FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek struggled during the first month of the 2013 season, which led coach Dave Van Horn to push the preseason All-American out of the Friday night slot in Southeastern Conference play.
There’s no doubt Stanek finally looked like the pitching staff’s ace at South Carolina last Saturday. The conference office regarded the performance as the week’s best.
Stanek was named the SEC’s pitcher of the week after his complete-game win against the Gamecocks. The right-hander hurled Arkansas to a series-clinching victory by allowing two runs – both unearned – on three hits to go along with a season-high seven strikeouts and one walk.
It was the second complete game of Stanek’s career. He also pitched a complete game in an 11-3 win against Charlotte in the 2011 Tempe (Ariz.) Regional.
Stanek (2-1) retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced Saturday to help Arkansas (17-7, 4-2 in SEC) win the series. The road trip got even better Sunday, when the Razorbacks won the finale 5-3 in 11 innings to sweep South Carolina.
It was the first time South Carolina (18-6, 2-4) had been swept at home since 1999 and also was Arkansas’ first road sweep against a top 10 opponent since beating LSU in 2004. Stanek and the Razorbacks will try to win another conference series against Mississippi State (21-6, 2-4) in Baum Stadium this weekend.
Arkansas’ successful weekend helped it climb from No. 21 to No. 15 in this week’s Baseball America poll. The Razorbacks are one of seven SEC teams ranked in the poll, joining Vanderbilt (No. 3), LSU (No. 4), Kentucky (No. 8), Ole Miss (No. 11), South Carolina (No. 17) and Mississippi State (No. 25).
The Razorbacks also moved from No. 17 to No. 13 in the USA Today Coaches’ poll. Other ranked SEC teams include: LSU (No. 2), Vanderbilt (No. 5), Kentucky (No. 10), Ole Miss (No. 11), South Carolina (No. 14) and Mississippi State (16).
Arkansas will play a two-game midweek series against Mississippi Valley State before welcoming Mississippi State to Baum Stadium.
The series begins at 3:05 this afternoon. The game was originally scheduled for 6:35 p.m., but first pitch was changed because of the cold weather in Fayetteville.
The second game of the series will be Arkansas’ annual trip to play in Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. The game will begin at 7:05 p.m.
Freshman Colin Poche (2-0, 0.69 ERA) will start Tuesday’s game, while senior Tyler Wright (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will be on the mound Wednesday.