The University of Arkansas baseball team was the beneficiary of great pitching all weekend and got their bats going on Sunday night to down Sam Houston State, 5-1, to win the NCAA Houston Regional and advance to a NCAA Super Regional.
"I'd like to congratulate Sam Houston State on a tremendous year," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "They've got a really good club. We did what we wanted to do and that was get the lead early. I kept telling our guys that we have to take the life out of them a little bit by jumping on them. I'm proud of our team for coming out and playing. They did a good job."
The Arkansas win improves the Razorbacks to 42-19 on the year and puts the Razorbacks into a Super Regional matchup for the fifth time in program history and for the third time in the last four years. Sam Houston State ends its season at 40-22 on the year.
The Razorback pitching staff was fantastic for the third straight game as Randall Fant, Nolan Sanburn, Brandon Moore and Colby Suggs combined to give up just one run on seven hits.
Sanburn (4-1) earned the win in relief, retiring all seven batters he faced in a scoreless 2.2 innings and striking out three batters.
Suggs closed the regional by sitting down all three batters he faced in the ninth and recording one strikeout.
Fant started for Arkansas and pitched well. The junior left hander tossed 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits.
Sam Houston State starter Cody Dickson (4-5) took the loss. Dickson gave up four runs, just one earned, on seven hits in 3.1 innings.
The Arkansas offense had its best performance of the regional, pounding out 12 hits in the victory. Joe Serrano set a new career-high with three hits and drove in a run. Brian Anderson, Matt Reynolds and Matt Vinson each had two hits in the victory. Bo Bigham, Tim Carver and Jake Wise each added a RBI.
Sam Houston State had seven different players record one hit each in the loss. Tim Redden drove in the only run of the game for the Bearkats.
Arkansas struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the first. With one out, Dominic Ficociello singled to center field and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. A ground out to first by Reynolds advanced Ficociello to third with two out. Anderson then hit a chopper to the shortstop, whose throw to first was high, allowing Ficociello to score and putting Anderson on second after the two-base throwing error. A passed ball advanced Anderson to third and he scored on an infield single off the bat of Bigham.
The Razorbacks added a run in the top of the second. Vinson led off the inning with a single to center and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wise. Serrano then doubled to left field on the 11th pitch of his at bat, scoring Vinson to give Arkansas a 3-0 lead.
Sam Houston State had its first scoring chance of the game in the bottom of the third. With one out, Jessie Plumlee and Corey Toups hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second with one out. A fielder's choice ground out by Colt Altwood put runners on the corners with two down. Luke Plucheck then hit a hard liner, but right at Carver who made a leaping catch to end the inning.
Arkansas stretched the lead to 4-0 with a run in the top of the fourth. Derrick Bleeker reached on a two-base throwing error by the Sam Houston State shortstop to start the inning. A single to left by Vinson put runners on first and third. Wise then hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring home Bleeker from third.
The Razorbacks tacked on their fifth run of the game in the top of the sixth. With one out, Wise doubled to the left-center field alley. A single to left by Serrano advanced Wise to third with one out. Carver then hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Wise.
Sam Houston State scored its only run of the game in the bottom of the eighth when Redden singled up the middle, scoring Jordan Bunch.
Arkansas' pitching gave up just five runs over three games and of those, just one was earned. The Razorback pitching staff went 25 innings between game 1 and game 3 without allowing a run to cross the plate.
Four Razorbacks were named to the all-region team, Carver, Reynolds, Ryne Stanek and Serrano. Stanek was also named the outstanding player of the regional. Arkansas will play the winner of the NCAA Waco Regional which has yet to be determined. Baylor and Dallas Baptist are still playing with Baylor needing two wins to advance and host Arkansas.