HOUSTON - Sophomore Ryne Stanek threw seven shutout innings and sophomore Barrett Astin closed it out as the University of Arkansas baseball team defeated No. 8 Rice, 1-0, at Reckling Park to advance to the regional final of the NCAA Houston Regional.
"That was a great pitcher's duel," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I thought both teams played extremely well. I feel very fortunate to get a win. On our side, I thought (Ryne) Stanek just did a tremendous job. I thought that was one of his better outings of the year. It came at the right time. Barrett (Astin) came in in a tough situation and just does what he does and that's throw strikes and make you earn it. I'm just proud of those guys for getting after it."
The Arkansas victory brings the Razorbacks record to 41-19 on the year and is the ninth shutout by Razorback hurlers. It is also Coach Van Horn's 400th victory 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.
The nine shutouts are tied for the second most in program history and are the most for the Razorbacks since the 1980 team also had nine shutouts.
Stanek (7-4) was fantastic on the mound en route to earning the win. The sophomore right hander tossed seven shutout innings and allowed just five hits, while striking out four.
"I just wanted to go out there, attack the zone and put us in a good position to win the game," Stanek said. "I was fortunate that my defense made some very nice plays behind me and turned a big double play when we needed it."
Astin closed the door with a pair of scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to earn his 10th save. Astin gave up just one hit over his two shutout frames. The 10 saves for Astin are tied for the fourth most in a single season in program history.
Rice starter Austin Kubitza (6-5) also pitched extremely well, but took the loss. Kubitza allowed just one unearned run on two hits and struck out eight in 7.1 innings.
Arkansas had just two hits in the victory. Derrick Bleeker and Tim Carver each recorded a hit, while Dominic Ficociello reached base twice on a pair of walks and scored the only run of the game.
Rice had one hit each from J.T. Chargois, Michael Fuda, Shane Hoelscher, Jeremy Rathjen, Ford Stainbeck and Christian Stringer.
Arkansas took the lead in the second, scoring a run without the benefit of a hit. 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, 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. Stainbeck and Stringer started the inning with back-to-back singles. Chargois attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but was unsuccessful as he struck out for the first out of the inning. 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. 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.