HOUSTON - Arkansas played small ball in a big park Friday night to take down one of its old Southwest Conference foes and stay unblemished on the year.
The No. 18 Razorbacks (6-0) scored a pair of tie-breaking runs in the seventh inning and ended up downing No. 24 Rice 5-2 in the Houston Shriners for Children College Classic at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park.
Carson Shaddy, Clark Eagan and Austin Catron all had a pair of Arkansas’ seven hits while Shaddy had two RBIs, including plating Catron with a insurance run in the ninth.
Arkansas starting pitcher and Houston native Dominican Taccolini (2-0) threw six innings of five-hit, two-run baseball while fanning six and walking one to get the win.
“I thought we did a good job of playing to the competition,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “I thought we stepped it up today. Dominic and (closer) Zach (Jackson) both did a great job tonight.
"With this being Dominic’s hometown, I was concerned he’d be a little too hyped up, but he came out and was under control. He used that moving fastball a lot and threw some breaking balls in there.”
Jackson came on in the seventh to pick up his second save as he pitched scoreless baseball the rest of the way while fanning four and allowing just a single hit.
“Jackson isn’t just a one inning guy,” Van Horn said. “He could be a starter for us if we wanted to use him that way. We’ve been calling him our ‘wild card.’
"If we pitch him three innings today, we probably won’t pitch him tomorrow and then have him close on Sunday.”
Arkansas started its game-winning rally in the seventh when Luke Bonfield drew a walk from Rice starter and loser Jon Duplantier, who then hit both Tucker Pennell and Michael Bernal with one out to load the bases.
Duplantier’s wild pitch allowed pinch-runner Darien Sims to score to get Arkansas ahead 3-2.
He would then walk Eric Cole to reload the bases before exiting in favor of reliever Zach Esquivel, who gave up a deep sacrifice fly to Carson Shaddy to put the Razorbacks ahead 4-2.
Duplantier went 6 1/3 innings while giving up five hits and four earned runs.
Arkansas jumped ahead 1-0 in the second inning when Collin Gassaway doubled, moved to third on Rick Nomura’s bunt and then came home on Bonfield’s groundout.
That lead grew to 2-0 in the fourth when Shaddy singled, Eagan doubled and Gassaway plated a run with another groundout.
Rice tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Dayne Wunderlich’s single scored a pair.Arkansas will continue play in the tournament on Saturday with a 3:30 p.m. game against No. 9 Houston and also play No. 23 Texas Tech at 11 a.m. on Sunday.