After a midweek win over The Citadel, South Carolina ran into a major roadblock on the week against a talented Arkansas team.
After getting swept by the Razorbacks while being outscored 24-8, the Gamecocks fell from No. 5 to No. 17 in the Baseball America Top 25. They ran into a buzz saw in the Arkansas pitching staff, which limited them to 15 hits in 97 at-bats.
After defeating The Citadel 9-5 last week with 5 1/3 solid innings, the freshman left-hander came back on four days rest to pitch against the Razorbacks. Although he wasn’t quite as effective, he kept USC in the Sunday game on sheer guts. He threw a total of 174 pitches on the week – 74 against The Citadel and 100 more against Arkansas – and combined for 10 innings while allowing 12 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts. He got a no-decision Sunday, which kept his record at 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
The freshman second baseman missed Friday’s game because he was very sick with a bug. Despite not being able to eat much and losing 10 pounds, he sucked it up and took the field Saturday and Sunday. Although he went 0-for-9 in a weakened state, he played his usual steady defense.
Playing two sports
It’s hard enough to play baseball in a league as good as the SEC being a year-round participant. For Shon Carson, the football running back-turned-outfielder, the transition has been daunting after not playing in the summer or fall for several years. He made the 35-man roster this spring and moved into the lineup for nine starts recently, but he has struggled to adjust to the high level of play. Batting just .194 with six hits, four of them infield or bunt hits, he has walked once while striking out 11 times in 31 at-bats. Even with his speed, he has been caught stealing three-of-five times. He also has looked shaky in the outfield while tracking fly balls. He misread a pair of them Sunday, and he also struck out twice on a total of six pitches. That got him pulled mid-game.
Senior left-hander Nolan Belcher keeps rolling along. He stood toe-to-toe with Arkansas hard-throwing right-hander Ryne Stanek while taking Saturday’s loss. Still, he has a 1.45 ERA in six starts with 43 1/3 innings pitched this season, leading the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio with 42 strikeouts and one walk. Belcher has gone a span of 38 2/3 innings without allowing a walk.
Another fifth-year senior who went through arm surgery in his career is also pitching very well. Left-hander Adam Westmoreland worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts in the Saturday loss to Arkansas. He is 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA in seven relief appearances with a save and 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. Opposing teams are batting .197 against him.
Over the three seasons when USC reached the CWS finals – 2010 to 2012 – the Gamecocks were swept only once in a series, and that came on the road last season against Kentucky. But they had not been swept at home in a weekend series since the 1999 season. That also came against Kentucky in a three-game set at Sarge Frye Field. It was Ray Tanner’s third season, and the Gamecocks didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament, that last time that occurred.
JUST THE FACTS
... South Carolina is 17-0 this season when leading after six innings and 13-0 on the year when out-hitting its opponent. USC has allowed five runs or less in 21 of 24 games played this season.
... The Gamecocks lead the SEC with 11 saves, eight by senior left-hander Tyler Webb.
... Senior first baseman LB Dantzler still leads the Gamecocks in the Triple Crown categories with a .337 average, seven homers and 26 RBI.
... Tuesday: at College of Charleston, Patriots Point, 6 p.m.
... Thursday: Texas A&M, Carolina Stadium, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
... Friday: Texas A&M, Carolina Stadium, 7 p.m.
... Saturday: Texas A&M, Carolina Stadium, 1:30 p.m.