OMAHA, Neb. - Pitching a combined four-hit masterpiece, Razorbacks Ryne Stanek and Barrett Astin achieved a 2-1 victory Monday night over defending national champion and SEC rival South Carolina thrusting Arkansas alone in the winner's bracket of its College World Series Bracket 1 at TD Ameritrade Park.
With its 8-1 victory over Kent State last Saturday and 2-1 triumph Monday, Arkansas advances 2-0 to Thursday night's winner's bracket game against Wednesday's loser's bracket winner between South Carolina and Kent State.
National top-seed SEC power Florida, losing 7-3 Saturday to South Carolina, was upset and eliminated 5-4 by Mid-American Conference champion Kent State Monday afternoon.
Winning either Thursday, or if necessary a winner-take-all final, would advance Arkansas to a best 2 of 3 series against the Bracket 1 winner.
Arizona is the 2-0 team of Bracket 2 with Florida State playing UCLA in the loser's bracket final tonight.
South Carolina's Gamecocks, the 2010 and 2011 national champions and winners of an unprecedented 22 consecutive postseason Regional, Super Regional and College World Series games, could not overcome a 2-0 Arkansas’ lead.
The Hogs tallied first on Dominic Ficociello's two-out RBI double scoring Tim Carver (leadoff single and bunted over by Jacob Mahan) in the first and Matt Vinson's RBI single in the fourth off losing starter Colby Holmes.
Left-hander Tyler Webb relieved after Vinson's two-out single scored Brian Anderson who had walked and stolen second.
Webb retired Jake Wise to end the fourth and yielded only a sixth-inning single, seventh-inning walk and ninth-inning single to keep the Gamecocks in it.
The Gamecocks were just one out away from the fifth inning on. Chase Vergason walked leading off the fifth and scored when center fielder Vinson took a fateful first step in before pell-mell backtracking too late on Evan Marzilli's shot sailing over Vinson's head for a RBI triple. Christian Walker, Carolina's best hitter, walked. L.B. Dantzler followed lining a rope but right at right fielder Anderson.
Stanek, the winning pitcher (8-4), returned for a 1-2-3 sixth then turned it over to Astin, the sophomore from Forrest City notching his team high 11th save.
Astin faced just 10 over the final three innings, touched only by Dantzler's two-out double in the eighth. Astin retired Adam Matthews on a grounder to second baseman Bo Bigham, then in the ninth snapped South Carolina's streak sandwiching a strikeout between two grounders to third baseman Matt Reynolds and shortstop Tim Carver.
Stanek pitched out of a first-and-third jam in the first and benefited from a great pickup and tag when South Carolina speedster Tanner English tried a two-out push bunt with a runner on third in the fourth.
"Just a great college game," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "Both teams played well and the pitching was outstanding. Stanek had four pitches going and he had them all. And Barrett Astin did an outstanding job throwing strikes and got some ground balls and quick outs, just 40 pitches in three innings. We had just enough offense, laid down two or three nice sacrifice bunts and got a couple of big two-out hits and we held on. We hadn't discussed South Carolina's streak because it's just another SEC battle. But they are a great team, winning 22 games in a row is incredible. Hats off to them, but our guys just did what they do, play hard and throw strikes."
South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner praised all the pitchers and said Ficociello's play on English's bunt prevented 2-2 extra innings.
"Stanek and Astin were very, very good, very special" Tanner said. "Tyler Webb battled his rear end off and gave us a chanc,e but we weren't able to push any runs. Tanner English with two outs put a bunt down on his own and you can get a run probably there if anybody was there not as great as Ficociello. He's a plus first baseman and made a great play. We didn't get many opportunities because they were pitching so well."
While the Gamecocks regroup for Kent State Wednesday, Arkansas gets two days to decide whether to bring Saturday starter DJ Baxendale back Thursday or use No. 3 starter Randall Fant.
Being 2-0 gives us a chance to rest some pitching while they (South Carolina and Kent State) are using pitching," Van Horn said. We have a chance to use some strategy and rest some guys and go from there."