South Carolina’s baseball game against Arkansas Friday night started two hours late due to bad weather. Things were just as stormy for the Gamecocks once they finally took the field.
Fourth-ranked USC mustered just seven hits and made five errors on the way to a 6-2 loss to the No. 23 Razorbacks at Carolina Stadium in the opening game of a three-game SEC series, one that didn’t end until 1:22 a.m.
“We didn’t play very well,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.
The loss meant the Gamecocks (39-11) slipped in the SEC race a little more after losing their third straight conference game. USC fell to 18-7 in the Eastern Division, while Vanderbilt’s game against Florida was suspended due to rain in the sixth inning and will be picked up today before the regularly-scheduled game. That left the Commodores at 19-5 in the SEC East and the Gators at 18-6.
Arkansas (33-15), which pounded out 14 hits off four USC pitchers, took over the sole lead in the SEC West at 13-12. Dominic Ficociello led the attack with four hits, and right-hander DJ Baxendale (8-1) picked up the victory with six strong innings. Trent Daniel finished the game to record his second save.
“Baxendale gave them a quality start,” Tanner said. “He was able to make some pitches to keep us off the board.”
USC second baseman Scott Wingo agreed.
“He was just mixing his pitches real well. He did a good job,” Wingo said.
The Razorbacks also stole five bases to up their SEC-leading total to 100, with three of USC’s errors coming when catcher Brady Thomas threw wildly into center field trying to cut down runners.
“You look at his numbers and he has a pretty good (caught-stealing) percentage,” Tanner said. “It just wasn’t a good night for him back there.”
Arkansas knocked USC ace left-hander Michael Roth out of the game in the sixth inning when Matt Reynolds, who had three hits on the night, doubled and Jarrod McKinney, who also had three hits, singled him home to up the lead to 3-0. Roth (10-2) gave up three runs – two earned – on 10 hits, which tied a season-high, in his 5 1/3 innings, his shortest stint of the season.
“They did a good job swinging the bats,” Tanner said.
The Gamecocks are looking to snap their conference skid today, however.
“We’re going to bounce back. I can’t see why we won’t,” Wingo said. “We’re going to come to play.”
The Razorbacks used their running game to put together a two-run rally in the fourth inning off Roth to break a scoreless tie. Ficociello started the inning by lining a single up the middle before stealing second and advancing to third when Thomas threw the ball away.
After Reynolds drew a walk, he stole second and went to third on another errant throw by Thomas, which allowed Ficociello to score the first run. Reynolds then scored on McKinney’s infield hit to up the lead to 2-0.
South Carolina missed a good opportunity to score in the fifth when DeSean Anderson’s baserunning mistake proved costly. Anderson had doubled off Baxendale, but when he tried to move to third on Peter Mooney’s ground ball to shortstop, he was easily thrown out. Scott Wingo followed with a single to right would likely have scored Anderson. Christian Walker’s groundout ended the threat.
USC’s first run came in the seventh on a walk, a single by Robert Beary, and an RBI grounder by Anderson. The second came in the ninth when Anderson, who had singled, came around to score on a two-out throwing error.
The teams play the second game of the series today at 4:30 p.m. USC right-hander Forrest Koumas (5-0, 3.14 ERA) will face Arkansas left-hander Randall Fant (2-3, 3.09 ERA).
Ray Tanner postgame
Michael Roth, Brady Thomas, Scott Wingo postgame