By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn didn’t need many words to sum up the first inning Saturday.
"It wasn’t pretty," Van Horn said.
He has felt the same about the Razorbacks’ overall performance the past week, even though Arkansas rebounded from an early deficit to beat Valparaiso 4-3 in front of 7,380 in Baum Stadium to win its seventh straight.
Arkansas didn’t play well once again, but did respond to another challenge by rallying back from a 3-0 deficit and holding on late to keep its win streak intact. The Razorbacks now are off to their best start since 2006, when Arkansas was 9-0. It just might not feel that way to Van Horn.
"We escaped," he said. "We haven’t played very well this weekend. Valparaiso has played very good defense. They’ve pitched very well. We could easily be 0-2."
It was clear Arkansas was in for an interesting day from the very start, when starting pitcher Ryne Stanek and his usually reliable defense endured all kinds of problems.
Second baseman Bo Bigham and shortstop Tim Carver each recorded first-inning errors. Stanek surrendered two hits, walked a batter and threw a wild pitch as well. Valparaiso capitalized on the problems and scored three runs.
But Stanek (2-0) settled in and held the Crusaders (2-3) scoreless throughout the rest of his six-inning stint. He finished allowing three runs, one earned, on seven hits. He also struck out four and walked two in throwing 90 pitches.
"It was a lot of just getting under control," Stanek said. "I made some bad pitches and some good pitches, and things just didn’t bounce our way. I tried to keep going and fight through that inning. Once I got through that, it was a lot smoother the rest of the game."
Arkansas began to chip away at Valpo’s lead, too, scoring runs in the third inning (an RBI single by Bigham) and the fifth (on a groundout by designated hitter Jacob Mahan). The Razorbacks then took the lead in the sixth, finally putting a multi-run inning together against Kyle Wormington (0-1).
Matt Reynolds led off the inning with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Morris. Carver then came to the plate and atoned for his fielding mistakes, slapping a single to right field to score Matt Vinson.
"Some days you’re not going to have it (defensively) and you have to clear your mind and just get ready for offense," said Carver, who committed three errors. "That’s all I could do."
Arkansas didn’t lose the lead, getting solid relief efforts from Brandon Moore, Michael Gunn and Barrett Astin.
It wasn’t easy for any of them, though. Moore allowed a single to Tanner Vavra to lead off the seventh. Vavra moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. But Moore struck out Chris Manning for the second out and turned it over to Gunn, who ended the inning by striking out Will Hagel on a 3-2 pitch.
Astin came on the eighth and remained on the mound in the ninth inning. Valparaiso threatened to tie the game by getting runners on second and third with one out, but Astin got two groundouts to end the game and get the save.
"I’m glad I got to come out of the bullpen and get that under my belt for the first time this season," said Astin, who Van Horn plans to slide into a dual-closer role.
In the end, Arkansas won despite recording a season-low six hits. Bigham was the only Razorback to turn in a multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-4 with an RBI Saturday.
The Razorbacks also committed four errors for the second time this season. Carver now has six errors in seven games.
Arkansas will try to complete another series sweep today, though, at 1:05 p.m. Arkansas left-hander Randall Fant will earn his first start of the season opposite Valparaiso right-hander Kevin Wild (0-0, 1.80 ERA).
"We’re playing just good enough to win, I guess," said Van Horn, who added his biggest disappointment is a defense that has committed 11 errors in seven games. "It’s not going to be good enough when we get to league play, I’ll tell you that."