By ERIC OLSON, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Advantage, Arkansas.
The Razorbacks, who lost two of three to SEC rival South Carolina in the regular season, now find themselves one win from the College World Series finals after beating the Gamecocks 2-1 on Monday night.
Ryne Stanek and Barrett Astin combined on a four-hitter, and Arkansas ended the Gamecocks' NCAA tournament record winning streak at 22 games.
"It's almost unimaginable that you could win 22 games in a row in the postseason. It's incredible," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "Hats off to coach (Ray) Tanner and his group. They've done a tremendous job. But our guys just came out and did what they do — play hard and throw a lot of strikes."
The Gamecocks (46-18) will have to beat Kent State on Wednesday to keep alive their hopes of winning a third straight national title. Even if they defeat the Golden Flashes, they still would have to win two more games against Arkansas to get back to the championship round.
The Razorbacks (46-20) have won their first two games at the CWS for the first time since their initial appearance in Omaha in 1979. They've been here six times since.
They earned two days off while they wait to see who they'll play Thursday.
"It was the biggest game of the year, and they've heard that 15 times now," Van Horn said of the win. "Each time you get along, it is. Being 2-0 gives you a chance to rest a little bit."
Matt Vinson's RBI single in the fourth inning gave Arkansas a 2-0 lead. Evan Marzilli's two-out triple pulled the Gamecocks within a run in the fifth, but they got just one hit the rest of the way.
Stanek (8-4) allowed three hits and turned the game over in the seventh inning to Astin, who earned his 11th save.
Arkansas pitchers have allowed just two runs over their last 32 1-3 innings. The Hogs have an ERA of 1.75 in eight NCAA tournament games.
Stanek was effective with four pitches, but neither he nor Astin was overpowering. They combined to induce 14 outs on groundballs and nine on flies. They struck out four.
"I was able to throw my fastball for a strike and mix early, and continue to mix and throw everything for a strike throughout the game," Stanek said. "It's just good to be effective."
Stanek had faced the Gamecocks in May and got no decision after allowing five runs in five innings of an 8-6 loss.
He was Most Outstanding Player of the Houston Regional after throwing seven shutout innings against Rice. He struggled against Baylor in super regionals, walking four in a four-inning start.
"He was a little more under control with his mechanics," Van Horn said. "It just seemed easy, smooth. He just looked like a polished pitcher tonight. I thought he did a great job on a tough stage."
South Carolina starter Colby Holmes (7-2) allowed two runs on four hits in 3 2-3 innings. Tyler Webb shut down Arkansas on two hits over a season-high 5 1-3 innings, but his teammates couldn't get much going against the hottest pitching staff in the nation.
South Carolina came from behind to win 11 times during the 22-game streak that started at the 2010 CWS.
"It was a great run," Tanner said. "These guys, some are still here, and the guys that had come before, it's one of those things that you don't know if it could happen or if it will ever happen again. It's been a pretty good run. I'm proud of what these guys did and how they battled. But Arkansas tonight was a better team."
The Hogs had only six hits after banging out 10 in an 8-1 win over Kent State on Saturday.
They opened the scoring in the first on Dominic Ficociello's double. Their winning run came home in the fourth. Holmes walked Brian Anderson leading off, and he scored on a single by Vinson, who was hitting .209 out of the No. 8 hole.
Vinson also had a two-run double in Saturday's win over Kent State to end a 4-for-26 slump.
"It's a great feeling," Vinson said. "I'm trying to help my team out the best I can. I keep doing my best. If there's a guy in scoring position, I'm going to try to get him in any way I can. So I just happened to get a hit in a couple of games."
South Carolina went three up, three down three of the last four innings.
"I thought our guys battled hard up there, but their stuff was very special, at least from my vantage point," Tanner said. "Tyler pitched his rear end off and gave us a chance to maybe get something going, but we just weren't able to punch in any runs."