The No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks split the final two games of a doubleheader with the No. 11 South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday to win two out of three on the road and claim the series victory. After Saturday’s game was moved up due to incoming bad weather in Columbia, the Razorbacks played their third doubleheader in three weeks following last night’s 6-1 win over the Gamecocks. With the victory on Friday evening, Arkansas handed Carolina only their second series loss all season.
The Hogs would lead 2-0 over South Carolina in game one, but the bullpen would prove to be the difference for both sides as Arkansas was held to only four hits while the Gamecocks would come back to win 6-2. However, in the evening session, the Hogs would get one of the most dominant pitching performances of the season from Patrick Wicklander and Kevin Kopps to completely shut down the Cocks by holding them to two hits and winning the rubber match 5-1. With the series win, the Razorbacks take another big step on the march to Omaha.
The Hogs would jump out for an early lead on Cullen Smith’s solo home run to right field that just stayed fair. The Razorbacks are averaging almost two home runs per game as Smith’s shot increased their total to 73 on the season.
These Homerin' Hogs don't take games off. @smith_cullen is here.— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 23, 2021
However, they would not score again until the fifth inning as both Peyton Pallette for the Hogs and Brannon Jordan for the Gamecocks pitched great for their sides.
Friday is Peyday as Pallette once again put in several solid innings. He would not give up a hit until the third, and his fastballs were effective through five innings. Pallette would finish by giving up two hits and two earned runs while striking out five on 84 pitches.
He would also receive some defensive help from Cayden Wallace on this Sportscenter Top 10 play.
Incredible @cayden_wallace— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 23, 2021
However, at the same time, the Hogs only got three hits off of Jordan. The team managed to get a second run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Brady Slavens, but they would strand the remaining runners to close out the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead.
Pallette would start the sixth, but with a runner in scoring position for South Carolina, Dave Van Horn would make the decision to pull him in favor of Caden Monke. Monke, who pitched well in relief on Thursday, threw four balls and with the bases loaded, DVH promptly pulled him for Zebulon Vermillion.
The next batter, Andrew Eyster finally would get the Gamecocks’ first run of the day on a single, and Vermillion would walk the following batter to tie the game. Carolina would convert another run on a sacrifice fly as the result of a throwing error to home by Slavens, and they would take a 4-2 lead after another RBI by George Callil.
Van Horn, who normally is quick to pull pitchers, would elect to ride out Vermillion for the remainder of the game. However, he would give up another RBI in the eighth inning, and Zach Morris was chosen to close out the ballgame. One can only assume that Kevin Kopps was being saved for game three despite still being fresh after the previous night.
The Gamecocks would tack on another run, and the Hogs had no response as the Carolina bullpen limited Arkansas to only one hit and one walk over the final four innings in a 6-2 loss.
Andrew Peters got the win after pitching for three scoreless innings. Monke got the loss.
The Hogs only mustered four hits all afternoon. Thus, the series would come down to the rubber match.
The Hogs would have to wait until the third inning to get on the board in the second game. After Casey Optiz and Jacob Nesbit hit a pair of singles, Jalen Battles would knock in the first run on a hit to right field. Zach Gregory would force a second RBI after an infield single to the second baseman allowed Nesbit to score, and the Hogs were up 2-0.
Wicklander got the surprise start for the Hogs despite concerns that Dave Van Horn might choose to rest him as the official announcement was made about an hour before the first pitch. It would turn out to be a wise decision.
The Gamecocks would get one back in the bottom of the third after Brady Allen hit a home run, but that would be about the only blemish for Wicklander on the evening. He showed good control with his fastball and slider as he struck out five while only allowing two hits and zero walks through seven innings. It was his longest outing of the season. Wicklander has really become a solid starting pitcher for the Hogs with a 2.20 ERA now on the year.
Buh-bye— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 24, 2021
Wick has five Ks. All swinging.
Cayden Wallace would then provide some run support in the fifth after lofting a slider from starting pitcher Will Sanders for a two-run homer.
Bombs Away @cayden_wallace's two-run, two-out dinger left no doubt. None.— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 24, 2021
The freshman phenom hit the Hogs’ 74th home run, which continues to lead the nation.
The Hogs would hold a 4-1 advantage over the Gamecocks as they would bring Julian Bosnic in for a couple of innings. Arkansas would add one more run after Matt Goodheart hit a ground ball that their shortstop could not handle, allowing Battles to score.
Kevin Kopps would finally make an appearance in the eighth, and he would slam the door shut on the game. Six batters up... six batters down. All strikeouts.
Need to close out a game with 6 consecutive Ks?— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 24, 2021
Call the Kopps. pic.twitter.com/SSodhWneDp
If you’re like me, you watched that on a loop two or three times. Kopps’s ERA decreased to 0.97 this season. The Hogs won 5-1 and took the series over Carolina.
Wicklander got the win, and Arkansas is now 32-7 overall and 13-5 in the SEC.
Up next, the Hogs have a week to prepare for a road trip down to Baton Rouge to face old foe LSU next Friday.