FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The 2021 season ended in heartbreak for Arkansas baseball, falling to NC State in super regionals as the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Fast forward a year later, and the Hogs are the ones who won a road super regional to book a trip to Omaha.
“This is special because of the way it went down last year, honestly,” said Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn. “It was tough last year at this time. This is awesome.”
The win 4-3 win over North Carolina on Sunday clinched a sweep of the Chapel Hill Super Regional, taking Arkansas to it’s 11th College World Series appearance, and seventh under Dave Van Horn.
“What never gets old is the satisfaction and smile on the players faces,” Van Horn said. “I mean, it’s something they’ll never forget. That’s probably what I enjoy the most honestly right now.”
One of the players with the biggest smile after the game was Brady Slavens, who came through with the walk-off RBI single.
“You don’t need to make the moment bigger than what it was,” Slavens said. “We had already tied the game. There was no pressure.”
There may have not been pressure, but there was motivation.
Motivation to avenge the way last year ended.
“You have a whole year to think about it,” Slavens said. “A lot of the players were on last year’s team this year.”
“I remember Jalen (Battles) coming up to me my last at-bat and he’s like, ‘Hey, like, this is what we came back for, so go do it,’” Slavens said. “All I could think about going up to the plate was last year’s heartbreak, and wanting to do it for this team and for last year’s team honestly.”
And despite a rocky end to the regular season, this team knew how far it could go from the beginning.
“I thought in fall practice we had a good team if we stayed healthy,” Van Horn said.
“We’ve known all year, how good we can be, the potential of the team,” Slavens said. “It’s just been a crazy year. We’re clicking at the right time, and I’m just so happy we can go to Omaha.”
The Hogs now head to Omaha to continue the quest for a first College World Series title in program history.