FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Unclutch.
It happens. Baseball is like that. Arkansas outplayed South Carolina on Thursday night in the series opener at Baum Stadium. No win resulted. The Gamecocks, last in the SEC East, beat the Razorbacks, first in the SEC West, 3-2. Arkansas had but itself to blame.
The Diamond Hogs (25-10, 8-5) weren’t bad. They just weren’t good enough. Arkansas left the bases loaded three times and once more stranded two in a 1-run loss. It was that simple as Carlos Cortes’ 2-run homer in the fifth held up as the game-winner for South Carolina.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn pinned the game on his bullpen; the same bullpen that has been the most enigmatic area of the team this year. He had to. Blaine Knight was laboring through the four innings (70 pitches) he worked.
Cortes turned South Carolina’s 1-run deficit into a 1-run lead. Barrett Loseke, in his first inning of relief for night, had a good pitch, but with the wind blowing out to left, Cortes’ ball just cleared the fence. On a normal night, it’s a deep flyball out. Thursday, it was a nail.
It was made more troubling because of what happened the inning before. Dominic Fletcher should have scored on Carson Shaddy’s one-out single up the middle. Had he, Arkansas would have gone ahead by two runs and Cortes’ homer would have only tied the game. Instead, he misread the ball, stopped at third base and Jax Biggers grounded into a double play the next at-bat to end the inning.
Arkansas loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs. Grant Koch flew out to leave the Razorbacks scoreless. They did it again in the seventh. Bases were full for Koch again after Dominic Fletcher singled off the pitcher. That time he finished at at-bat with a groundout to second.
Grading the Hogs
Knight’s outing was unusual. Quite unusual. He wasn’t even that bad. Have to think it had something to do with the short work and the SEC season being half-over. His relief was actually OK. They gave up a lot of hits, but kept South Carolina at bay, save the homer.
Arkansas racked up the hits. So many more than its two runs would suggest. The Diamond Hogs had 12 of them, in fact. Problem was the timing and, well, 10 of them were singles.
The Big Stick + The Arm
Yes, he was the losing pitcher. Yes, he gave up the game-winning homer. It wasn’t really on him. He made a good pitch
He spent almost the entire first half of the season hovering around .200. After a 3 for 3 night Thursday, he’s up to .287.
Two more for Arkansas against the Gamecocks. After that, a nonconference rivalry game with Missouri State on Tuesday at Baum.