The Arkansas and TCU baseball programs will meet for the second time this season on Saturday, but with a lot more on the line.

The top-seeded Razorbacks blasted fourth-seeded Santa Clara 13-6 and the second-seeded Horned Frogs handled third-seeded Arizona 12-4 on Friday in opening round games of the NCAA Tournament Fayetteville Regional.

Arkansas (42-16) and TCU (39-24)  both rallied from 2-0 first inning deficits to set up an 8 p.m. winners’ bracket game.

The victor will need just one more win to move on to next week’s Super Regional while the loser would have to win three to advance.

Hagen Smith (8-1, 2.69 ERA) did not pitch in the first game between the two, but is expected to get the start against TCU on Saturday.

“We recruited him,” TCU head coach and former Oakland A’s pitcher Kirk Saarloos said. “It’s a dominant left-handed fast ball with some attitude to go with it – in a good way. I think he is very confident in his fast ball. We are going to have our work cut out for us and we know that, which is going to be a lot of fun. 

“Arkansas (pitching) Coach (Matt) Hobbs does a great job with all their pitchers over there. They are going to be ready to go and I know we are going to have to be ready on our side of things to hopefully, you know, give them a game.”

Arkansas will be looking to avenge an 18-6 loss to TCU in the College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington, Texas, one that happened Feb. 18 in the second game of the season for both teams.

The game was tied 4-4 entering the fifth inning before the Horned Frogs teed off on some Arkansas pitchers seeing their first college action.

“I think they are a way different team than we played at the beginning of the year and so are we,” Saarloos said. “They have had to deal with a ton of injuries and we have had to deal with some injuries on the mound. 

“They have had a lot of guys step up in roles they probably thought  there were not going to be playing in. 

“You think of (Peyton) Holt at second base with (Peyton) Stovall getting injured and guys like that. It’s kind of that next man up mentality, which all great teams do that.”

Saarloos, whose team won the Big 12 Tournament and has won seven straight and 13 of 14 contests, has kept an eye on Arkansas this season.

 “We have followed them because any time you play a team and beat them, you are pulling for them because of the RPI and they have had a great season,” Saarloos said. “That is why they are playing at home and the three overall (national) seed. 

“We are excited and it is going to be a phenomenal atmosphere here tomorrow. We are super excited to go compete.” 

TCU’s Brayden Taylor went 4 of 5 with 6 RBIs, including a three-run go-ahead homer in the first inning.

The Horned Frogs pounded out 17 hits with every starter having at least one in the victory.

Kole Kleckler, the first of three TCU pitchers,  started and pitched four innings while allowing three runs on 4 hits, walking 2 and fanning 5 with a wild pitch.

“It was a good ballgame with two offensive clubs that have been playing really well lately,” Saarloos said. “I thought overall it was about who was going to be able to get some people out on the mound.”

Santa Clara will face Arizona Saturday at 2 p.m. in a elimination game with the winner staying alive to face the Arkansas-TCU on Sunday at 2.

Photo by John D. James