The Baum Stadium in right-field fence came in during the offseason. It was the difference in a 1-0 Arkansas victory Tuesday night against Gonzaga.
Dominic Ficociello sliced a solo homer into the Gonzaga bullpen for the night's only run in the seventh inning. Five Arkansas pitchers blanked the Bulldogs to run the team's scoreless innings streak to 22 1/3 innings.
Gonzaga pitching did almost as well except for one ball that landed in its bullpen. The fence is about 10 feet closer than last year at that spot.
"That was the difference," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We might still be playing (if the fence hadn't come in)."
Ficociello might have had another home run had the fence in left been brought in, too. He pulled a line drive to straight away left earlier in the game that was caught a step away from the wall. Matt Reynolds had a liner die at the wall in left, too.
"We hit it hard about six or seven times," Van Horn said. "But they were all caught. Their guy was pretty good. We knew from looking at his numbers he was pretty good."
Gonzaga starter Billy Moon went all eight innings. He allowed just three hits. He faced only 28 batters while throwing 109 pitches.
But the Hogs matched him with their bullpen. Freshman starter Chris Oliver got two outs in the fourth before Van Horn turned it over to the bullpen. Cade Lynch wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth.
Lynch got seven outs, Colby Suggs three more. Ty Wright got an out in the eighth. Then, Barrett Astin pitched perfect the rest of the way -- although he did give up a shot.
"I had a pitch back up over the middle of the plate," Astin said. "That was a bad pitch."
Royce Bolinger caught all of that one, but Jacob Morris turned and chased it down in straight away center.
Astin was superb in the ninth to earn his fourth save. He's yet to allow a run in over 14 innings this season.
Ficociello said the Hogs are having fun playing defense behind the wonderful pitching.
"It's fun playing defense behind them," he said. "We know they are going to throw strikes. We are confident in our pitching. Barrett has been great. He's throwing a lot of strikes. He can embarrass guys."
Astin said the pitching has improved since the Villanova series.
"We got together as a staff after the first two weekends," Astin said. "What we were doing was not good enough. Obviously, we are still not good enough yet."
It's hard to beat goose eggs.
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