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College baseball: Stovall has five hits as Arkansas eliminates Auburn in CWS

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Former Haughton star Peyton Stovall set an Arkansas Men’s College World Series record with five hits as the Razorbacks eliminated Auburn 11-1 Tuesday night in Omaha, Neb.

Arkansas (45-20), one of four teams remaining, faces Ole Miss (39-22) at 6 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN). If Arkansas wins, the teams will meet again Thursday with a spot in the best-of-3 championship round on the line. The Rebels defeated the Razorbacks 13-5 Monday. 

Stovall, a freshman first baseman, is the first player since 2009 to have five hits in a College World Series game.

He finished 5-of-6 with three RBI. In three CWS games, he is batting.563 (9-of-16) with seven RBI. In nine post season games, he’s batting .525 (21-of-40).

“Just playing with confidence is probably the biggest thing for me and for this team just going out there and relaxing and having fun,” Stovall said in a postgame interview with NCAA.com. “I think that’s the message we’ve kind of stuck with this postseason run and if we keep doing that good things will happen. 

“I think the SEC as a whole, it makes you battle-tested for something like this. I truly believe it’s one of the hardest divisions in baseball. And so I had my struggles for sure throughout the whole entire season and I knew that I had my opportunity in the postseason to just do whatever I could for the team and I’m just glad and thankful to be here and I’m blessed.”

For Tuesday’s game, Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn moved Stovall from No. 8 in the batting order to No. 2.

Van Horn said he decided to make the move after Monday’s game with No. 2 hitter Brady Slavens struggling.

“The game kind of tells you what to do every now and then,” Van Horn said in the postgame press conference. “Peyton’s been swinging it great since maybe before the end of the season. He’s been really good since postseason started.”

The move paid off immediately.  After Braydon Webb led off the game with a double, Stovall brought him home with a single.

In the Razorbacks’ three-run third inning, Stovall singled with one out, advanced to second when Michael Turner drew a walk and scored on Chris Lanzilli’s single. Arkansas tallied two more runs in the inning for a 4-0 lead.

In the four-run fourth, Stovall doubled with one out and scored on a two-out, two-RBI double by Turner.

He added a single in the eighth and a two-out, two-RBI double in the ninth.

Van Horn said there was unrealistic expectations for Stovall this season.

“He just felt a lot of pressure,” he said. “Social media and everything else, you read everything, preseason this, preseason that. It’s hard putting that on kids who haven’t seen a college arm yet.

“He has been really good the last month. Even his takes are good. He was out front. He’s not an out front-type hitter. He’s pretty balanced, stays back. He’s doing it now. He’s starting to hit for power, hit for average, taking his walks. We’ve really been able to see the future the last month.”

The Razorbacks had 16 hits. Turner and Lanzilli had three hits and three RBI each.

Arkansas also got a stellar performance from starter Will McEntire. He allowed just three hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in seven innings.

“Just a gutsy performance from a guy we needed to go a long time,” Stovall said. “Just left it all out there.”

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