Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award.
Diamond Hogs win opener
Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek fires a pitch in the first inning of Friday afternoon's season opener against Western Illinois at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas supplemented four strong innings from Ryne Stanek with plenty of run support, and the No. 1 Razorbacks beat Western Illinois 9-1 in the season-opener Friday at Baum Stadium.
Eric Fisher recorded a two-run single in the first inning and a solo home run to lead-off the third as the Razorbacks built a 7-0 lead. Fisher, the starting first baseman, was playing his first game in two years after redshirting last season.
Fisher's first career home run sparked a five-run third for Arkansas. Matt Vinson and Jacob Mahan added RBI hits in the inning, while Brett McAfee and Tyler Spoon also had RBIs during the rally.
The offensive surge was more than enough for the Razorbacks' heralded pitching staff. Stanek, who retired his first six batters, threw just 66 pitches on a limited count, striking out four.
Stanek gave up the game's only run, a solo home run by Dan Dispensa, in the fourth inning. The right-hander allowed only two hits.
The Razorbacks' bullpen was solid in relief. Freshman right-hander Trey Killian retired all nine batters he faced, and Tyler Wright worked around runners on the corners to record the final out in the ninth.
Western Illinois recorded only three hits in the opener, its first of 23 consecutive road games.
Arkansas played the game without projected starting second baseman Dominic Ficociello, who aggravated an injury to his oblique muscle during practice earlier this week. Mahan got the start at second, finishing 2-for-2 at the plate with an RBI and run scored.
The two teams will meet again Saturday for the second of the three-game series. The first pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m
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