Bottom of the eighth. Down one run. Bases loaded. No out. 4-5-6 hitters coming up.
If Washington State (or as they are known in Arkansas: "Stanford") does not go on to win three games in a row and advance to the Super Regionals, Coug baseball fans will point to that situation and the zero runs that came of it as the most important moment of the season. A slow grounder, a deep fly ball, just anything that would have tied the game would have been nice. A base hit would have given them the lead. Instead we got an infield fly, a strikeout, and a flyout.
Of course they may not have been trailing in that situation if not for a series of blunders earlier in the game. Misjudged fly balls, missed cut-off men, and a costly throwing error on a routine play allowed the Razorbacks to build an early (and seemingly insurmountable) lead.
Drew Smyly of Arkansas was dealing. He carried a shutout into the sixth, until a one-out walk brought up "The Second Baseman." The 2B belted his second homer in as many nights to give the Cougars some life and cut the lead to 4-2.
After the Hogs' Zack Cox and the Cougs' Michael Weber traded homers in the 7th, the score sat at 5-3 headed into the bottom of the eighth. Washington State loaded the bases for Derek Jones, who walked on four pitches. That set up the seemingly sure-win situation I mentioned earlier. WSU ended up with just the one run, and 9,000 hog-calling Arkansas fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
So now the road is a lot tougher. If Washington State wants to advance, they need to beat Kansas State again tomorrow, then beat Arkansas just two hours later. Then beat Arkansas one more time on Monday. Had they won this game, WSU would be sitting pretty only needing to win one out of two.
But that is not the situation we have. Teams have done this. They've won the final three. The Cougs are going to need a lot of innings from guys who don't normally throw them, but it is not impossible.
Finally, we have to give special recognition to our second baseman, Cody Bartlett. He is already making a very strong case for MVP of the regional (the Cougs will have to win a few more games for him). He has two huge homers in the last two days and a series of spectacular defensive plays.
For his efforts, Cody will be awarded the first ever "Bringing home the bacon" player of the game award. Congratulations, Mr. Bartlett.
We'll be back with a game thread tomorrow for what we hope will be two games. For now, the Cougs are left to wonder what could have been.