Commentary

Wise powers Arkansas victory

Originally Published: June 16, 2012
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- When you score one run or fewer in five of eight games and still show up at the College World Series, it's clear fortune is on your side as a baseball team.

So it should come as no surprise that the conditions at TD Ameritrade Park favored offense as light-hitting Arkansas catcher Jake Wise stroked a line drive into the left-center field gap Saturday with two outs in the bottom of the second inning against Kent State pitcher David Starn.

"I thought it was a double," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.

[+] EnlargeJake Wise
AP Photo/Eric FrancisJake Wise, left, celebrates after his home run.

The ball almost never carries in this second-year home of the CWS, but with a late-afternoon breeze blowing out and the air full of moisture after morning rain showers, Wise's line drive turned into a home run -- his second of the season and first since Feb. 19.

It marked the Razorbacks' first homer as a team since May 19, the last game of the regular season.

And Wise's blast gave his team a two-run lead en route to an 8-1 victory over the upset-minded Golden Flashes in the opening round of the CWS.

"The ball just kept going," Van Horn said. "It was big. Big for our psyche. For our confidence."

Arkansas' bats needed an infusion of power. The Razorbacks won two key postseason games by scores of 1-0 -- the super regional final over Baylor on Wise's two-out single in the 10th inning, and a second-round regional defeat of host and top-seeded Rice.

Four of Arkansas' five victories in the postseason came by one run before it arrived in Omaha.

"He just left it out over the plate," said Wise, batting ninth in the Hogs' lineup. "I was able to square it up."

Starn hadn't allowed a home run in 70 innings and had allowed only three in 114 innings before Saturday.

"I left it up," Starn said. "Right over the middle of the plate. He put a good swing on it."

Wise also delivered a two-run single with two outs in the eighth against reliever Ryan Mace to give Arkansas its final margin. And Van Horn's No. 8 hitter, center fielder Matt Vinson, sliced a two-out double to left field to score two runs in the fifth that put the Razorbacks up 5-1.

"My 3- and 4-hole hitters didn't get a hit today, and we scored eight runs," Van Horn said. "Somebody got it going. Those guys down there, they produced. That's a good sign."

As for Wise, Van Horn said he relies on the sophomore from Houston primarily for defense after the Hogs lost star catcher James McCann, drafted last season in the second round by the Tigers.

Wise hasn't committed an error this year. But his offense has progressed slowly.

"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster," Van Horn said.

After Saturday, that roller coaster for Wise has provided two consecutive games better than any thrill ride.

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