Arkansas played Wednesday night, and into Thursday morning, like one of the best teams in the nation most of the game. It played like a team fighting for a top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It played like both because it is both.
The Razorbacks impressed in the last game of the second round at the SEC Tournament. Arkansas sent South Carolina to the elimination bracket with a 13-8 win in the wee hours of Thursday. Now comes another shot at Florida, which, if Arkansas defeats, should be enough to guarantee a top-8 seed for NCAA Tournament next week.
South Carolina never had much of a chance. Arkansas hit and hit quickly, tagging the Gamecocks for three runs in the first inning and another three in the second. Changing pitchers didn’t help Carolina, either. The Diamond Hogs added two in the third and two more in the fourth.
It was a walloping and clear message to the NCAA selection committee, which may have to consider Arkansas’ 0-5 series record on the road in SEC play — a detriment for seeding next week. Instead, Dave Van Horn’s team showed at the SEC Tournament that they belong in the top 8, not just tin he conversation.
Arkansas’ lineup exploding meant Kacey Murphy could do what he does best: pitch to contact. South Carolina finally took advantage of it in the sixth, though, plating five runs and turning a nine-run lead into a four-run lead at 10-6. The outburst ended Murphy’s otherwise solid effort to that point.
This grade was an A, maybe even an A-plus, until the sixth-inning mess. The best news for Arkansas is Van Horn didn’t have to go to any of his best relievers. They’ll all be ready when the Razorback try to pull an upset against Florida on Thursday night.
Carson Shaddy and Heston Kjerstad were the only two players in the lineup who didn’t have a hit. They were the best two Arkansas hitters all year, so they can be forgiven. Besides, both reached on walks.
The Big Stick + The Arm
Arm: Kole Ramage
Ramage entered for Murphy in the sixth after South Carolina had done its damage. He held the Gamecocks in check until the ninth.
All of them. Honest. Every player in the Arkansas lineup had a great game Wednesday.
Arkansas will get another shot at Florida. The top team in the nation and the Razorbacks played three earlier this season, all in Gainesville. Florida won two of the three. Projected game time is 9 p.m. ET.