Sophomore Ryne Stanek threw six innings and Barrett Astin closed it out to lead the University of Arkansas baseball team to a 2-1 victory over No. 7 South Carolina in the winner's bracket of the College World Series on Monday night in Omaha, Neb.
"I thought it was a great college game," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "It was a big win. I thought both teams played extremely well. The pitching was outstanding."
The win improves the Razorbacks to 46-20 on the year while South Carolina falls to 46-18. With the win, Arkansas ended South Carolina's 22-game NCAA post-season win streak. Arkansas' 46 wins are the most in a single season under Coach Van Horn and are the most since the 1990 team won 47 games.
Arkansas' two wins at the College World Series match its total from the 2009 season, but for the first time since 1979, the Razorbacks have won their first two games at the event.
The Razorback victory advances Arkansas to the bracket two championship, which will be played Thursday night at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2. The Razorbacks will face the winner of the Kent State/South Carolina game, which is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Stanek and Astin combined to throw nine innings of four hit baseball while stranding six Gamecocks on base during the game. Astin was especially good over the final three innings as he allowed just a single batter to reach on a single over three innings to pick up the save.
"I thought Stanek had four pitches working," Coach Van Horn said. "He did a good job. Barrett came in and did an outstanding job of throwing strikes. Just about everything he throws moves. We don't ask him to go out there and strike people out. We just want him to go out there and make them swing, and that's what he did."
"It's always big when we score runs early," Stanek said. "We know we're working with a cushion, and we can relax, and throw our game and keep attacking the zone. I was able to throw my fastball for a strike, and mix early, and continue to mix and throw everything for a strike throughout the game. It's just good to be effective."
The performances by Stanek and Astin continued an impressive run of pitching for Arkansas.
With its performance tonight, the Razorback pitching staff lowered its NCAA Tournament ERA to a miniscule 1.75. Arkansas has allowed just two runs in its last 32.1 innings, dating back to the fifth inning of the second game of the Waco Super Regional vs. Baylor.
Stanek (8-4) earned the win on the mound after throwing six innings and allowing just one run on three hits with three strikeouts. The sophomore right hander lowered his season ERA to 2.82.
Astin closed the door with three impressive innings out of the Razorback bullpen to pick up his 11th save of the season. Astin gave up just one hit and struck out a batter in his three innings. Astin's 11 saves are tied for the third most in a single-season in school history, equaling Phillip Stidham, who had 11 saves in 1990.
"I came in the game and just wanted groundballs," Astin said. "I wasn't trying to strike anybody out. I was pretty effective and didn't throw that many pitches. But hat's off to South Carolina. That was a good team win for us."
South Carolina starter Colby Holmes (7-2) took the loss. Holmes allowed two runs on four hits and struck out two in 3.2 innings.
Bo Bigham had a pair of hits to lead the Razorbacks at the plate. Dominic Ficociello and Matt Vinson each added a RBI in the win.
"It's a great feeling," Vinson said. "I'm trying to help my team out the best I can. I keep doing my best. If there's a guy in scoring position, I'm going to try to get him in any way I can."
Evan Marzilli had a pair of hits and drove in a run for the Gamecocks. LB Dantzler and Adam Matthews also had a hit each.
The Razorbacks struck first, scoring once in the top of the first. Tim Carver led off the game with a single to right-center field and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Mahan. A ground out to second by Matt Reynolds moved Carver to third. Ficociello then laced a 3-0 pitch into the left-center field gap for a double to score Carver with the game's first run.
South Carolina had a chance to even the game in the bottom of the first, but came up empty.
With one out, Marzilli singled up the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk to Christian Walker put runners on first and second. Dantzler then grounded out to first to move both runners into scoring position with two outs. Stanek got out of the jam as Matthews grounded out to the mound to end the inning.
Arkansas added its second run of the game in the top of the fourth. Brian Anderson led off the inning with a walk. After the next two batters were retired, Anderson moved into scoring position with a two-out stolen base. Vinson then pulled a single into left to score Anderson from second.
The Gamecocks broke through with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Chase Vergason drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dante Rosenberg. After a ground out to third by Joey Pankake, Marzilli tripled to the wall in left-center field, scoring Vergason.
Arkansas had an opportunity to regain a two-run edge in the top of the sixth, but were unable to score. With two out, Bigham singled to left-center. Bigham then stole second and a throwing error on Rosenberg allowed him to reach third. However, Joe Serrano grounded out to third to end the inning and keep the score at 2-1.
The Gamecocks would only manage one base runner over the final three innings. In the eighth, South Carolina got a two-out double from Dantzler, but Astin was able to work out of trouble as Astin induced a ground ball from Matthews to end the inning.
South Carolina went down in order in the ninth as Arkansas held on for the 2-1 win.