So that's where those brooms went. After spending the first half of the season sweeping more than their fair share of opponents, the Diamond Hogs finally got swept themselves. Worse, it was at home, at the hands of South Carolina, with a potential SEC crown on the line for the winner. The Hogs have hit what can accurately be described as a "slump", but there's good news: this slump is nowhere near as bad the one the Hogs experienced last season, and that team still made it to the CWS. The Hogs didn't go winless for the week, though, as they took care of Louisiana Tech in the Hogs' first return to central Arkansas in about 25 years.
For the Louisiana Tech Game, the Bulldogs score first with a 2-RBI in top of the 2nd. They follow that up with a ground-rule double that puts LA Tech up 3-9. That would end starting pitcher Randall Fant's day, as DJ Baxendale replaces him. Baxendale responds by immediately letting an RBI single through. The Hogs start working to dig out of their usual hole in the bottom of the inning. Brett Eibner leads off the inning with a double, and DH Tom Hauskey sends him home with his own double. Travis Sample follows that up with an RBI single that scores Hauskey, and just like that, the Hogs have halved the deficit. Sample adds an RBI off a fielder's choice in the 4th to bring the Hogs within 1. The Hogs finally tie the game in the 8th, as Bo Bigham leads off with a double, and Zack Cox moves him to 3rd on a groundout. Eibner completes the score with an RBI single. The Hogs take it to extras and finally seal the deal in the bottom of the 10th. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Andy Wilkins lauches a fly ball to right field. Two LA Tech fielders collide trying to make the play, and the ball squirts away, letting Cox score from 2nd for the 5-4 Razorback win. Pitcher Jordan Pratt is credited with the win.
For the South Carolina series, the Hogs' ace Drew Smyly has a bit of trouble in the 1st inning of Game 1, loading the bases after only facing 3 batters and letting a sac fly score a run, before finally settling down. The Hogs strike back in the bottom of the inning, as Zack Cox's RBI double scores Collin Kuhn from 2nd to tie the game at 1. This game was billed as a pitching duel (Smyly vs. SC's Blake Cooper), and it didn't disappoint. Through 4 innings, the two combined for 9 strikeouts (Smyly with 6). The Gamecocks add another run on an RBI single in the 6th. Andy Wilkins puts the Hogs back in the game with an RBI double that scores Brett Eibner, also in the 6th. The 'Cocks aff yet another RBI in the 8th to go up 3-2. After 7 innings, Smyly finally reaches his limit and is replaced by DJ Baxendale. Smyly goes for 6 hits, 3 ERs, 9 Ks, and 2 walks through 7 innings. The Hogs and 'Cocks trade scoreless innings for the rest of the game, and SC walks away with a 3-2 win. Drew Smyly gets his 1st loss of the season.
The Gamecocks score first again in Game 2, with an RBI single in the 2nd. South Carolina would then add a 2-run homer in the 4th to go up 3-0. USC adds yet another 2 runs, on RBIs, in the 8th. With that, starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger's day is over, as he's replaced by Geoffrey Davenport. Bolsinger ends up with 5 hits, 5 runs (1 unearned), and 6 Ks in 7.2 innings. The Hog bats never wake up, and they take the 5-0 shutout, with SC's Sam Dyson tossing a complete game.
The Gamecocks score first yet again in Game 3, with an RBI double in the 1st. Brett Eibner responds with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the inning, and for the first time all weekend, Arkansas has the lead. SC would add a solo homer in the 3rd to tie the game at 2, but Collin Kuhn takes the lead back with his own solo homer in the same inning. DJ Baxendale comes in to pitch the 5th. Starting pitcher Randall Fant's day ends with 4 hits, 2 ERs, and 3 Ks in 3 innings. After getting 1 out in the 6th, Baxendale's day is over, as Geoffrey Davenport replaces him. Bax is credited with 1 hit and 1 strikeout in 2.1 innings. Jordan Pratt comes in to close the game in the 8th. Davenport has a nice outing, with not hits or runs and 4 strikeouts in 1.2 innings. After letting the lead-off batter walk, Pratt gives up a 2-run homer to put the Gamecocks up 4-3. South Carolina leads off the top of the 9th with a solo homer, and that's it for Pratt, as he gives up 3 hits and 3 ERs in only 1 inning. Jeremy Heatley replaces him, but has some control issues, and is replaced himself after getting only 1 out. The Hogs go quietly in the 9th, and South Carolina gets an SEC road sweep with the 5-3 victory.
This was a week to forget for the Hogs, and, accordingly, I'm going to keep this brief. This team getting swept is a huge surprise, muchless at home. Any hope of an SEC title is gone, but the SEC West is still in reach. In addition, a spot in the SEC tournament has already been clinched.
Obviously, the Hogs' standings in the polls took a huge hit, dropping 8 spots to #14 in Rivals. However, the Diamond Hogs are still in good shape RPI-wise, coming in at #9 with a top-10 SoS. This week the Hogs travel to Norman on Tuesday for a mid-week game against familiar foe OU, and then travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt in the final SEC series of the season. The Hogs currently sit tied at #2 in the SEC West with Ole Miss (who they hold the tiebreaker over), and only 1 game behind SEC West leader Auburn. With Ole Miss and AU facing off this weekend, the SEC West title is still within reach, but it will require some help from the Rebels. This has been a deflating few weeks lately, but this team has proved they don't quit. I expect they'll return to form for the post season. Woo Pig Sooie!