Mississippi State at least won't have to fret facing their Saturday nemesis in Sunday's rubber game. Stanek (6-0) was wickedly effective in a 6.1 stint, allowing just three hits—all singles—to the home team, all scattered in separate frames and none coming before the fourth. He struck out six and walked two, not overwhelming numbers on a line score but plenty impressive in-person.
"He was changing eye-levels up and down the zone, throwing hard, changing speeds," said Frazier, a three-time victim. "And his slider and changeup were working too. So tip your hat to him, that's pretty much all you can do really."
Perhaps not quite all, according to Coach John Cohen. "We faced one of the best guys in our league, and just really didn't put our noses in there and fight." Or not enough to avoid a shutout for the first time this season.
By the time Stanek took his leave Arkansas had scored all eight of their runs in just a couple of decisive middle-innings, with two in the fifth frame which would have sufficed for success likely. Just for insurance, overkill even, the Razorbacks knocked another six scorers across in the sixth inning to take the pressure off Stanek and make selective use of the bullpen.
"You have to score one or two runs and hope you can defend it and pitch it enough," Cohen said. "And we just didn't do that."
For four innings State starter Nick Routt (1-3) was pitching it well enough, and getting the support, to keep everyone scoreless. The junior lefty kept Arkansas in check by ending the first three innings on strikeouts and the next on a double-play. All the fannings were somewhat surprising under the circumstances as with a brisk breeze blowing to rightfield the Razorbacks figured to take advantage of a fly-ball producer like Routt.
Instead he had them flailing for a while. "The best thing that came out of the day was Routt found his changeup, he got some swings-and-misses," said Cohen. "That is going to be a difference maker for him." Routt finished with eight strikeouts and two walks, and the first five hits allowed did no damage.
But it was a leadoff walk in the fifth inning, of the nine-hole hitter, that changed everything, and after Routt was ahead 0-2. "And we cannot shove the ball in the strike zone enough to get a ball in play," Cohen said. "That really hurt." Not at first because a ground ball and check-swing strikeout had Routt an out away from stranding Jacob Mahan at second base.
Instead Dominic Ficociello lined a single into left-centerfield that broke up the shutout. Matt Reynolds did better by pulling a double to the left-field corner for a 2-0 lead. And, a pitching change. Reliever Evan Mitchell was shaky with a walk before striking out Bo Bigham.
He began the UA sixth with another walk, and Derrick Bleeker ripped a one-hop shot that 3B Demarcus Henderson did very well just to stop for an infield single. A full-count walk, again of ninth-batter Jacob Morris, had everything loaded and nobody out for the top of the order. Tim Carver cashed in opportunity with a liner through the middle for a 4-0 lead.
"Evan was not as sharp today as he's been in the past," Cohen said. "Our tempo wasn't as good on the mound today.
Lefthander Jacob Lindgren inherited two runners and still no outs. Arkansas didn't have to execute a bunt to score either. Both runners were moving on the pitch and C Mitch Slauter's throw for third sailed into leftfield for one run. Mahan singled in another for the 6-0 lead. Ficociello not only executed his sacrifice but reached in the process for Razorbacks on corners and still nobody out.
Reynolds made it a 8-0 scoreboard with his clean double to right-centerfield before the first out, a swinging strikeout of Sam Bates. It was the first time this season an opponent batted-around at State's expense.
It was all icing for Stanek. Though, the Bulldogs did have a crack at him in their second inning with an opening plunking of RF Hunter Renfroe and one-out walk of 1B Wes Rea. A double-play ended that threat and State wouldn't have another real chance the rest of the way as it played out.
"We put some good swings on him, and some bad swings too that helped him too," said Frazier. "He was missing the zone some and we kind of helped him out of that." Renfroe got State's first hit with a scratch single in the fourth. 2B Sam Frost singled in the fifth with two outs, as did DH Trey Porter in the sixth. Stanek opened the seventh with a walk and ground-out before exiting, with lefthander Cade Lynch called on to face consecutive southpaws. He flew both out, and retired all eight Dogs faced to end the afternoon.
Lindgren worked 2.2 innings with two runs on three hits and two strikeouts, and Trevor Fitts took care of the last 1.1 on two hits and two strikeouts. In all, the four Bulldog hurlers struck out 14 Razorbacks compared to eight total Ks for Arkansas pitching.
"We punch out 14 guys as a club, but the (five) walks really hurt us," Cohen said. "In the fifth and sixth inning we didn't execute some pitches."
Reynolds was 3-of-5 for Arkansas with three RBI, while the top three in the UA order all had two hits each and four more RBI combined.
Arkansas goes into Sunday 4-1 in SEC play and tied for the Western Division lead with Auburn. The Bulldogs are 2-3 and looking to secure the first series success of the conference schedule. It is far too early to label anything as a ‘must' for either side but the outcome could ripple on through the rest of the season for both teams. Beyond that, the first two games were quite contrasting after Mississippi State opened the series with a 11-2 win.
"We'll come ready to play tomorrow, you have to put this one behind you," Frazier said. "We're not going to dwell on this, we played very good yesterday and very bad today. Just come out and play good tomorrow and try to win a series."
Righthander Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.30) gets the State start and tries to follow up on his complete-game win at LSU of last Sunday. Arkansas will go with lefthander Randall Fant (1-1, 4.82).
"Kendall has done a great job and we need him to come out and do what he's done the last two starts," Cohen said. "We have to get a ton of ground-ball outs tomorrow and make plays."