Devils no stranger to Hogs

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Arkansas junior pitcher Ryne Stanek will start the first game of the Coca-Classic against Arizona State.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas junior pitcher Ryne Stanek will start the first game of the Coca-Classic against Arizona State.

— The Arkansas and Arizona State campuses are 1,225 miles apart, but the baseball programs have developed a rivalry in recent years that will be renewed this weekend in Surprise, Ariz.

The No. 2 Razorbacks (7-1) and Sun Devils (4-2) will meet today and Saturday in the Coca-Classic at Surprise Stadium. Arkansas also will play Gonzaga on Friday and Pacific on Sunday.

This weekend’s games will mark the eighth and ninth times Arkansas and Arizona State have met since 2008, including a 2010 NCAA super regional in Tempe, Ariz., where the Sun Devils won two 12-inning games to advance to the College World Series.

The Sun Devils also ended the Razorbacks’ season in 2011, when Arizona State won an NCAA regional final in Tempe. In 2008, the Sun Devils swept a two-game series from the Razorbacks in Tempe, and in 2009 Arkansas did the same thing to Arizona State in Fayetteville.

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“We have run into them a little bit in the last few years,” said Dave Van Horn, in his 11th season as Arkansas’ coach. “I respect their program. They have great coaches, great players and a great tradition. You go out to Arizona and you play them, you’re going to get better.”

Arkansas sophomore outfielder Joe Serrano is from Tucson, Ariz., where the University of Arizona - Arizona State’s Pacific-12 Conference rival - is located.

“You grow up having that hatred kind of groomed inside you,” Serrano said of his feelings about Arizona State. “They’re always a tough ball club to beat ... But, yeah, it would be nice to take it to them.”

Arkansas junior right hander Ryne Stanek (1-0, 3.30 ERA), the preseason SEC pitcher of the year, will start today against Arizona State freshman left-hander Brett Lilek (0-0, 2.25 ERA).

Stanek struggled in his last start against Evansville, lasting just 3 innings and allowing 2 runs, 4 hits and 2 walks. He also hit a batter.

Van Horn noted Stanek also had slow starts with control problems his freshman and sophomore seasons before putting together strong finishes.

“Hopefully, this weekend he’ll get off to a good start,” Van Horn said. “His first two outings he’s thrown 25 pitches the first inning, and it hasn’t been because they were hitting the ball around, just a lot of full counts.”

If Stanek continues struggling against Arizona State and next weekend against San Diego State, Van Horn said the coaching staff may have to consider what to do about his spot in the rotation in the SEC opening series against Ole Miss.

“Pitch him on Friday night in conference play the first couple weeks or do we wait until he gets his stuff together?” Van Horn said. “I’m hoping he starts showing [positive] signs this week and then signs next week against San Diego State, and then it’s an easy decision.

“If you get the next two outings like the first two outings, then we’ve got a little issue don’t we? We’ve got to figure it out.”

The Razorbacks will play in 70-degree temperatures this weekend, when highs in Fayetteville are forecast to be in the 30s.

“The weather’s perfect,” Serrano said. “We’ve been battling harsh weather conditions here, so going to Arizona and getting some sun is going to be nice.”Today’s game ARKANSAS VS. ARIZONA STATE WHEN 5 p.m. Central today WHERE Surprise, Ariz.

RECORDS Arkansas 7-1; Arizona State 4-2 RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network, which includes KQSM-FM, 92.1, in Fayetteville; KURM-AM, 790, in Bentonville-Rogers; KHLR-FM, 106.7, in Benton/Little Rock; KASR-FM, 92.7, in Conway; KHGG-FM, 103.1, in Fort Smith; KELD-FM, 106.5, in El Dorado, and KOMT-FM, 107.5, in Mountain Home. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: Ryne Stanek (RHP, 1-0, 3.30 ERA). Arizona State: Brett Lilek (LHP, 0-0, 2.25) SHORT HOPS Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn is three victories shy of 1,000 for his career, so he could hit that milestone this weekend when the Razorbacks play four games. He has a 997-464 overall record in 25 seasons. ... Razorbacks junior second baseman Dominic Ficociello is expected to make his season debut today after missing the first eight games because of a strained oblique. ... Arizona State took 2 of 3 games at Tennessee last weekend. ... Arkansas’ starting rotation the rest of the weekend will be Barrett Astin on Friday against Gonzaga, Trey Killian against Arizona State on Saturday and Randall Fant against Pacific on Sunday. Fant will pitch for the first time this season after being sidelined by a hamstring injury. ... Arizona State leads the overall series 6-3.

THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY vs. Arizona State 5 p.m.

FRIDAY vs. Gonzaga 5 p.m.

SATURDAY vs. Arizona State 5 p.m.

SUNDAY vs. Pacific 11 a.m.

MONDAY off TUESDAY off WEDNESDAY off All times Central

Sports, Pages 17 on 02/28/2013