December 12, 2018

One More Bullet

After posting a 2-2 mark in SEC Tournament play last week, the Diamond Hogs (38-20) are packing their bags and heading west to Arizona for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  The Hogs will be the #2 seed in the Tempe Regional.

Ryne Stanek (AP Photo/Dave Martin)Postseason play is a different animal.  Nearly every year, there’s someone who emerges to play a larger role than they did in the regular season.  In past years, guys like Bubbs Merrill, Andrew Darr and Bo Bigham answered the late-season call and contributed mightily to help the Hogs advance to Omaha.

After his performance last week in Hoover, this year’s candidate looks like pitcher Ryne Stanek.

Stanek’s outing (7.2 IP, 2H, 5Ks, 99 pitches) in a 4-1 win over Alabama reminded us of Drew Smyly’s near no-hitter in the Norman Regional in 2009.

That day Smyly was untouchable, throwing 8 2/3 innings and yielding only one hit while striking out 12.  The win propelled the Hogs to the Super Regional in Tallahassee, where they disposed of Florida State en route to the College World Series.

Smyly that year — like Stanek this year — was mainly a mid-week starter who had showed flashes, but had struggled to put together consistent outings.  His stat line before one-hitting the Sooners (2-1, 5.60 ERA, 12 GS, 45 IP, 28 ER, 41 Ks) is eerily similar to Stanek’s line (2-2, 4.75 ERA, 13 GS, 47.1 IP, 25 ER, 30 Ks) before the Alabama game.

Smyly went on the next year (2010) to put together a tremendous season, going 9-1 with a 2.80 ERA.  He was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Tigers.

You can tell Stanek has that kind of stuff, as well.  Friday against ‘Bama, he threw three different pitches for strikes and looked extremely comfortable on the mound.  His motion was much simpler.  “In the last game (Ole Miss), I was out of control with too many moving parts,” Stanek said.  “I was rushing everything.”

If Stanek can keep it going, that gives the Hogs one more bullet to use down the stretch.  A nice luxury for Dave Jorn and Dave Van Horn to have as the postseason gets underway.