The weekend line score says it all.
South Carolina scored eight runs on 15 hits in three games against Arkansas. The Razorbacks tallied 24 runs on 35 hits.
That adds up to a sweep for the No. 21 Razorbacks, who capped it with Sunday’s 5-3 win in 11 innings against the fifth-ranked Gamecocks. It is the first time USC has been swept in a three-game weekend series on its home field since 1999.
Matt Vinson’s two-run single in the 11th came off USC closer Tyler Webb, who went 4 2/3 innings, his longest stint of the season. Webb (0-1) had nearly worked out of the jam after a squeeze play that was foiled, but Vinson delivered with a single over the glove of a leaping Joey Pankake at shortstop to score the go-ahead runs, the first scored off Webb in 18 innings this season.
Webb, who threw 83 pitches, refused to blame the rally on running out of gas.
“They strung a couple of hits together, and maybe I wasn’t getting ahead as well as I was in the earlier innings. That wasn’t a fatigue factor. That was an execution factor,” he said.
The Gamecocks (18-6, 2-4 SEC) couldn’t deliver a big hit of their own. They stranded 10 runners over the final five innings, including six left in scoring position.
“We had runners in scoring position I don’t know how many innings, and we’re one big hit from winning and walking out of here feeling a lot better than this,” said USC first baseman LB Dantzler, who had a first-inning RBI single.
The lack of production left USC’s hitters with a .155 average (15-for-97) in the series and dropped their average to .172 over the first six games of SEC play.
“We’ve got some good hitters, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the stats in SEC play, that’s for sure,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “We’ve got to make a few changes and adjustments and change our mindset and mentality a little bit and see if we can get some positive momentum going. There are a lot of good pitchers and good teams in front of us on the schedule.”
The Gamecocks found some life in a two-run seventh inning thanks to an error by Arkansas shortstop Brian Anderson. It kept a rally alive that resulted in Erik Payne’s RBI single, which knocked Arkansas starter Randall Fant from the game, and Tanner English’s bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 3.
But the Arkansas bullpen wouldn’t allow another run as Jalen Beeks tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Trey Killian (3-2) picked up the win, and hard-throwing Colby Suggs closed things out with his first save in a scoreless final inning.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn liked how his team (17-7, 4-2 SEC) played after losing its opening conference series to Ole Miss.
“We came down here just wanting to get better,” Van Horn said. “When we won the first game, we thought, ‘Hey, let’s try to win this series.’ When we won (the second game) after that, it was, like, ‘Play loose and play hard and maybe some good things will happen.’”
Arkansas jumped out to a 3-1 lead off USC starter Jack Wynkoop in the fourth inning with four hits, including RBI singles by Willie Schwanke and Jacob Morris. Even after USC tied the game, the Razorbacks kept battling.
“We’re just trying to win games. When we got to Sunday and we’re up two, we really felt like we needed to sweep,” Vinson said. “We’re very resilient. We’ve got a lot of older guys on our team, and we feel like we’re never out of a game.”
The Gamecocks, who struck out 27 times in the three games, never got on track against an Arkansas pitching staff with an SEC-best 1.74 ERA.
“There’s no weak link in there. They’re as advertised, no doubt about it, as good and deep as any pitching staff in the country,” Holbrook said. “And they can do it a number of ways. They can finesse you, like Fant did today, and they can throw power arms at you. It’s a tall order facing those guys.”
The Gamecocks next play College of Charleston on the road Tuesday before returning home for a three-game set against Texas A&M that starts Thursday.
“We had a chance to win today, and we couldn’t get it done,” Holbrook said. “We’ve got to regroup and bounce back.”