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Originally published Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Cougars' bullpen falters in NCAA baseball loss to Arkansas

Washington State led 3-1 after seven innings, but Razorbacks rallied for nine runs in eighth inning.

Special to The Seattle Times

NORMAN, Okla. — Matt Way did about all he could for six innings. His relief help and the defense behind it did little for the next two.

So what looked like it might be a narrow Washington State victory instead became a 10-3 Arkansas wallop in the first round of the NCAA baseball tournament that sent the Cougars reeling into today's 11 a.m. elimination contest against Wichita State.

Playing in their first NCAA tournament since 1990, the Cougars had things going their way when Way was on the hill.

He exited after allowing three hits and striking out 10. Along the way, he passed former major-leaguer Aaron Sele atop WSU's season strikeout list, pushing the new mark to 124.

Adam Conley retired the Razorbacks in order in the seventh inning, but it was the last thing to go right for the Cougars. Conley, closer Jeremy Johnson and James Wise faced 12 Razorbacks in the eighth inning, and nine of them scored.

It was Arkansas' biggest explosion of the season, and it was an error charged to shortstop Shea Vucinich that opened the floodgates.

"We made a big mistake in the field, and they just kept piling on the runs," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said.

Way threw 108 pitches.

"He's got a pitch count and we didn't want to run him out there too much ... it was just time to go to the bullpen," Marbut said.

Way said his "forearm started getting tight, which sometimes happens when I get up to around 110 pitches."

"I'm just glad he came out of the game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.

Had the Cougars held on, the top three in the order would have joined Way in the credit. Garry Kuykendall and Vucinich combined to record four of WSU's nine hits and all three runs.

Note

• In Fullerton, Calif., Gonzaga pounded out 18 hits, including home runs by Anthony Synegal, Mark Castellitto and Ryan Wiegand, to rout Georgia Southern 19-10 and win its first NCAA tournament game since 1981. The Zags play Cal State Fullerton at 6 p.m. tonight.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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