Diamond Hogs drop first game in NCAA tourney

The 15th-ranked Arkansas baseball team dropped a 4-1 decision to Bryant on Friday night in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament at Tointon Family Stadium.

The Razorbacks drop to 37-21 on the season, while Bryant improves to 45-16-1 on the year. Arkansas will next play on Saturday at 2 p.m. in an elimination game against Wichita State. Ryne Stanek (9-2, 1.40) will start for the Razorbacks, while the Shockers will counter with RHP A.J. Ladwig (5-5, 4.65). Saturday’s game will be televised on ESPN3.

Barrett Astin recorded his third-consecutive quality start, allowing just one unearned run on seven hits and striking out seven in seven innings. Astin lowered his season ERA to 1.79.

Bryant reliever Salvatore Lisanti (2-2) earned the win out of the bullpen, striking out two over four hitless innings.

Arkansas reliever Jalen Beeks (6-2) took the loss, giving up three runs on four hits in an inning. Brandon Moore closed the game with a scoreless ninth inning, striking out two.

Bryant starter Peter Kelich received a no decision after giving up a run on two hits and striking out six in five innings.

Dominic Ficociello, Jacob Mahan and Tyler Spoon each had a hit in the loss. Jake Wise had the only RBI of the contest for the Razorbacks.

Kevin Brown and John Mullen each had three hits to lead the Bulldogs in the win. Mullen had two RBI, while Brown drove in a run.

Arkansas got on the board first in the fifth inning. Ficociello blasted a leadoff double high off the wall in right centerfield that narrowly missed being his fourth home run of the season. Mahan followed with a bunt single that advanced Ficociello to third and put runners on the corners with nobody out. Brett McAfee was hit with the first pitch he saw to load the bases, and Wise worked a walk to drive in Ficociello and give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead.

Bryant responded in the top of the sixth, when AJ Zarozny reached on an error and advanced to third on a single by Brown. Zarozny scored on Mullen’s single to left field but Astin was able to hold the damage at one run by recording an out on a fielder’s choice and striking out Dan Muscatello to end the Bulldogs’ half of the sixth.

Bryant scored three runs in the top of the eighth. Zarozny started the offense with a one-out single and was driven home on a single by Brown after stealing second. Mullen then hit a ball off the wall in center for an RBI triple and then scored on a single by Anderson for the final 4-1 margin.