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No. 1 South Carolina Takes Opener at Arkansas,

BY ANDRES FOCIL
No. 1 South Carolina Takes Opener at Arkansas,
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – No. 1 South Carolina moved to within one win of its first Southeastern Conference baseball championship Friday with an 8-2 victory over Arkansas in the opener of a three-game SEC series at Baum Stadium.

The win was the 21st in a row for the Gamecocks (46-4, 22-3 SEC) and 17th-straight conference victory. The 17-consecutive league wins tie an SEC single-season record while a USC win on Saturday would tie the SEC record of 22-straight wins it set to start this season.

Arkansas (20-29, 4-19 SEC) saw its three-game winning streak snapped and saw its school record loss total climb to 29.

USC starter Kip Bouknight (14-0), who leads the nation in pitching victories, notched another with his fourth complete game of the season. Bouknight allowed two runs (earned) on eight hits, walked three and struck out five.

Razorback starter Wes McCrotty (0-6) took the loss despite season highs in strikeouts (five) and innings pitched 6 2/3. McCrotty yielded six runs (three earned) on eight hits and walked two.

Byron Jeffcoat’s three hits led the Gamecocks, who never trailed after Tripp Kelly’s two-out single in the first inning gave USC a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the second, a muffed throw by UA first baseman Nick Pitts allowed Chris Plummer to score an unearned run for a 3-0 South Carolina lead. UA got on the board in the bottom of the inning when Brian Kirby doubled and scored on Kyle Washburn’s double. Washburn led the Hogs with three hits while UA’s Scott Crossett stretched his hitting streak to seven games with two hits.

USC pulled away with a three-run sixth inning keyed by Brennan Dees’ leadoff home run, his eighth of the season. Another UA fielding error led to two unearned runs and a 6-2 Gamecocks lead. Nate Janowicz’ RBI double scored the first of two South Carolina runs in the eighth for the final margin.

Having already secured its second-consecutive SEC Eastern Division title, South Carolina can clinch its first SEC overall title and the No. 1 seed at the SEC Tournament with another win over Arkansas on Sunday or a Florida win at Mississippi State. Arkansas won last year’s SEC championship with a 13-5 win at South Carolina on the final day of the regular season.

The series continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT and concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.



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