FAYETTEVILLE – Brett Eibner and Collin Kuhn each hit home runs for the Hogs but South Carolina completed its sweep of the No. 10 University of Arkansas baseball team, 5-3, Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium. The Razorbacks led entering the eighth, but the visiting Gamecocks rallied for three runs over the final two innings to clinch the win. The series finale of the weekend matchup featured 12 pitchers-six for each club.
"(South Carolina) did a great job," head coach Dave Van Horn. "They mixed and matched with us when we got somebody on. Every time they went to the pen and we had anything going, they got us out. We didn’t move anyone around and we didn’t drive anyone in."
South Carolina (41-11, 20-7 SEC) went out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Whit Merrifield led off the game with a base hit to center field and he moved to second on a groundout by Jackie Bradley, Jr. Christian Walker drove in the run with an RBI double to center. Making his first start for the Hogs since March 2, TJ Forrest recorded the next two outs without allowing another run.
Eibner launched his 18th home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the bottom of the first to push the Razorbacks ahead. With two outs, Zack Cox lined up a shot up the middle that deflected off the pitcher’s glove for an infield single. Eibner, the Razorbacks’ next hitter, got hold of a 2-1 pitch from South Carolina starter Tyler Webb and deposited the ball onto the berm in left center. The home run for Eibner was his 11th during conference play, and the 38th of his Razorback career.
The single by Cox was his 90th hit of the season, the first Razorback hitter to eclipse that mark since the 1997 season. He finished 2-for-3 at the plate Sunday and now stands in a tie for seventh on the program’s single-season list with 91 hits. Matt Erickson holds the school record for hits in a season with 97 in 1996.
The teams traded solo home runs in the third inning and Arkansas (38-14, 16-11 SEC) led, 3-2, after three innings. Merrifield temporarily tied the score with a home run down the line in left field that knocked off the foul pole. In the home half of the frame, though, Kuhn put the Hogs back on top with his 11th home run of the season. It was his first home run since April 25.
DJ Baxendale and Geoffrey Davenport combined to keep the Gamecocks off the scoreboard for the next four innings. Baxendale entered the ballgame to start the fourth. He struck out one and allowed just one hit in 2.1 innings of work. Geoffrey Davenport logged 1.2 relief innings against South Carolina and struck out four of the five hitters he faced.
South Carolina broke through against the Razorback bullpen with three runs against Jordan Pratt. In the eighth, Scott Wingo led things off with a walk and Merrifield followed with his second home run of the day, a two-run dinger to left field. The Gamecocks tacked on their final run of the ballgame with a solo shot by Adrian Morales in the ninth. The Hogs turned to Jeremy Heatley and Jason Fuqua to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, South Carolina reliever Matt Price retired the Hogs in order to earn his seventh save of the season. John Taylor, the Gamecocks’ fourth pitcher of the day, collected the win with a pair of scoreless relief innings.
"It’s a disappointing loss," Van Horn said. "I thought we played pretty hard and we gave ourselves the chance to win. We just haven’t been able to drive in that big run lately and been leaving way too many people on base."
Prior to Sunday’s contests, the Razorbacks honored six players during the annual Senior Day pregame ceremonies. Forrest, Heatley, Mike Bolsinger, Tom Hauskey, Christian Kowalchuck and Scott Limbocker were joined on the field by their families as they were recognized for their career achievements.
With their regular-season home schedule completed, the Razorbacks will play out 2010 with four road games, beginning with Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma. First pitch of the midweek matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Mitchell Park in Norman, Okla. Arkansas will then travel to Vanderbilt for a three-game series in Nashville to close out the regular season.