LIVE UPDATES: Fear of Hagen Smith Continues in Arkansas vs South Carolina Opener

Hagen Smith, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs South Carolina
photo credit: South Carolina Athletics / Craven Whitlow

The Arkansas vs South Carolina series will mark the third time in six weeks that an SEC opponent has tweaked its starting rotation ahead of playing the Razorbacks.

Instead of going with ace right-hander Eli Jones in the opener, the No. 20 Gamecocks will instead start right-hander Roman Kimball, who hasn’t started a game in more than a month, when they host No. 2 Arkansas at 6 p.m. CT Friday inside Founders Park.

Sure, that could be a coincidence, but what’s probably happening is teams are essentially waving the white flag against Hagen Smith to start the weekend by moving their ace to the second day of the series – a move commonly known in college baseball as “pitching off.”

In theory, South Carolina is more likely to beat the Razorbacks with an excellent start from its ace if it is facing someone other than Smith. That would then give it a better chance to win the series in a Game 3 rubber match.

However, that’s not what the Gamecocks are doing, at least according to their coach. Mark Kingston, who is in his seventh season leading the South Carolina baseball program, claims the move is all about his team, not who it is going up against.

“We have a lot of respect for Hagen Smith,” Kingston said. “But that’s not why this decision was made. We made it because we think it’s the best use of our resources that hopefully will help us win the most amount of games.”

Jones is coming off a dominant start at Florida in which he allowed only one run in six innings, marking the fifth time in nine starts that he’s at least pitched through the sixth. He owns a 3.57 ERA with 38 strikeouts to only 12 walks in 45 1/3 innings this season.

Kimball is no slouch, holding opponents to a minuscule .169 batting average, but he has issued 22 walks in 21 innings, resulting in a 4.71 ERA. His lack of command led to him losing his spot in the rotation after the first two weeks of the season. The only game he’s started since then was against Ole Miss on March 17.

The “resources” Kingston referred to are apparently his bullpen arms and it’s something he and his staff have been talking about doing for “a few weeks.”

“Eli has been the pitcher that gives us the most length on the weekends of all the starters,” Kingston said. “Generally you would like to have that in the middle game so your bullpen can be really good on Friday, have a day off and go on Sunday.”

When LSU held ace Luke Holman for Game 2 of its series against Arkansas, head coach Jay Johnson was adamant it was because he threw 100-plus pitches the week before and needed his regular rest instead of moving him up from Friday to Thursday for the early start to the series.

Missouri didn’t pitch its ace, Carter Rustad, until the series finale against the Razorbacks. Head coach Kerrick Jackson never went public with his plan, but Rustad wasn’t announced as the Game 3 starter until after the second game. He likely could have pitched out of the bullpen if Missouri was in position to possibly win a game, but that never happened.

Neither move paid off. Arkansas scored five earned runs in five innings against Rustad en route to a 9-1 sweep-clinching victory and chased Holman in the fifth inning of a game it eventually won in extra innings to clinch the series. Their combined lines: 9.1 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 7 BB, 6 K.

The Razorbacks will try to replicate that against Jones this weekend, but first, they must take care of business with Hagen Smith on the mound in Game 1. Follow along below for updates from the Arkansas vs South Carolina opener…

(READ NEXT: Check out our in-depth recap of the Razorbacks’ win over Texas Tech on Wednesday)

LIVE UPDATES — Arkansas vs South Carolina (Game 1)

Pregame Tidbits

This will be a good challenge for Hagen Smith because the Gamecocks’ lineup features a dangerous trio of Ethan Petry, Kennedy Jones and Cole Messina. Those three guys have combined for 31 of South Carolina baseball’s 58 home runs this year and each of them have impressive stat lines heading into the weekend:

  • Petry: .323/.491/.708, 15 HR, 38 RBI, 35 BB/41 K
  • Jones: .303/.454/.550, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 28 BB/36 K
  • Messina: .291/.429/.604, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 27 BB/43 K

“Well, obviously those guys are veteran hitters and they all have power, too,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said Wednesday. “It’s not like they’re just hitting for an average or getting on base, slapping it all over the place. They’re hitting the ball over your head. They’re all dangerous. You can’t really look past one to get to the other.”

As for Arkansas’ lineup, Nolan Souza is starting at third base over Jared Sprague-Lott, Peyton Holt is in left field and Jack Wagner is at designated hitter. Also, as expected, Kendall Diggs is back in the lineup and playing right field after missing the two midweek games to nurse a shoulder injury.

B-1st: Arkansas 0, South Carolina 0

After failing to do anything with a one-out double by Wehiwa Aloy in the top of the inning, Arkansas got a scoreless inning from Hagen Smith in the home half. He worked around a leadoff single, bouncing back with a couple of strikeouts and a pop out in foul territory.

