MANHATTAN, Kan. — Arkansas knew it had to shake up the lineup after getting only three hits in Friday’s loss to Bryant.
So Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said he and the rest of his coaching staff held a late-night meeting after to put together their gameplan.
“All of us coaches sat in my room for an hour after the game just trying to figure out how we can put together a lineup that can score runs and change the order up a little bit,” Van Horn said. “Basically the other two coaches left and said, ‘Good luck.’”
The solution didn’t produce an abundance of runs, but Arkansas got enough from its new-look lineup to avoid elimination with a 3-1 lead against Wichita State. Some of the changes included: Tyler Spoon batting in cleanup for the first time this season, Eric Fisher starting and hitting fifth, Dominic Ficociello sliding up to the two-hole and sliding over to second base, and Brett McAfee going to ninth in the order.
Arkansas catcher Jake Wise was the only player hitting in the same spot.
“What the heck, I guess,” Van Horn said of the changes.
One move paid off immediately. Leadoff hitter Joe Serrano reached on an error to open the game and Ficociello walked. Spoon pushed both runners across the plate with a one-out single to give the Hogs a 2-0 lead.
McAfee came through later as well. His RBI single in the seventh gave the Razorbacks a little breathing room in the late innings. He went 2-for-4 Saturday.
In fact, the bottom of Arkansas’ lineup — Jacob Mahan (seventh), Wise (eighth) and McAfee (ninth) — combined to go 6-for-12 in the win. Van Horn said it was good to see the group score a few runs after one of its worse performances of the season.
“The way we lost (Friday), we didn’t do anything offensively,” Van Horn said. “Left runner after runner out there. It was so disappointing. Did not play well at all.”
Suggs Sets Saves Mark
Arkansas closer Colby Suggs retired Wichita State in order to collect his 13th save this season. It set Arkansas’ single-season record.
Suggs had been tied with former Razorbacks Phillip Stidham (1989) and Tim Deitz (1985). He has recorded those 13 saves in his last 15 outings.
“He’s been lights out for a while now,” Van Horn said. “I’d say for the last five or six outings he’s been really good. So happy for him. His name will be in the record books until the next guy gets it.”
Earned Run Streak Ends
Wichita State scored its first run with a one-out, solo home run by first baseman Casey Gillaspie in the fourth inning Saturday. It was the first earned run allowed by Arkansas starter Ryne Stanek since May 4, a streak that spanned 26 1/3 innings.
Stanek’s performance helped him lower his earned run average to 1.39 this season. It stands as the third-lowest ERA in school history behind Stidham. The former Arkansas pitcher notched a 0.95 ERA in 1990 and 1.20 in 1991.
Arkansas left-hander Randall Fant is scheduled to start today’s game against Bryant. If the Razorbacks advance, they will play again at 7 p.m. against Kansas State.
Van Horn said he hadn’t decided on a fourth starter if the Razorbacks make it, but hinted that senior Tyler Wright could earn the nod.
“Probably someone that’s left-handed. Wright possibly,” Van Horn said. “He’s left-handed. Got a few others. But never really thought about it. I mean, we have, but we’ve got to get through (the afternoon game) first. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to play that second one. That would be big.”
Wright has made 10 appearances with three starts this season. His last start came in the second game of Arkansas’ doubleheader at Nebraska, allowing one run on two hits in four innings. It also was his longest outing of the season.
Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson was disappointed with his pitching staff after the 20-11 loss to Kansas State on Friday night. But he applauded starter A.J. Ladwig and relievers Aaron LaBrie and Brandon Peterson for their work Saturday.
The Shockers allowed 11 hits, but limited the Razorbacks to three runs.
“I thought our guys did a really nice job of avoiding nerves and pitching to what our strengths are,” Stephenson said.
Arkansas thought it was about to break the game open with a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, when Brian Anderson clubbed a two-out pitch to deep center field with two runners on base. But Wichita State center fielder Micah Green made an impressive play on the run, grabbing the ball as he got to the warning track.
The catch ended the inning and kept the Shockers within striking distance.
“I thought the center fielder made an incredible catch out there that really kept them in the game,” Van Horn said. “We were about to break it open. They were giving us I think a three or four run lead. He just did a super job there.”