After watching a four-run lead dissipate in three innings, Scott Wingo hit a walk-off home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning to give No. 4 South Carolina a dramatic 6-5 victory against Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
Wingo drilled the third pitch of the at-bat into the Gamecocks bullpen for his third walk-off hit this season.
"I was trying to get on base but I was trying to see the ball and elevate it a little bit and take a good hack at it," Wingo said. "He put it in there and I put a good swing on it."
The victory allows South Carolina (40-11, 19-7) to keep pace with Vanderbilt and Florida. Those teams split a double-header on Saturday after being rained out on Friday. The Commodores are 20-6 in the SEC East and lead the Gamecocks and Gators by a game. This is the 12th consecutive season South Carolina has reached 40 wins under Ray Tanner.
The Gamecocks led 5-1 after five innings but watched the Razorbacks score two in the sixth and two in the eighth off closer Matt Price to tie it.
Bo Bingham and Collin Kuhn greeted USC reliever John Taylor with consecutive RBI hits in the sixth inning. Taylor struck out Tim Carver but allowed a RBI single to Bingham and RBI double to Kuhn to make it 5-3 in the sixth.
Arkansas tied it in the eight when Dominic Ficociello had a two-run single to right on a slider that was up in the zone.
"He hit a slider that was up that was supposed to be down," Price said.
But Wingo, who finished with three hits and two RBIs, made up for the collapse when he drilled a 1-1 fastball into the bullpen for his fourth home run of the season.
"It was great to see Wingo do the home run thing," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "I was hoping he would get on base to give Brady (Thomas) or (Christian) Walker a chance to drive him."
The Gamecocks struck early after playing past midnight on Friday in a 6-2 loss. Peter Mooney walked to open the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Walker, who stranded six runners on Friday night, delivered an RBI single up the middle.
Brady Thomas, who was 3-for-4, followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Jake Williams scored Walker with a grounder to third that Arkansas third baseman Matt Reynolds made a diving stop on but threw wildly to first to put runners at second and third.
Razorbacks pitcher Randall Fant got out of the jam without allowing any more damage, but the early lead was a big boost to USC.
"We know we needed a win (Saturday)," Wingo said. "We looked resilient out there and fought hard."
South Carolina starter Forrest Koumas struggled but found ways to get out of trouble with limited damage. Arkansas (33-16, 13-13) left the bases loaded in the first and third innings and finished with 12 men left on base.
"We needed to score one, probably two, in that first inning," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I didn't know if that was going to come back and haunt us, but it did. We had a chance to advance runners, drive runners in and a lot of those guys are left out there because we didn't put the ball in play."
The Razorbacks (33-16, 13-13) got on the board with a RBI single from Sam Bates in the third before Koumas struck out Tim Carver with the bases loaded.
"He got in a pickle there early, but he got out of it," Tanner said. "His poise and composure (Saturday) was the best that I've see it."
Steven Neff extended the lead to 5-1 with a two-run home run, his first, in the fourth. With starting outfielders Jackie Bradley and Adam Matthews out with injuries, Neff has switched from pitcher to outfield and become a valuable option for Tanner.
The junior left-hander was 3-for-4 and has eight hits on the season - six for extra bases.
"Neff did have some quality at-bats," Tanner said. "He hit a ball to left-center, he got a single to left field and he hits one out to right against a lefty. That's impressive, I don't care how many at bats he's had."
The teams play the rubber game at 1:30 Sunday with Senior Day activities that were planned for Saturday taking place at 1:10 p.m. Neither team has announced a starting pitcher.
Ray Tanner postgame
Scott Wingo postgame
Steven Neff, Matt Price postgame