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Arkansas rallies for 4-3 win over Valparaiso

02/25/2012
Chad Crunk, Athletic Media Relations
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FAYETTEVILLE – No. 4 Arkansas overcame an early 3-0 deficit and Razorback relievers wiggled out of some late-inning jams as Arkansas defeated Valparaiso 4-3 on Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium.

The win improves Arkansas’ record to 7-0 on the season, while Valparaiso is now 2-3. The 7-0 start for the Razorbacks is the program’s best since the 2006 team opened the year with nine straight wins.

After giving up three runs in the top of the first inning, the Arkansas pitching staff was able to shut out the Crusaders for the rest of the game, giving the Razorback offense time to mount a rally. Arkansas scored single run in the third and fifth and put together the game-winning rally with a two-run sixth.

Sophomore Ryne Stanek earned the win for Arkansas to improve to 2-0 on the season. Stanek allowed three runs, only one of which was earned, and struck out four in six innings of work.

Barrett Astin recorded his first save of the season, striking out one and giving up just one hit in two scoreless innings.

Brandon Moore and Michael Gunn each had a scoreless outing in relief. Moore threw a scoreless 0.2 of an inning, striking out one and allowing one hit. Gunn fanned the only man he faced, getting a strikeout with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh inning.

Kyle Wormington suffered the loss for the Crusaders. Wormington gave up four runs on six hits and struck out two in 5.2 innings. Valpo reliever Ben Mahar threw well out of the bullpen, striking out three and retiring all seven batters he faced.

At the plate, Bo Bigham led the Arkansas offense, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Tim Carver drove in a run for the fifth straight game, recording the eventual game-winning RBI and finishing 1-for-2 at the plate. Jacob Morris added a RBI and two runs scored in his 1-for-2 performance, while Dominic Ficociello and Matt Reynolds each had a hit as well.

Tanner Vavra had a three-hit day for Valparaiso and scored a run, while Chris Manning with 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored. Mark Johnson added a pair of hits, while John Loeffler and Elliott Martin each had an RBI.

Valparaiso jumped out to the early lead with three runs in the top of the first. Tanner Vavra led off the inning by reaching on an infield single to second and moved to second on a throwing error by Bo Bigham. After a ground out by Andrew Bain, Chris Manning grounded a single to center field to score Vavra for the first run of the game. Manning advanced to second when Will Hagel reached on a fielding error by Tim Carver at shortstop. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base. Manning came in to score on a groundout to third by Elliott Martin. John Loeffler drove in the third run with an opposite field single to left field to score Hagel.

Arkansas dented home plate for the first time in the bottom of the third. Jacob Morris singled to left to lead off the inning and moved to second when Carver grounded out to third. A single to left-center field scored Morris to trim the Valparaiso lead to 3-1.

The Razorbacks cut the lead to one with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Morris drew a leadoff walk and moved to second when Carver was hit by a pitch. A fly out to right field by Bigham advanced Morris to third. Mahan drove in a run on a ground out to short for Arkansas’ second run of the game.

Arkansas took its first lead of the game in the next inning, scoring twice. Reynolds started the rally with a double to left field and Vinson drew a walk to put runners on first and second. A sacrifice bunt by Jake Wise moved both runners into scoring position. Morris tied the game on a sacrifice fly to right field, bringing home Reynolds. Carver then hit the first pitch of his at bat into right field to score Vinson and give Arkansas a 4-3 lead.

The Crusaders would threaten in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Astin was able to get out of both jams. In the 8th, Valpo put a runner on second with one out, but Astin got a groundout and a strikeout to end the inning. In the 9th, the Crusaders put the first two runners of the inning and had runners at second and third with one out. Astin induced a ground out to the mound by Manning for the second out and forced Will Hagel to ground out to third to end the ball game and preserve the 4-3 Arkansas win.

Arkansas looks for its third series sweep of the season on Sunday as it hosts Valparaiso in the final game of the weekend series. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. Junior southpaw Randall Fant (3-5, 3.89 in 2011) is set to make his first appearance of the season for Arkansas, while the Crusaders will counter with senior righty Kevin Wild (0-0, 1.80). Single-game tickets for Sunday’s series finale are $10 for reserved seats.

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