected for Stovall after racking up preseason accolades.
From the start of the tournament, however, Stovall has been one of Arkansas’ greatest offensive weapons. He’s hitting .525 in the Razorbacks’ nine post-season games and can improve that figure when Arkansas play Ole Miss in a must-see game on Wednesday (6pm CT, ESPN).
Stovall’s impressive postseason prompted Arkansas manager Dave Van Horn to shuffle his batting order on Tuesday before the Razorbacks (45-20) beat Auburn (43-22). He switched Stovall and designated batsman Brady Slavens, moving Stovall from eight to two holes.
It worked. In the 11-1 win over Auburn, Stovall became the first player since 2009 and the first Razorback with five wins in a College World Series game. He was 5 out of 6 with four singles, a doubles, three RBI and two runs. The last player with five wins in Omaha was Dustin Ackley of North Carolina.
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“He had unrealistic expectations of him because he was a guy who turned down a lot of money,” said Stovall’s Van Horn. “He just felt a lot of pressure … (But) we’ve really been able to see the future in the last month.”
Stovall was the star of an offensive effort that helped Arkansas avoid elimination from the College World Series. But on the mound, starting pitcher Will McEntire was making history for him.
On Tuesday, the second right-footed player in the red jersey only made his fourth starting start against a Power Five team. It lasted seven innings and knocked out nine career hitters, including six consecutive in the second and third inning.
McEntire’s nine K’s was the all-time second among Razorback pitchers in a single College World Series game. Isaiah Campbell waved 10 fans against the State of Florida in 2019.
“He didn’t have many opportunities upfront, and when he had the opportunity, he shone,” said McEntire receiver Michael Turner. “We hope you continue to do so.”
McEntire’s outstanding start helped Arkansas’ chances of advancing to the CWS final. Arkansas only used two bullpen guns, Zebulon Vermillion and Austin Ledbetter, for one inning each. That leaves plenty of new pitches for Wednesday’s must-see game against Ole Miss.
“You never know how this is going to turn out,” Van Horn said. “Baseball is a fun game, and whatever it takes, it will be what we do (Wednesday).”
Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @ christinalong00.