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BASEBALL

Arkansas seniors 'proud' to have made it to the College World Series

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Jalen Battles returned for his senior season at Arkansas because he wanted to help his team reached the College World Series.

The shortstop accomplished that goal but the Razorbacks came up short of the school's first championship, losing to Mississippi 2-0 in Thursday's elimination game.

"I'm so glad I got the opportunity to play here in Omaha," he said. "It took a huge effort for us to make it and I'm very blessed to be part of our senior class."

Battles, one of six seniors in Thursday's starting lineup, used the end of last season as incentive this year. He made the final out in Game 3 of the 2021 super regional, won by NC State.

He passed on the MLB draft, choosing instead to come back and make amends.

​Arkansas had another solid season but did not play well down the stretch, finishing the regular season 2-6. Battles said he still kept the faith.

"We were able to refocus after that," he said. "If we hadn't been able to do that, it would have been a tough way to end."

Senior Connor Noland, who pitched eight strong innings Thursday but took the loss, said the team was determined to reverse its fortunes.

"We had a team meeting down at the SEC tournament," he said. "We kind of came together and decided we had to turn things around right then."

The strong senior class helped fuel that turnaround as the Razorbacks captured the regional and then the super regional.

Battles had his trip to Omaha.

Jalen Battles

Arkansas' Jalen Battles throws to first after forcing out Ole MIss' Justin Bench on a ball hit by Jacob Gonzalez for a double play tp end the sixth inning.

Once in the losers bracket, Arkansas was forced to play four games in four days. After staving off elimination twice, the Razorbacks met their match Thursday when Rebels starter Dylan DeLucia pitched his team into the final.

Van Horn credited his seniors for their contribution to the program.

"I told them after the game how proud I was of them," he said. "They gave us everything they had but came up a little bit short."

The Razorbacks, who have 10 seniors on the roster, will look different next season.

"There will be a lot of new faces in our program," Van Horn said. "Some of the guys who didn't play a lot this year are going to have to step up."

The coach paid one more tribute to the players who won't be back.

"For the guys that are graduating or are going to be drafted, obviously we wouldn't be here without them," he said. "They brought some pretty good leadership, that's a fact."

​That included Battles, one of the last players to leave the Arkansas dugout.

"I'm proud that we made it to Omaha," he said. "I wish it could have ended differently, but it's something I'll always remember."

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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