FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas didn’t exactly snap out of an offensive rut during its series opener against San Diego State on Thursday night.
Strong pitching and key defensive plays made sure a three-hit night was enough to snap the Razorbacks’ four-game losing streak, though.
Arkansas beat San Diego State 2-0 in front of an announced crowd of 3,015 in Baum Stadium by scoring the game’s only runs in the second inning.
The Razorbacks (8-5) leaned on three pitchers who combined to record their third shutout of the season. The trio – led by starter Colin Poche - got plenty of help from a defense which managed to equal a school-record four double plays, picked off a runner at first base and threw another out trying to steal second.
“I think it was a confidence-builder for us,” Arkansas third baseman Brian Anderson said. “As an offense we were trying to get on the board as early as we could and lucky enough we got it in the third inning. I think getting ahead and knowing the guys that are in the bullpen, we were going to shut the door on them.
“That was really big to get our first win coming back off that weekend.”
Anderson played a big role in making it happen with an RBI double in the third inning off San Diego State starter Michael Cederoth (1-2). Shorstop Bret McAfee had just scored from third base after a successful double steal to give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead. Then Anderson lined a 2-0 pitch into the gap to score Jacob Mahan.
Anderson’s double was Arkansas’ third hit of the game. It also proved to be the last off Cederoth, who shut out the Razorbacks the final six innings. Cederoth — who threw a fastball Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said was in the mid-90s — struck out seven batters and walked three in his eight-inning stint Thursday.
“It seemed like after we scored there in the third he kind of picked it up a notch,” Van Horn said. “That was a little disappointing on our end offensively.
“But, again, when you go out and you lose a couple, three games like you did last weekend, just winning is a good thing.”
Arkansas’ pitching staff helped secure it, beginning with Poche (2-0). The freshman continued the strong start to his Arkansas career, shutting out San Diego State (7-6) on three hits during a four-inning stint. He was on a predetermined pitch count.
Poche has not allowed a run in 11 1/3 innings this season.
“I thought that Colin Poche came out and did a really nice job,” Van Horn said. “He had a quick first inning. And that was my biggest concern with the freshman, throwing against a weekend starter like he did (Thursday).
“It just seemed like he was calm and cool and did a nice job of throwing strikes.”
Brandon Moore bounced back from his game-ending struggles against Pacific to keep San Diego State scoreless in three innings. Barrett Astin, who was removed from the starting rotation, threw two scoreless innings to earn the save.
San Diego State designated hitter Brad Haynal singled with one out in the ninth inning off Astin. But the junior got San Diego State catcher Jake Romanski to ground into a double play to end the game. It was the 18th time Arkansas has turned four double plays in a game. The last time was against Georgia on April 27, 2007.
“A pitcher’s best friend,” Poche said of the school-record tying double plays turned by the Razorbacks. “Any time you get a guy on base you’re trying to immediately get the next ground ball and get 2-for-1 right there. We did a good job of doing that (Thursday) and our fielders did a good job behind us of rolling them up.”
The teams will meet for the second game of the series at 3 p.m. today. Arkansas will send staff ace Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.84 ERA) to the mound, while San Diego State will throw right-hander Philip Walby (1-1, 1.12 ERA).
NOTES: Center fielder Matt Vinson left the game in the third inning after spraining his left wrist trying to make a diving catch. Van Horn said Vinson, who is hitting .300, probably won’t play today. … Tyler Spoon extended his hit streak to 13 games Thursday night. Spoon singled in the first inning and finished 1-for-3. He leads Arkansas with a .388 batting average through 13 games. … Astin’s save was the 15th of his career. It ties him for second on the school’s career list with Bill Bakewell (1977-79). Phillip Stidham holds the school record with 33 saves (1989-91).