FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - In a battle of undefeated pitchers and SEC division leaders, Blake Cooper and South Carolina got the best of Drew Smyly and Arkansas on Friday night.
Cooper struck out seven in seven innings and the No. 8 Gamecocks beat the No. 12 Razorbacks 3-2 in front 9,217 fans at Baum Stadium.
"That was about as good as we could do," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "You have to be almost perfect against a team like Arkansas. Cooper has been the Friday-night guy for us. There are a lot of great pitchers in this league - including Smyly, who was outstanding as well. Cooper gave us a chance, and we got some help out of the bullpen.
South Carolina (39-11, 18-7 SEC) took the lead for good in the top of the seventh inning. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI double off Smyly scored Whit Merrifield and gave the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead.
"That got us back in position," Tanner said. "We had scored, but they had answered and we answered back. To be good on the road you have to be good to the very end."
The Gamecocks chased Smyly after seven innings. The Arkansas sophomore went seven innings, allowing six hits and striking out nine in his first loss of the season.
Arkansas (38-12, 16-9) had a chance in the eighth inning but stranded two runners. For the night, the Razorbacks left six runners on base and struck out 10 times.
"We just couldn't get the big hit," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We've got to drive people in."
The Razorbacks tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the sixth. Brett Eibner reached on a hit-by-pitch, and Andy Wilkins followed with a two-out RBI double off Cooper.
South Carolina had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning when Nick Ebert scored on Kyle Enders' two-out RBI single.
Billed as a pitchers' duel, the game was anything but early. South Carolina loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning and took a 1-0 lead on Adrian Morales' sacrifice fly to score Merrifield. Smyly responded with a pair of strikeouts to get out of the inning.
"There's only about one pitch I bet he'd like to have back," Van Horn said. "He pitched good, and the bullpen did a good job. It was just one of those games we didn't do a good job offensively and their pitchers just took it to us."
Cooper gave up a leadoff walk to Collin Kuhn in the bottom half of the first, and he scored two batters later on a Zack Cox RBI double. Cox eventually reached third base but was stranded when Wilkins struck out to end the inning.
The Razorbacks put runners on third in each the first, third and fourth innings but were unable to score each time.