FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas fought off a ninth-inning rally by No. 1 South Carolina to earn an 11-10 win over the Gamecocks on Saturday in the second game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Baum Stadium.
Despite the loss, South Carolina clinched its first SEC baseball championship and the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament when Florida completed a 9-6, 11-inning win at Mississippi State 35 minutes after the Gamecocks’ loss to Arkansas.
With the win, the Razorbacks (21-29, 5-19 SEC) became just the fourth team to defeat USC (46-5, 22-4 SEC) this season, joining LSU, Florida and Elon. The loss snapped the Gamecocks’ overall winning streak at 21 and ended their streak of consecutive wins in SEC play at 17, tying an SEC single-season record.
Gary Hogan Jr. (4-4) earned the win with 5 1/3 innings in relief of UA starter Jared Manatt. Hogan allowed six runs (earned) on five hits, walked three and struck out five. Cliff Lee recorded the final out of the ninth, striking out Nate Janowicz to record his second save of the season.
USC starter Peter Bauer (9-1) suffered his first loss of the season after giving up eight runs (two earned) on seven hits in six innings.
With UA trailing 7-6, Jack Welsh led off the bottom of the seventh with a double that dropped in the midst of three Gamecocks in left-center field. Jeff Hoefler followed with a two-strike single up the middle, scoring Welsh for a 7-7 tie and bringing SEC earned-run average leader Scott Barber out of the USC bullpen. Two batters later, Greg Blum hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall to give the Hogs a 9-7 lead. Blum’s homer was his sixth of the season.
After Hogan retired the Gamecocks on five pitches in the top of the eighth, Welsh led off the bottom of inning with a double. Hoefler followed with an RBI triple and scored on Scott Crossett’s sacrifice fly, giving the Hogs an 11-7 lead going into the ninth inning. Crossett went 1-for-3 to stretch his hitting streak to eight games, matching the longest hitting streak of his career.
A leadoff walk and a pair of RBI singles by Brandon Pack and Chris Plummer cut the UA lead to 11-9 and bring Mike Moriarity out of the bullpen. After a Trey Dyson single up the middle, Marcus McBeth hit a potential double-play ball to shortstop. But UA second baseman Bryan King threw wide of first base on the relay, allowing Plummer to score from third and moving McBeth to second base with the tying run.
Lee came on to face Marcus Mobley and walked him on four pitches before striking out Janowicz to end the game.
South Carolina had to battle back from a five-run deficit after two innings thanks to three errors that led to six unearned Razorback runs in the bottom of the second. UA sent 10 batters to the plate for three hits in the inning, including a two-run triple by Welsh.
The Gamecocks clawed their way back with a two-run single by Tripp Kelly in the third and an RBI single by McBeth in the fourth, trimming the lead to 6-4. Welsh helped preserve the two-run UA lead in the top of the fifth when he reached over the center-field wall to rob Brandon Pack of his 16th home run of the season.
South Carolina took a 7-6 lead with three runs in the top of the seventh, including a two-run single by Dyson.
The win was the second for Arkansas in its last three games against top-ranked opponents. In 1997, UA avoided a three-game sweep by No. 1 LSU with a 16-1 victory over the Tigers in the series finale. South Carolina won Friday’s series opener 8-2.
Arkansas will try to complete its fifth-consecutive series win over the South Carolina when the series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.