Sat April 20, 2024

By Lance Hawley

Arkansas Beats South Carolina 2-1
By Otis Kirk

No. 2 Arkansas used a strong pitching performance from Hagen Smith and a productive sixth inning at the plate to take a 2-1 victory over No. 20 South Carolina Friday night in Columbia.

The Razorbacks saw their ace Hagen Smith work six innings, allow two hits, one run, walk five and struck out 11. After Smith left, Dave Van Horn turned to Christian Foutch for two hitters, Gabe Gaeckle for 2.2 innings and then Stone Hewlett pitched to a batter in bottom of the ninth to close the door.

"Yeah just, wow, what a great game." Van Horn said. "A lot of pitching, some decent defensive plays. And I don’t know, it just seemed like both teams just kept getting out of jams. I thought our pitching staff was amazing again, starting with Hagen, who gave us six really good innings, got into a little trouble and then got out of it. Bases loaded and they only scored one run. Almost had a double play ball there but it didn’t happen. He finished it up.

"Foutch didn’t go great. Gave up a two-strike hit and then obviously hit someone when he was going to bunt. Brought in Gabe Gaeckle and he put out the fire. He got through that inning with no damage. He gave us 2 2/3 and struck out five or six hitters (5) and just pitched great. He threw 42 pitches and we felt like that was good. He was getting ready to go through that lineup again and we thought we’d just go with the left on left matchup. Put the game-winning run on first and the left-hander came in and did a great job. So a super job."

South Carolina plated its lone run in the bottom of the fifth for a brief 1-0 lead. Arkansas answered in the top of the sixth. Ben McLaughlin walked as did Nolan Souza to start the inning against reliever Ty Good. Peyton Holt bunted for a hit to third base to load the bases. After an out, a wild pitch allowed McLaughlin to score from third. Souza advanced to third and Holt to second with one out. Jack Wagner then sent a towering shot to the outfield that worked for a sacrifice fly out allowing Souza to cross the plate with what proved to be the winning run.

Once again, Van Horn saw his team respond after the other squad did.

"Yeah, I mean, that was big," Van Horn said. "We gave up a run. Could have been more. Great job like I said by Smith just getting through it. Leadoff man got on, then hit by pitch … I don’t know exactly how it all went down. But really, really good bunt by Holt. It was just going to be a sacrifice and he laid a beauty down and beat it out. (The first baseman) got pulled off. The grass was really, really wet. From about the fifth inning on the grass was super wet. Water was coming up.  The third baseman probably didn’t get a good grip on that. But I don’t know, just proud of the way they found a way to score. Things weren’t going our way. I mean we left 14 runners on tonight, got four hits. Carolina got four hits. But we got a big sac fly and I think we scored on a wild pitch. I mean, we were so close to breaking that thing open like three different times. We just needed one big hit or something to drop and it never happened. We found a way to hang on. But that was a great response there in the sixth after a tough fifth inning."

The five walks issued by Smith was a season high. Van Horn was asked why South Carolina is able to walk so much which is something they have done all season.

"It’s probably a little bit of both," Van Horn said. "They have a good approach and they’ll fight you with a couple strikes. Hagen walked a couple guys. It’s gonna happen when you… When you pitch like that, you’re going to walk people every now and then. Throwing the ball in the mid-90s the whole game with a plus slider and changeup and probably a little splitty there or whatever, it is what it is."

Gaeckle followed Foutch to the mound. He didn't allow the two hitters that had reached base score. Van Horn was elated with Gaeckle's performance.

"Well, you hit the mail on the head," Van Horn said. "He comes into the game with a little bit of calmness to him and I think he’s probably calm because he knows how good his stuff is. He trusts it and he just attacks. They have to figure out how to hit a pitch that’s 96-97 and he dumps a slider in there. He’s got a really good changeup that lefties have a lot of trouble with. He’s confident. He’s good."

Smith (8-0) picked up the win for Arkansas (33-5, 13-3) while South Carolina (26-12, 8-8) reliever Good (4-1) took the loss. The two teams will play a double-header on Saturday since heavy rain is forecast for Sunday in the area. Mason Molina will go against South Carolina ace Eli Jones in the noon opener. The last game will feature Brady Tygart for the Hogs against a yet to be named starter.