OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Dominic Fletcher was a freshman All-American in 2017 and so impressive in the fall practices that coach Dave Van Horn thought Arkansas might have another Andrew Benintendi in the making.
A month into the season, though, Fletcher was batting .190 and led the team in strikeouts.
All that was a distant memory Wednesday when he went 4 for 4 with a homer and four RBIs to help deliver a 7-4 win over Texas Tech that put the Razorbacks in control of their bracket at the College World Series.
“Just sticking with the approach and not trying to do too much,” Fletcher said. “Just a couple different things in my swing. But mostly just being relaxed up there and not getting too jumpy.”
Fletcher doubled in two runs in the first inning, homered in the fourth, had a bunt single in the sixth and singled in a run in the eighth. His average has jumped more than 100 points, to .296, and he’s become an integral part of an Arkansas lineup that is one of the most potent in the nation.
“He slowly climbed out of it, a little here, and little there, and down the stretch the last 45 days he’s been pretty good,” Van Horn said. “He’ll have a game where it doesn’t look good and he’ll have a game like today and he’ll hit three or four balls on the screws.”
Arkansas (46-19) mostly held in check the Red Raiders (45-19), who had come into the game scoring 8.2 runs per game and batting .311. Their six hits were their fewest in 19 games, and their 14 strikeouts were three fewer than the season-high 17 they had in a 5-1 loss at Arkansas in April.
Razorbacks starter Kacey Murphy limited Tech to two runs and two hits in 4 2/3 innings. The Detroit Tigers’ 11th-round draft pick struck out seven, including four in a row over the third and fourth innings. Barrett Loseke (4-2) struck out five in three innings of shutout relief. Matt Cronin worked the last 1 1/3 innings, allowing two runs.
“Kacey Murphy got us off to a great start,” Van Horn said. “He worked his way out of a jam in the first and then had a couple of pretty good innings. That’s really good offense.”
Loseke was sharp for the second time against Tech. In the April game, he pitched 4 2/3 innings of no-hit shutout relief and struck out 10.
“I stuck to my game plan the first time I was out there,” Loseke said. “I felt good. I remember I was well rested, I had my curveball, changeup, fastball working that day. And today I knew I had past success against them, and I didn’t necessarily try to repeat what I did last time, but I knew I could get them out. That gave me confidence to go out there and execute my game plan.”
Jared Gates’ sixth homer of the season put the Razorbacks up 3-0 in the second against Davis Martin (7-6), and Fletcher hit his ninth in the fourth before Jax Biggers’ RBI single made it 5-0.
“Seems to me that when you miss, they’re doing a good job of hitting it,” Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “One through nine, they can create pressure on you. There’s not an easy out in there.”
The start of the game was delayed 3 1/2 hours because of rain.
BUNT, OR YOU’RE OUT
Arkansas cleanup hitter Luke Bonfield was pulled for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning after he bunted foul on the first pitch of his at-bat. Hunter Wilson didn’t fare any better when he inherited Bonfield’s 0-1 count. He fouled off two bunt tries.
I GOT IT…NO, YOU GOT IT
Some miscommunication between Texas Tech right fielder Gabe Holt and center fielder Cody Farhat led to Arkansas’ first two runs. Fletcher hit a fly into the gap that looked catachable, but Holt and Farhat collided, with the ball glancing off Farhat’s glove and dropping. Eric Cole and Casey Martin scored for a 2-0 lead. The official scorekeeper ruled it a double.
ON THE REBOUND
Fletcher looked as if he would score easily when Tech reliever John McMillon threw a pitch over Braxton Fulford in the eighth inning. But the ball bounced hard off the backstop right back to the catcher, who was able to put the tag on Fletcher to end the inning.
Arkansas moves to the bracket final Friday. The Razorbacks will play the winner of the Thursday elimination game between Texas Tech and Florida.
For more AP CWS coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/CollegeWorldSeries