Forrest delivers for Razorbacks, secures super regional

By Harold McIlvain II

Razorback senior TJ Forrest emerged into the locker room with encouragement after U. Arkansas suffered a difficult 10-7 loss Sunday night to the Cougars.

The Benton, La., native told the team to not worry, as he said he would help close out the Fayetteville Regional with solid pitching performance.

And he delivered on the promise by picking up the win during a 7-2 victory over Washington State, pitching 5.1 innings while allowing four hits, one earned run and striking out four.

“We had a down feeling after wanting to close it out,” Razorback catcher James McCann said. “We were trying to get over it in the locker room and then TJ walks in and says, ‘Don’t worry, fellas. I got this.’ He told me last night he was going to come out and have a good day.”

Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said he wanted Forrest?with his ability to bounce back and his experience?to start the game. But Van Horn just didn’t think the relief pitcher would last as long as he did.

“We didn’t expect him to pitch that long,” Van Horn said. “We were hoping just for three. But he looked like he had good stuff and was throwing harder in the fourth than the first.”

Making just his fifth start of the season, Forrest said he wanted to just attack hitters and get as many outs as he could on the mound after throwing 80 pitchers Friday during a 19-7 win over Grambling State.

“I knew I wasn’t going to go very far, so I tried to keep the ball down,” Forrest said. “I just tried to eat up some innings while striking some guys out?more than I usually do.”

Forrest helped the Razorbacks (43-19) secured a Super Regional bid for the second straight year, as the team will travel to face the top seed in the NCAA Tournament?Arizona State (50-8).

The Diamond Hogs opened up offensively in the first inning off Washington State starter Paris Shewey, who allowed the first three hitters of the game to reach base while Razorbacks Brett Eibner, Andy Wilkins and McCann picked up RBIs to take a 3-0 lead.

Arkansas short stop Tim Carver and outfielder Collin Kuhn, who was named the most valuable player for the regional, then picked up RBIs with back-to-back hits in the third inning, which pushed the advantage to 6-1.

“Really when Collin goes, we go,” Van Horn said. “He saw the ball good and he had a great tournament with power, speed and defense.”

Washington State tagged Forrest (8-0) with an unearned run in the fourth inning when Arkansas made three errors to start the inning. The Cougars, while down 6-2, chased Forrest from the game with a runner on third base during the fifth inning.

But Razorback top starter Drew Smyly took the mound and stranded the Cougar by inducing back-to-back outs, which included a strike out of Washington State designated hitter Matt Fanelli to end the scoring threat.

“Smyly deserves everything because he is one of the best we have faced,” said Fanelli, who hit a home run in the second inning. “Their pitching staff did a really good job of mixing things up and keeping us off balance. All of them were pretty good.”

Washington State head coach Donnie Marbut said he felt Forrest and his performance was a big factor in the elimination game.

“Honestly, I thought if we could hold them to seven runs we’d beat them,” Marbut said. “Credit their guy Forrest, he was strong. I’m just really proud of our boys. They went out and gave it their best.”

While eating a breakfast with the team, Van Horn had player after player tell him they were ready to pitch or play?it didn’t matter if they had to throw on a days rest or play through injury.

“I had a really good feeling coming into the night,” Van Horn said. “These guys really wanted to win. People were willing to do whatever it took to play. I’m really proud.”

And Van Horn said the pride extended to Forrest, who stepped up making his start and helped lead the Razorbacks to the victory.

“It all started with TJ on the mound,” Van Horn said. “He mixes it up and throws strikes. They hit a couple ball hard. But we got off to a good start. It was our night.”

Tempe Super Regional

Saturday, June 12

Game 1 – Arizona State vs. Arkansas – 8 p.m.

Sunday, June 13

Game 2 – Arizona State vs. Arkansas – 9 p.m.

Monday, June 14 (if necessary)

Game 3 – Arizona State vs. Arkansas – 6 p.m.

Read more here:
Copyright 2019 The Arkansas Traveler