South Carolina pitcher Braden Webb worked himself into trouble several times Saturday afternoon against Arkansas. On just about every occasion, he was able to get out of it without damage.
The freshman allowed two runs, only one earned, in 6 1/3 innings to lead the Gamecocks to a 6-2 series-clinching win over Arkansas at Founders Park.
South Carolina (19-2, 2-0) will go for the sweep of the Razorbacks (15-5, 0-2) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“It was a great game for us. My kids displayed some toughness and resiliency and some want to,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “It was a big SEC win for us. We’ll come back tomorrow and see if we can play our best game of the weekend.”
Webb allowed only three hits, but walked four and hit two batters. Arkansas stranded two runners in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
The only two runs the Razorbacks scored came when Michael Bernal singled to right in the second inning to score one, and a throwing error by Gene Cone on the play allowed another runner to cross the plate.
“We’re in the best baseball conference in the country. There are going to be guys that get on base and hit my ball around. My job is to continue to put the ball over the plate and trust my defense,” Webb said. “I’m still learning how to pitch at the college level, and I’m going to try to be a student of the game each time I go out there.”
For the second straight night, South Carolina took an early lead. In the first inning, Cone and Alex Destino singled and LT Tolbert walked to load the bases with one out. Dom Thompson-Williams then walked and Jonah Bride had an RBI groundout to give USC a 2-0 lead.
After Arkansas responded with two runs in the second, Carolina took the lead for good on a John Jones two-run home run to right field that landed on the street outside the ballpark.
Marcus Mooney added two insurance runs in the eighth inning, singling to center with two outs to push the lead to 6-2.
“When he senses a big opportunity, I like him in there,” Holbrook said of Mooney. “You never feel safe against Arkansas, but you feel a lot safer with a four-run lead than a two-run lead.”
USC reliever Tyler Johnson entered with a runner on first and one out in the seventh inning and got Jake Arledge to ground into a double play. Johnson worked a perfect eighth inning and allowed only a single in the ninth inning to earn the save.
Star of the game: Webb. The freshman limited Arkansas to three hits and one earned run in 6 1/3 innings, a day after the Razorbacks had 12 hits and scored six runs.
Play of the game: No. 9 hitter Mooney came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth with USC clinging to a 4-2 lead. He delivered two big insurance runs with a single up the middle to give Carolina a comfortable cushion.
Stat of the game: 21/12: A pair of Gamecocks have impressive streaks. Dom Thompson-Williams has reached base in all 21 games to start the season. He went 1-for-3 with a run, RBI and walk on Saturday. Alex Destino went 1-for-2 with a walk to push his hitting streak to 12 games.
Webb almost unhittable when he throws strikes: The freshman was dominant when he was putting the ball over the plate, but he has now walked 17 batters in five starts. If Webb can command all of his pitches, he will be tough to beat.
LT Tolbert is tough: He got hit in the head by a 90-plus mile per hour fastball in the fifth inning and was shaken up. Tolbert was bleeding and had to be helped to the locker room, but after a few minutes stayed in the game.
Holbrook settling on a lineup: For the first time all season, South Carolina had the same starting lineup in back-to-back games. Eight different players recorded hits for USC, including seven starters.
What: South Carolina vs. Arkansas, Game 3
When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Founders Park
Probable pitchers: USC – Adam Hill (Fr. RHP); Arkansas – Keaton McKinney (So. RHP)
Watch: SEC Network Plus (Digital)
Radio: 107.5 FM