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Pitching gem carries Razorbacks to Regional Final

Sophomore Ryne Stanek threw seven shutout innings and sophomore Barrett Astin closed it out as the University of Arkansas baseball team defeated Rice, 1-0.
HOUSTON – Sophomore Ryne Stanek threw seven shutout innings and sophomore Barrett Astin closed it out as the University of Arkansas baseball team defeated Rice, 1-0, at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas, to advance to the regional final of the NCAA Houston Regional.

The Arkansas victory brings the Razorbacks record to 41-19 on the year and is the ninth shutout by Razorback hurlers. It is also Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn’s 400th as the Razorback head coach. Arkansas now awaits the winner of the Sam Houston State-Rice elimination game which will be played at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Arkansas will suit up for a 6 p.m. start on Sunday evening. Rice falls to 41-18 on the year with the loss.

Arkansas took the lead in the second, scoring a run without the benefit of a hit. Dominic Ficociello led off the inning with a walk and then advanced to second after a sacrifice bunt by Brian Anderson. After Bo Bigham grounded out to third for the second out of the inning, Derrick Bleeker hit a sharp grounder to third that was booted by the Rice third baseman and went into left field, allowing Ficociello to score from second.

Rice had its first scoring threat of the game in the bottom of the fourth. Ford Stainbeck and Christian Stringer started the inning with back-to-back singles. J.T. Chargois attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but was unsuccessful as he struck out for the first out of the inning. Jeremy Rathjen then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and keep the Razorbacks in front.

The Razorbacks had a great chance to extend the lead in the top of the sixth, but came up empty. Tim Carver drew a leadoff walk and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Mahan. A stolen base by Carver moved him up to third with one out. Matt Reynolds then hit a grounder to third and the third baseman threw home in time to retire Carver at the plate for the second out of the inning. A walk to Ficociello put runners on first and second with two out. Reynolds and Ficociello then executed the double steal to move runners to second and third. Anderson then hit a liner to left that was caught by the Rice left fielder to end the inning.

The Owls had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, but were unable to scratch across a run. Rathjen led off the inning with a single and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Michael Fuda. A ground out to second by Craig Manuel advanced Rathjen to third with two out. After a walk to Michael Ratterree put runners on first and third, Ryan Lewis flew out to center to end the inning.

Stanek and Astin combined for nine shutout innings, giving up just six hits and two walks while striking out four. In trouble a couple of times, the pair continued to make big pitches and get out of trouble and just two Rice players reached third base in the game. Stanek has started three of Arkansas’ nine shutouts this year and picked up his seventh win of the season while Astin earned his 10th save.

Arkansas’ pitching at the Regional has now gone 18 innings without allowing an earned run. DJ Baxendale, Brandon Moore, Stanek and Astin have been masterful and the Razorback pitchers will likely need another gem on Sunday to advance to a Super Regional.
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