MANHATTAN, Kan. — There’s a reason Arkansas hasn’t panicked after losing the first game of a series during the 2013 season.
All-American Ryne Stanek is the next pitcher to take the mound.
Stanek, who has thrived on lifting the Razorbacks to game two victories, accomplished it once again during Arkansas’ 3-1 win against Wichita State in an elimination game at the Manhattan (Kan.) Regional on Saturday. The right-hander limited the Shockers — who scored 11 runs in an opening-game loss to Kansas State on Friday — to two hits and helped the Razorbacks extend their season.
He also improved to 5-0 in starts the day after an Arkansas loss.
“I don’t ever think of coming in after a loss like it’s anything different,” Stanek said. “You have to go out there and do your job and get outs. That’s all I did.”
It means the Razorbacks (38-22) will play another elimination game against Bryant today at 2 p.m. The winner will then play regional host Kansas State, which beat Bryant 7-1 in the winner’s bracket on Saturday night, at 7 p.m.
Stanek (10-2) won’t be available to help the Hogs after throwing 113 pitches Saturday. But his performance — 7 1/3 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts and 6 walks — was a big reason Arkansas is still playing at Tointon Family Stadium.
It was the 13th time in 16 starts Stanek has allowed one or fewer earned runs this season. It wasn’t Stanek’s easiest effort, though. The junior had to battle through command issues in the early innings and slide out of a couple of jams late.
The six walks issued were his season high, but none led to runs. In fact, Wichita State’s only run came on a one-out home run by Casey Gillaspie. It was the first earned run Stanek had allowed in 26 1/3 innings.
“He’s done a great job all year of getting out of jams,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “That’s kind of his thing. We leave him in a lot longer than we do other guys because he finds a way. That’s what the good ones do. When they get into a jam, they find a way to get out. That’s a credit to him and his experience.”
Stanek also had the benefit of working with a lead before he even stepped on the mound. Van Horn shuffled his lineup after the anemic performance against Bryant and the Razorbacks produced right away when outfielder Tyler Spoon hit a two-run single in the first inning off Wichita State starter A.J. Ladwig (5-6).
Arkansas couldn’t put up Kansas State-like numbers at the plate, but did a better job after managing three hits against Bryant. The Razorbacks finished with 11 off three Wichita State pitchers and never trailed thanks to the key single in the first inning and Brett McAfee’s RBI single in the seventh inning to make it 3-1.
“I think they’re motivated,” Van Horn said of the offense. “They were really disappointed in the way we played. I mean that was probably our worst game of the year, in my opinion, if you just look at everything. Not making plays, a few mistakes here and not driving in runs, not getting bunts down. It was like, ‘I haven’t seen that team.’ Came out (Saturday) and really played a real clean game.”
Said Spoon: “Offensively, we just didn’t take advantage of opportunities at all (Friday). We finally get some momentum at the plate offensively and get some runs for Stanek and he basically takes care of the rest.”
Stanek walked his final batter with one out in the eighth before Van Horn went to a bullpen. He lowered his ERA to 1.39 with Saturday’s performance, which could have been in last with the Razorbacks depending on the rest of the regional.
Relievers Michael Gunn picked off the pinch runner trying to steal second base and struck out the next batter to get out of the eighth. Closer Colby Suggs retired the Shockers in order in the ninth inning to pick up his school-record 13th save.
“We kept battling, but I think Stanek got better as the day went on,” Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said. “But there were still times where we could have manufactured more. But when you only get two hits, it is really hard to score a lot of runs if they do not walk a whole bunch of you.”
Arkansas will need another strong effort from left-hander Randall Fant, who is scheduled to start this afternoon’s game. Van Horn would consider options for a fourth starter if Arkansas won, mentioning senior Tyler Wright as a possibility.
But Van Horn was just relieved his team could think about it thanks to Stanek.
“It would have been hugely disappointing to go 0-2 here,” Van Horn said. “For us to get to (today), anything can happen. We feel like whoever loses this game (Saturday night), a lot of times they get down a little bit. If you get down on them early (today), get through that game, anything can happen (tonight).”
NCAA MANHATTAN (KAN.) REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Game 1: No. 1 Kansas State 20, No. 4 Wichita State 11
Game 2: No. 3 Bryant 4, No. 2 Arkansas 1
Game 3: Arkansas 3, Wichita State 1 (Wichita State eliminated)
Game 4: Kansas State 7, Bryant 1
Game 5: Arkansas vs. Bryant, 2 p.m.
Game 6: Kansas State vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary): - Game 4 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 7 p.m.