By OLIVER GRIGG
FAYETTEVILLE – Legends were born on Monday night.
Charlie Welch and Kevin Kopps solidified themselves as Razorback folk heroes in No. 1 Arkansas’ 6-2 win over No. 19 Nebraska in the do-or-die NCAA Fayetteville Regional title game to advance to the Super Regionals.
Welch’s pinch-hit three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth sent a full-capacity Baum-Walker Stadium into a frenzy before Kopps finished out his seven-inning relief appearance by slamming the door shut on the Cornhuskers in the ninth.
Kopps struck out eight in his seven scoreless frames, allowing only three hits in relief of starter Jaxon Wiggins. The true freshman went two innings in his fourth career start, giving up two runs on one hit while striking out a pair.
Arkansas trailed by two runs through four innings of play before Casey Opitz hit a leadoff solo home run to left in the bottom of the fifth to cut the deficit to one. Robert Moore then stepped up to the plate with two outs in the sixth and delivered one of the night’s many heroic moments, tying the game at two with a solo shot to right.
Kopps, meanwhile, continued his dominance on the mound. His superior effort set the stage for Arkansas’ four-run rally in the eighth inning, which started with a bases-loaded wild pitch.
Christian Franklin scampered home to score the go-ahead run before Welch cemented himself as a Hog legend. The pinch-hitter extraordinaire, who is now 8-for-12 in such opportunities this season, rocketed a 2-0 fastball deep over the wall in left to break open the game and extend the Hogs’ lead to 6-2.
Kopps finished the night off, striking out two in the top of the ninth to earn his 12th win of the season and lower his nation-best ERA to 0.68.
The Razorbacks (49-10) will now host NC State in the Super Regionals, which are set to begin Friday or Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium. More information about game times and television designations will be released when available.
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