FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Well, that wasn’t what Arkansas hoped.
The Razorbacks had a chance Sunday afternoon to book a spot in the College World Series. All they had to do was beat South Carolina for the fourth time this season. Instead, the two teams will now play a winner-take-all game Monday night after the Gamecocks pulled what the Diamond Hogs did the night before. One explosive inning tied the series as South Carolina won, 8-5.
The easy blame would lie on the shoulders of Jake Reindl. Arkansas’ most steady reliever all season was the exact opposite Sunday. He threw 10 pitches in facing three batters in the fifth inning. Reindl walked the first batter he faced to load the bases with the Razorbacks trailing, 2-1. Three pitches later it was 6-1. LT Tolbert’s grand slam broke open the game. Two pitches after that, 7-1, when Hunter Taylor went yard. Bryce Bonnin came in relief immediately following, but the damage was done.
Considering Arkansas’ bats did next to nothing, the hole was too large. At that point, the Diamond Hogs had 4 hits, all singles. Only 1 walk, too. They weren’t getting on base with any great measure of success against South Carolina starter Cody Morris. In fact, the only Arkansas run had come in an inning in which Gamecocks fielders committed 3 errors. Casey Martin reached after the South Carolina third baseman sailed his throw. Heston Kjerstad followed after the second baseman had a bad throw and the catcher, who backed up the play, had another, allowing Martin to score.
That tied the game for two more batters. Justin Row’s solo home run off Kacey Murphy in the bottom of the third put South Carolina back ahead.
Murphy’s day was poor. It was the worst start of his season, arguably, against an SEC team. He made it just 4⅓ innings, giving up 6 hits and inexplicably walking 4. Murphy had averaged 1.6 walks per nine innings all season. Mostly, though, Sunday, he was able to work around it. He did leave two on base for the usually steady Reindl, however, and it ended in disaster.
His replacements were hardly better. Bonnin recorded four outs, but walked 2 and gave up a hit and run. Evan Lee threw a wild pitch and walked a batter, not recording a single out. Cody Scroggins walked 2 and gave up a hit (but didn’t allow a run in his 2⅓ innings). All of them combined were a stark reminder of Arkansas’ biggest weakness this season: bullpen consistency and depth.
Carson Shaddy helped Arkansas score 2 runs with a home run in the sixth. Kjerstad’s solo shot in the seventh gained one more. Jax Biggers’ sacrifice fly pulled one more. But headed to the ninth inning, Arkansas was still down 3 runs.
Coach Dave Van Horn did not throw his most electric reliever, Matt Cronin. The left-hander will be available in the finale. Reindl conceivably could go again Monday, too, after throwing just 10 pitches. Barrett Loseke is probably not available after throwing 3 innings Saturday.
Van Horn is probably fortuante he will be in the dugout Monday. He was quite demonstrative in his disapproval of the strike zone and the calls behind the plate Sunday.
No one had their best stuff. Only Scroggins, it could be argued, even had his average stuff.
Arkansas ended up with 10 hits, but most of them came after the game had been decided. Plus, a 2 for 12 day with runners on base and 0 of 9 with them in scoring position is going to get teams beat more often than not.
The Big Stick + The Arm
He kept South Carolina off the board, allowing Arkansas to pull closer, at least.
Don’t blame the senior. He was 2 for 2 with a walk and his 2-run homer in the sixth pulled Arkansas back to 7-3.
One more game Monday. The winner goes to the College World Series. The loser’s season is finished.