BOX SCORE: Arkansas 5 Sam Houston St. 4 (pdf)
HOUSTON - The Arkansas baseball team continues play in the Houston Regional, hosted by Rice University, on Saturday as it faces top seed and eighth-ranked Rice in a winner's bracket game. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
All games from the Houston Regional are being streamed online for free at RiceOwls.com. Saturday's game is also available on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett (play-by-play) and former Arkansas Sports Information Director Rick Schaeffer (analyst) will call the action. A live blog and live stats will also be available on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
The Razorbacks, 40-17 on the season, opened play in the Houston Regional on Friday with a come-from-behind 5-4 win over Sam Houston State. Arkansas trailed by two entering the bottom of the seventh inning, but scored three runs in the seventh to take a 5-4 lead. Brandon Moore pitched three shutout innings, including a scoreless eighth and ninth innings to pick up the win. Matt Reynolds went 3-for-4 at the plate with a RBI and a run scored, while Tim Carver had a pair of RBI and went 1-for-4.
Reynolds leads Arkansas at the plate with a team-high .348 batting average, seven homers and 42 RBI. Carver is hitting .312 with two homers and 29 RBI, while Dominic Ficociello has a .305 batting average with six homers and 37 RBI.
Sophomore right hander Ryne Stanek will start Saturday's game against the Owls. Stanek has started 14 games on the season and has a 6-4 record with a 3.09 ERA. He last pitched in the SEC Tournament opener against Mississippi State and allowed three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
Out of the bullpen, sophomore right hander Barrett Astin has pitched in a team-high 28 games, 25 in relief, and has a team-leading nine saves with a 3-5 record and a 2.31 ERA. Sophomore right hander Colby Suggs has made 27 appearances and is 6-0 with a 1.32 ERA. Moore has seen time in 24 games, 21 in relief, and has a 5-2 record with two saves and a 2.54 RERA. Junior southpaw Cade Lynch is 3-1 with two saves and a 2.11 ERA in 21 appearances.
Rice enters Saturday's game with a 41-17 overall record. The Owls reached the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection out of Conference USA. Rice won the league's regular season title after going 17-7 in league play. The Owls opened regional play on Friday night with a 3-2 win over Prairie View A&M.
The Owls are led offensively by Christian Stringer, who is hitting .342 with three homers and 36 RBI. Jeremy Rathjen is batting .330 with a team-leading nine homers and 41 RBI. J.T. Chargois has a .326 batting average with 31 RBI, while Michael Fuda is hitting .301 with eight round trippers and a team-best 45 RBI.
Rice will start sophomore right hander Austin Kubitza on Saturday. Kubitza has pitched in 15 games, 14 as a starter, and has a 6-4 record with a 2.96 ERA. He's struck out 65 batters in 73 innings of work and held the opposition to a .221 batting average.
In relief, Tyler Duffey has appeared in a team-high 35 games and has a 1-1 record with seven saves and a 1.64 ERA. Chargois has saved a team-best eight games and is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 24 relief outings. Taylor Wall has compiled a 6-4 record with one save and a 3.19 ERA in 28 appearances.
Arkansas and Rice have met 59 times previously with the Razorbacks holding a 40-18-1 edge in the series. The Razorbacks and Owls have not met since the 1991 season. The two teams have met 26 times in Houston with Arkansas winning 15 of the 26 games. Saturday's game will mark the first-ever meeting between the two teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Razorbacks rally, defeat Sam Houston St., 5-4
HOUSTON - Junior Matt Reynolds had three hits including a go-ahead RBI on a fielder's choice to lead the University of Arkansas baseball team to a hard-fought, 5-4, victory over Sam Houston State in the first game of the NCAA Houston Regional on Friday afternoon at Reckling Park on the campus of Rice University.
"I thought both pitchers did a great job," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "DJ (Baxendale) came out and filled up the zone with strikes. Sam Houston State did a good job of battling. I thought that Caleb Smith threw an outstanding ballgame. He gave them a great opportunity to win the game. I'm real proud of our team for coming back. Obviously we had a very bad inning defensively and Sam Houston State hit some balls hard and took advantage. They never stopped believing and they came back and won the ballgame."
