WACO, Texas - Baylor's Trent Blank pitched eight superb innings and the Bears beat Arkansas 8-1 in the first game of the NCAA Super Regional on Saturday.
Blank scattered seven hits and allowed only one run while striking out five to improve to 11-1 this season. The right-hander walked only one.
"He got ahead of us all night and all day," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We fouled off some pitches and hit a couple ground balls. We are working on trying to stay below the baseball, which is different than what you are normally trying to coach.
"You can work on him all you want and try to simulate him until you get in the game when a guy is throwing 83, 84 miles an hour down there, that is sinking pretty good and running in. It is different. He just did a good job. He pitched well."
Baylor (49-15) gave its starter plenty of run support in its fifth straight win. Logan Vick hit a pair of home runs and Josh Ludy added another as the Bears continued a season-long surge at the plate.
The Bears roughed up Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale to the tune of five runs on six hits in four innings. Baxendale hadn't allowed an earned run in his last three NCAA Tournament outings dating to the 2010 super regional at Arizona State.
"Normally he can throw his fastball wherever he wants, in, out, to lefties or righties and keep it mid-thigh to knee-high, and he just did not
do that today," Van Horn said.
"He has to pitch off his fastball and if he is not locating it like normal it makes it tough. In typical DJ fashion he battled and fought through it. In two innings his pitch count got up to 50 pitches. After three innings it was way up there. He had one quick inning and that was it. He had 95 pitches in four innings; that is way too many."
It was Baxendale's shortest outing since only lasting 3 2/3 innings of a no-decision at Ole Miss on April 22. The loss was his first ever in the NCAA postseason.
"Baylor did a great job at the plate," Baxendale said. "They battled with two strikes and they took advantage of any mistakes I made."
Vick's 2-run home run gave Baylor the lead for good in the bottom of the first.
Arkansas had a chance to cut into the lead in the top of the second after Dominic Ficociello led off with a single. The Razorbacks' first baseman was thrown out for the second out of the inning on a base-running error, however, when he tried to advance to third base on a groundout to short stop.
Matt Vinson singled in the next at-bat, which would have scored Ficociello. The Razorbacks stranded two runners in the second and third without scoring in either frame.
After Baxendale worked around base runners in the second, the Bears extended the lead in the bottom of the third by virtue of Ludy's leadoff home run and doubles from Max Muncy and Cal Towey.
"I just thought that from top to bottom offensively, we were hooked up pretty good," Baylor coach Steve Smith said. "Coming into a game like this, it's exactly what you expect.
"It's one game. You have to come in tomorrow hooked up and hope you pitch as well as
you pitched today."
Arkansas (42-20) scored its only run on Ficociello's RBI double to plate Matt Reynolds in the top of the sixth inning, pulling within 6-1.
Ficociello, who struggled at the plate in the Houston Regional last weekend, finished the game 3-for-4, accounting for nearly half of the Razorbacks' seven hits.
The game was Ficociello's 20th multi-hit game this season - tops among Arkansas hitters. Despite his recent struggles, he has reached base in 12 consecutive games.
Trent Daniel worked two scoreless innings in relief before Baylor added runs in each the seventh and eighth innings off Arkansas reliever Ty Wright.
The two teams will play the second game of the best-of-three series Sunday at 3 p.m.
Ryne Stanek (7-3, 2.84 earned run average) will start on the mound for Arkansas, while Baylor will throw left-hander Josh Turley (10-1, 1.83).
"We have got to be aggressive and go to the plate with a plan; we can't just go up there swinging it," Ficociello said. "We have had games with 20 hits because we knew what to do.
"I think today we just kind of went up there and we knew that he was going to sink the ball on us. We didn't prepare ourselves well enough to hit beneath the ball."
With a win, Baylor will advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2005.
Baylor 8, Arkansas 1
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