T-3rd: Arkansas 0, South Carolina 0

After a one-out walk of Ty Wilmsmeyer, the South Carolina pitching coach and trainer came out to check on starter Roman Kimball. They appeared to be checking on his thumb, but after a couple of warmup throws, he remained in the game. It was temporary, though, as he walked Peyton Stovall on four pitches and was removed. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings, but was good when he was on the mound, retiring seven of the first eight Hogs he faced. The new pitcher is right-hander Ty Good. He got out of the jam with back-to-back fly outs by Aloy and Ben McLaughlin, the latter of which came on a diving grab by right fielder Ethan Petry.

B-4th: Arkansas 0, South Carolina 0

Smith struck out Noland to start the inning, but then plunked Petry in a 2-2 count. Arkansas challenged, claiming he leaned into it, but the call stood. He then walked Reeves on four pitches, prompting a mound visit by pitching coach Matt Hobbs. Even though he fell behind 2-0 against the next two batters, Smith retired them both to get out of the jam. He’s thrown 60 pitches through four innings.

B-5th: South Carolina 1, Arkansas 0

LeCroy worked the count full before drawing a leadoff walk and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brinling. In another full count, Tippett also walked. Messina followed with a grounder to the left side and Souza made a diving stop, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, so it was an infield single to load the bases.

Noland hit a slow roller to the left side and Aloy managed to get to it and get the out at first, but a run scored on the play. It’s an RBI ground out to give South Carolina the lead. Arkansas then opted to intentionally walk the dangerous Petry, loading the bases again. Smith got out of the jam without further damage by striking out Reeves, who looked at strike three.

T-6th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1

For the third time tonight, Arkansas got a man in scoring position – and this time it was with no outs, as McLaughlin drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Souza eventually walked, as well. Holt squared to bunt and laid down a perfect out to third. It was a tough play and the third baseman’s throw took the first baseman off the bag, giving him a bunt single to load the bases with no outs.

Good fell behind 2-0 against Diggs, prompting South Carolina to make a pitching change. Right-hander Chris Veach came in and struck out Diggs in a full count for the first out of the inning. The Razorbacks tied it up with a ball bounced away from the catcher for a wild pitch. Wagner followed with a fly out to center, which allowed Souza to score on a sacrifice fly.

A walk by White put runners on second and third, but that’s where they were stranded because Jayson Jones – who pinch hit for Wilmsmeyer – flied out down the right field line on the first pitch he saw.

B-7th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1

Hagen Smith’s day is done after six innings and Arkansas immediately got into trouble after going to the bullpen. Right-hander Christian Foutch was first out and gave up a single in a 1-2 count to Brinling before hitting Tippett – who was trying to bunt him over – with a pitch in the head. That prompted another change, with right-hander Gabe Gaeckle entering.

Gaeckle got the job done. Messina flied out to right, Noland lined out to center and Petry went down swinging. That preserves the 2-1 lead for Arkansas.

T-8th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1

Arkansas got a leadoff walk from Holt and then Diggs was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second and prompting a pitching change. Right-hander Parker Marlatt entered and Ross Lovich pinch hit for Wagner, but popped up his sacrifice bunt attempt for the first out. White then flied out to center before Jones drew a full-count walk to load the bases.

Left-hander Jake McCoy came in and got Stovall to fly out near the right field line to leave the bases loaded.

T-9th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1

South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston was ejected in the top of the ninth, arguing a hit by pitch on Holt. He also got upset about a late timeout called by White the previous half inning. Arkansas ended up loading the bases when Diggs drew a walk in a full count.

Ryder Helfrick pinch hit for the designated hitter (who Lovich pinch hit for earlier) and grounded out to third to leave them loaded.

B-9th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1

LeCroy went down swinging to start the inning. He also had some words for the umpire as he walked back to the dugout, seemingly upset about one of the strikes called earlier in the at bat. Brinling also went down swinging for the second out. Blake Jackson pinch hit for Tippett and, in a full count, delivered a double to put the tying run in scoring position. It also turns the lineup over.

Arkansas opted to intentionally walk Messina and that’s it for Gaeckle. The Hogs turned to left-hander Stone Hewlett, who got Noland to ground out and end the game.

FINAL – Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1

Starting Lineups

South Carolina BaseballArkansas Baseball
1. Cole Messina – C1. Peyton Stovall – 2B
2. Parker Noland – 2B2. Wehiwa Aloy – SS
3. Ethan Petry – RF3. Ben McLaughlin – 1B
4. Dalton Reeves – DH4. Nolan Souza – 3B
5. Kennedy Jones – LF5. Peyton Holt – LF
6. Gavin Casas – 1B6. Kendall Diggs – RF
7. Talmadge LeCroy – 3B7. Jack Wagner – DH
8. Austin Brinling – CF8. Hudson White – C
9. Will Tippett – SS9. Ty Wilmsmeyer – CF
Pitching: RHP Roman KimballPitching: LHP Hagen Smith

How to Watch Arkansas vs South Carolina (Game 1)

Date: Friday, April 19

Location: Founders Park (Columbia, S.C.)

First Pitch: 6 p.m. CT

TV/Stream: SEC Network-Plus


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