The Arkansas victory improves the Razorbacks to 40-19 on the year and advances Arkansas in the winner's bracket of the Houston Regional where they will play the winner of the Rice-Prairie View A&M game scheduled for later today. The winner's bracket game will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. Sam Houston State falls to 38-21 on the year with the loss.
The Razorbacks have now won 40 games in four consecutive years and for the sixth time in 10 seasons under Coach Van Horn. Arkansas has won at least 40 games in a season 18 times in school history.
With the Razorbacks trailing 4-2 going to the bottom of the seventh, Arkansas regained the lead with three runs. Jake Wise led off the inning with a double down the left field line and Matt Vinson walked to put runners on first and second. A base hit to left by Joe Serrano loaded the bases with nobody out. Tim Carver tied the game with a two-RBI single into left field. A walk to Dominic Ficociello loaded the bases for the second time in the inning. Reynolds drove in the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice ground out to shortstop.
"I think we all just banded together," Carver said about Arkansas' rally in the seventh inning. "Once we saw Wise hit a double, everyone's confidence just went up. Hitting is contagious so we fed off of that, did our best to get on and keep things going."
Sam Houston State was able to get a runner on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Brandon Moore was able to keep the Bearkats off the scoreboard as Arkansas held on for the 5-4 win.
Reynolds had three hits at the plate to lead Arkansas. Reynolds contributed a single in the first, a double in the fourth and a single in the sixth for his 19th multi-hit game of the season, tying him for the team high. The All-SEC first team choice also had a RBI and a run scored in the victory.
Carver drove in a pair of runs, both coming on his game-tying single in the seventh, and finished the game going 1-for-4. Wise went 1-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored. Vinson and Serrano each added a hit.
Eight different hitters had one hit each for the Bearkats. Jake Arrington had a pair of RBI, while Anthony Azer and Luke Plucheck each drove in one run each.
Moore (5-2) earned the win in relief. The sophomore right hander threw three scoreless frames, allowing just two hits.
Caleb Smith (8-6) took the loss for Sam Houston State. Smith gave up five runs, all earned, on seven hits and struck out two in 7.2 innings.
DJ Baxendale started for the Razorbacks and pitched well, but took a no decision. The junior right hander pitched six innings and allowed four unearned runs with six strikeouts. With his outing today, Baxendale has now made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and has given up just one earned run in 20.1 innings for an ERA of 0.44.
Sam Houston State had a scoring chance in the top of the second, but was unable to get on the board. With one out, Kevin Miller blooped a single into shallow right field. After a strikeout of Ryan O'Hearn, John Hale was hit by a pitch and Jessie Plumlee walked to load the bases with two outs. Baxendale got Corey Toups to strike out swinging to end the inning.
Arkansas grabbed the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Reynolds led off the inning with his second hit of the day, a double to right-center that popped out of the glove of the diving right fielder. A walk to Brian Anderson put runners on first and second with nobody out. Bo Bigham laid down a sacrifice bunt. The Sam Houston State pitcher attempted to throw Reynolds out at third, but the throw was late, loading the bases. Derrick Bleeker and Wise then hit back-to-back sacrifice flies to score a pair of runs and give the Razorbacks a 2-0 lead.
The Bearkats answered back with four runs in the top of the fifth. Hale led off the inning with a single, but was thrown out trying to advance to third after a single by Plumlee. Toups reached on a fielder's choice, with Plumlee advancing to second on a throwing error by Carver at shortstop. Colt Atwood then reached on a fielder's choice to second with Toups advancing to second on a fielding error by Bigham. Plucheck brought in the first run of the day for SHSU on a fielder's choice ground out to third with Atwood being retired at second on the play. A single to center field by Azar tied the game at two and put runners on first and third. Arrington then hit a fly ball to left. Bleeker misjudged the ball, coming in at first and then racing back to the warning track where the ball popped out of his glove and went for a triple that scored two runs and put the Bearkats in front 4-2.