OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Isaiah Campbell limited Florida to two hits over 5 1/3 innings, Arkansas scored four times in five innings against first-round draft pick Brady Singer, and the Razorbacks earned a spot in the College World Series finals with a 5-2 win over the defending champion Gators on Friday night.
Campbell more than atoned for his worst performance of the season when he faced the Gators in the teams’ Southeastern Conference opening series in March. He was at his best this time, matching his career high with eight strikeouts and leaving with a 5-2 lead.
Arkansas (47-19) has never gone to the CWS finals since the NCAA Tournament went to its current structure in 1999. The Razorbacks were runner-up in 1979 in their only appearance in a championship game.
Florida (49-21), the No. 1 overall seed, lost for the first time in eight NCAA elimination games. The Gators were looking to get to the finals for the second straight year and fourth time since 2005.
Casey Martin went 4 for 5 and Dominic Fletcher homered for the second straight game to lead the Razorbacks’ offense against Singer (12-3) and Tommy Mace.
The Gators managed only three hits against Campbell (5-6), Jake Reindl and Matt Cronin — the fourth time this season they were held to three or fewer and first since May 13.
Campbell’s performance was the highlight so far in his comeback from bone spurs in his right (throwing) elbow, which forced him to take a medical redshirt in 2017. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior’s fastball touched the mid-90s and his slider mid-80s, and he struck out six of the first nine Florida batters and held the Gators hitless until there was one out in the fourth.
Austin Langworthy laced a ball over shortstop for the Gators’ first hit, Campbell hit Blake Reese with a pitch, and Brady Smith singled in Florida’s first run. Another run came home on a wild pitch to cut it to 4-2.
The Razorbacks were up three runs when Campbell went to the mound for the sixth. When Reindl came on to relieve, Razorbacks fans gave Campbell an ovation as he strode to the dugout. Hunter Wilson ran out to give him a hug and the rest of his teammates greeted him at the top of the steps.
Campbell’s outing was in stark contrast to his outing at Florida on March 24. That night, the 24th-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels lasted one inning and was rocked for six runs in a game the Razorbacks lost 17-2.
Singer, the No. 18 overall draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, took both of Florida’s losses in the CWS and was beaten for the second time this season by Arkansas. Martin’s double and Fletcher’s 10th home run of the season preceded Singer’s departure in the fifth. The four earned runs against Singer were the most he’s allowed since Arkansas got to him for six on March 23 in what was his first loss of the season.
The Razorbacks won three of five meetings with the Gators this season.
NOW THAT’S DEFENSE
Arkansas right fielder Eric Cole reached into the seats along the right-field line to catch JJ Schwarz’s foul ball to start the bottom of the ninth. The play was upheld on review.
The Razorbacks also got a big play from second baseman Carson Shaddy, who went far to his right to backhand Wil Dalton’s grounder and threw across his body to get Dalton by a step at first.
Arkansas awaits the winner of the winner-take-all bracket final between Oregon State and Mississippi State on Saturday. Oregon State beat the Bulldogs 12-2 on Friday. The best-of-three CWS finals begin Monday night.
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