FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — It seemed like a desperation move. It ended up being a Wise one.
With his team facing elimination and running out of pitchers, James Wise started two games Sunday for Washington State — and the Cougars won both, outlasting Kansas State and Arkansas to force a decisive matchup with the Razorbacks on Monday night for the championship of the Fayetteville Regional.
Wise lasted only 2 2-3 innings in the Cougars' 9-6 win over Kansas State, so after throwing 76 pitches, he agreed to take the mound again in another must-win game. He threw three effective innings in the nightcap, and Washington State beat Arkansas 10-7.
"If that can't inspire your team, you can't be inspired," Washington State coach Donnie Marbut said. "There's two things you can't teach: You can't teach attitude, and you can't coach effort. And I don't have to."
The Cougars (37-21) and Razorbacks (42-19) will play again Monday, with the winner advancing to a super regional against top-seeded Arizona State.
Wise allowed only two hits against Arkansas and left with a 2-1 lead. Although he didn't pitch five innings, Wise (4-1) was given the win at the official scorer's discretion.
"They picked me up in the first game — my teammates did a really good job of that," Wise said. "They took me off the hook there. This team all season, you can never count us out."
The Cougars scored five runs in the fifth to make it 7-1, but even then, they needed to make it through the rest of the game. Connor Lambert pitched the fourth and fifth innings in relief of Wise. Lambert then allowed James McCann's leadoff homer in the bottom of the sixth to make it 7-4, so Washington State called on Chad Arnold, who had thrown 113 pitches as a starter Friday night.
Arnold allowed two more solo homers to cut the lead to one run, but Washington State scratched out three more runs — with help from some sloppy Arkansas defense — in the eighth to make it 10-6. Arnold ended up pitching the final four innings in his first relief appearance of the season, earning the save.
"It felt like a typical Arkansas-Washington State game," Marbut said. "Except we actually came out on top in this one."
Washington State lost four times to Arkansas last year, including once in the postseason. The Razorbacks beat the Cougars again Saturday night to put Washington State on the brink of elimination. The Cougars then fell behind 6-1 against Kansas State on Sunday before rallying to win that game.
Derek Jones hit a big three-run homer against Kansas State and went 4-for-5 against the Razorbacks on Sunday.
Arkansas starter Mike Bolsinger (6-5) lasted only 4 1-3 innings, allowing seven runs — six earned — on nine hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Coach Dave Van Horn said Jeremy Heatley, TJ Forrest and DJ Baxendale might all be available to pitch Monday.
Washington State's pitching situation is, of course, uncertain. On Saturday against Arkansas, the Cougars started Adam Conley, who had already earned a save Friday night. They gave Conley a break Sunday, but it's fair to say anybody could see time on the mound Monday.
"I'm going to start James Wise. It worked out today," Marbut deadpanned. "There's a couple options, for sure. We're going to have to piece together like we did today."