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Hungry Morris key to Hogs’ survival

by Matt Jones | June 23, 2022 at 9:23 a.m.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Few words were needed and few were spoken when left-handed pitcher Zack Morris entered with the bases loaded and the University of Arkansas' season on the line Wednesday night at Charles Schwab Field.

"You ready?" Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said, according to Morris.

"Yes, sir," Morris replied. "That was it. Plain and simple."

Two days after Morris failed to make it out of the first inning of a start against Ole Miss at the College World Series, he redeemed himself by limiting the Rebels to one run in the ninth inning of the Razorbacks' 3-2 must-win victory.

His three-out save forced a decisive national semifinal between the teams at 3 p.m. today. The winner will play Oklahoma for the national championship.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Morris steadied what had been a shaky inning for the Razorbacks' bullpen. Ole Miss five-hole hitter Kemp Alderman singled on the first pitch he saw from Evan Taylor to lead off the inning.

That prompted a pitching change to freshman right hander Brady Tygart, a Hernando, Miss., native who hit Peyton Chatagnier and Hayden Dunhurst on his fourth and fifth pitches.

Van Horn then walked to the mound and motioned for Morris, who allowed 2 hits, walked 2, hit 1 batter and threw 1 wild pitch in a two-thirds of an inning during a 25-pitch start against the Rebels on Monday. Ole Miss' 13-5 victory was the first loss of the season for Morris and sent the Razorbacks to the losers bracket.

"I was just hungry for the ball again," Morris said. "Right after the start, I texted Coach Van Horn that night. I was like, 'I want the ball again,' and I didn't get it yesterday. We didn't really need it because Will [McEntire] went out there and threw a gem. But I just wanted the ball again."

After he threw his first two pitches low and out of the zone, Morris got Hayden Leatherwood to swing at a 2-0 fastball to take off some pressure. Leatherwood fouled off the next pitch and swung through a 92 mph fastball for the first out of the inning.

Pinch hitter TJ McCants flied out for the second out when left fielder Jace Bohrofen and shortstop Jalen Battles collided in shallow left field. Bohrofen held on and Alderman was unable to tag at third base.

Ole Miss cut the deficit to 3-2 on Justin Bench's two-out infield single. Battles gloved the ground ball, but did not make what would have been a rushed throw to any base.

The game ended when Jacob Gonzalez flied out to Bohrofen in left on a 2-2 fastball.

"He had a little different look to him tonight than he looked like [Monday] night, so I was proud of him," Van Horn said of Morris. "Sometimes you don't know until you experience it, and you have to get knocked down a little bit to have success, and I think he really genuinely wanted the ball tonight."

Morris said the ninth inning of Wednesday's game was the most calm he has ever been on the mound.

"I know what I'm capable of doing, and that's honestly the only answer I have," he said when asked why he was calm. "I just know what I can do. If I just stay calm and not go get in my head, it will be OK."

The thrilling ending concluded a long night for Morris, who began throwing in the Arkansas bullpen in the third inning. He estimates he threw between 50 and 60 pitches before his first pitch that counted.

"They tell you to get hot and then you don't go throw," Morris said. "You've just got to keep your body ready.

"I think I did a good job at trying to save some energy for that last inning."

Print Headline: Hungry Morris key to Hogs’ survival


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