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Andy Hodges

Missed chance biggest blown title shot in Hogs’ history

There have been other missed chances, but none in Razorback history can match the missed foul ball against Oregon State on Wednesday night.

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Razorback fans can be excused for awhile if they refuse to see the glass half-full again.

In the span of about 10 minutes Wednesday night in Omaha, Arkansas managed to go from the height of anticipation to the depth of despair.

A misplayed foul ball will join some other unexplained missed chances in Hogs’ history. In the fine fashion of Arkansas history, that also includes some officiating goofs that enter into the discussion, too.

No, Perry Costello wasn’t behind the plate for either game, but there will be enough of a wandering strike zone and other things to cause Hog fans to add onto the misery.

Since most Arkansas fans weren’t around (well, some of you weren’t alive) the last time they played for the national baseball title, this one was similar in some respects.

That year, when Norm DeBriyn got the Hogs to the College World Series for the first time, saw the Hogs lose in the championship game to Cal State-Fullerton. There was no Razorback Baseball Network on the radio back then and the game wasn’t on television, so it was hard keeping up with what was going on.

The Razorbacks appeared to be in good shape for the final game when legendary coach Augie Garrido had to go with a pitcher that wasn’t their ace, but he came through.

Arkansas hit at least 10 shots “as hard as you can hit a baseball,” Kevin McReynolds maintains all these years later. “But they all went straight to a Cal State-Fullerton guy.”

Still, they weren’t within a strike of winning a title.

Some like to compare it to Reggie Fish’s inexplicable attempt to catch a punt  in the SEC Championship game against Florida in 2006 at the 5 when the Hogs were getting some momentum. It rolled into the end zone where the Gators fell on it for a score.

Nah, that one isn’t close to that foul ball no-catch Wednesday night. Even if the Hogs had won that game there’s no guarantee they would have even BEEN in the national championship game.

Others are comparing it to the Tennessee football game in 1998 when Clint Stoerner dropped the ball, the Vols recovered and went in for the winning score.

Not really. If Arkansas wins that game, there’s still no guarantee they would play for a national title because they would have had to beat Mississippi State the next week and Tennessee again in the SEC Championship game.

Some will throw out the NCAA Midwest Regional championship game in 1979 when two officials (college basketball only had two in a game back then) didn’t see U.S. Reed get tripped and Indiana State made it to the Final Four.

But there’s no guarantee the Hogs would have made it to the championship game there.

Well, you can look at the 1977 game against Texas when the officials didn’t see an obvious face mask call on Ron Calcagni that killed a Hogs’ scoring threat, but there’s no guarantee there, either. Earl Campbell broke free late, Texas won, but lost in the Cotton Bowl to Notre Dame while the Hogs went on to finish No. 3 in the nation.

The closest thing you can actually place anywhere near this category is the 1969 Big Shootout when Texas got a long run by quarterback James Street on the first play of the fourth quarter, Hogs’ linebacker Mike Boschetti was clipped and none of the officials (all from the state of Texas) could see it.

Of course, Arkansas lost 15-14, but even a win there didn’t guarantee a championship. They still had to play Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl as the Irish were breaking their decades-long tradition of skipping the bowl season. They were good back then every year.

Nope, this one may be the closest the Hogs have ever come to winning a title and seeing it slipping away.

From this corner, it’s the same result that would have happened in 1994 if Scotty Thurman’s 3-point attempt against Duke clanged off the rim instead of going in.

But it didn’t.

That foul ball popup fell slap in the middle of three Razorback defenders. No one single player is to blame, although there will be a lot of fans quick to place it somewhere. For some, there always has to be a scapegoat.

Dave Van Horn was right when he said it was just baseball. But the ball probably should have been caught.

Instead, it fell to the ground.

And with it, the best chance at a national championship that got away in Razorback history.

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