FAYETTEVILLE – A combined Friday night pitching gem by Patrick Wicklander and Kevin Kopps achieved an Arkansas 5-1 victory salvaging a Friday doubleheader split and enabling the Razorbacks to win 2 of 3 in their SEC series with the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina, beaten 6-1 by the Razorbacks Thursday night, won Friday’s afternoon doubleheader first game, 6-2 at Founders Park.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s nationally No. 1 Razorbacks come home 32-7 overall and a best in the SEC West 13-5 for their next SEC series against the LSU Tigers next Friday through Sunday in Baton Rouge, La.
Arkansas’ Tuesday night nonconference game with Missouri State at Baum-Walker was cancelled because of Missouri State covid issues.
Coach Mark Kingston’s nationally 11th-ranked Gamecocks fall to 25-12 overall and 11-7 in the SEC East.
Left-handed starter Wicklander threw a 2-hitter through seven complete innings striking out five and walking none.
A second inning single by David Mendham and Brady Allen’s 2-out solo home run in the third comprised all South Carolina could muster.
The Gamecocks did nothing but strike out against Kopps. Three strikeouts in the eighth and three strikeouts in the ninth for Kopps’ second save of the series.
Including five strikeouts, Kopps faced the minimum nine batters closing the final three innings of Thursday night’s game won by reliever Caden Monke.
“First off just a really good job by our pitchers all weekend,” Van Horn said, including Benton’s Peyton Pallette completing five shutout innings starting Friday’s afternoon’s game. “For the most part all three games they gave us an opportunity to win.”
On Wicklander, Van Horn said, “ He goes seven full innings, doesn’t walk a batter, strikes out five and just pitched ahead in the count all night and gave us a chance to kind of chip away and beat a good team and a good pitcher in the most important game of the series.”
With Kopps throwing three innings Thursday night and the Hogs up 5-1, Van Horn said he contemplated aloud pitching another reliever in the eighth and saving Kopps for the ninth.
Pitching coach Matt Hobbs shook him off.
“Coach Hobbs just looked at me and said, ‘Kevin’s fine,” Van Horn said. “And I said, ‘Okay.’ Good call by Coach Hobbs. For all weekend he (Kopps) was amazing.”
Allen’s home run enabled the Gamecocks to trail, 2-1.
Arkansas scored two in the third off losing starter Will Sanders.
Successive singles by Nos. 7,8 and 9-batters Casey Opitz, Jacob Nesbit and Jalen Battles netted a run on Battle’s RBI. Zack Gregory grounding into a forceout at second scored Nesbit.
With Wicklander excelling and Kopps looming, the Gamecocks deflated when freshman right fielder Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier socked a 2-run home run after Zack Gregory’s fifth-inning walk.
“That was a huge swing for us to give us a 4-1 lead at the time,” Van Horn said. “That’s when you could start thinking a little bit more about, ‘How many more outs do we need before we can go to Kevin?”
Arkansas added an unearned in the seventh on one of South Carolina’s two errors.
Overcoming Arkansas’ 2-0 lead and 5-innings shutout start by Benton’s Peyton Pallette, the South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Razorbacks, 6-2 in Friday’s first game of a SEC doubleheader at the Gamecocks’ Founders Park in Columbia, S.C.
In Friday’s first game Pallette, two hits through 5 1-3, was relieved after a 1-out walk and single in the sixth.
Relievers Monke, the loser with his batter scoring after walking on four pitches, and Zebulon Vermillion couldn’t stop the Gamecocks from a 4-run sixth.
“In the first game today Peyton Pallette pitched really well – five plus,” Van Horn said. “You take away maybe one walk, two walks, I think the outcome might have been a little bit different.”
Still, starting with second baseman Robert Moore hitting two home runs Thursday night and relievers Ryan Costeiu, Monke and Kopps effectively following Thursday starter Caleb Bolden, the Hogs for the sixth time in six SEC series won 2 of 3 for the fifth time plus achieving their 3-game sweep at Mississippi State.