In the biggest home series of the year, the third-ranked Razorbacks (36-12, 17-7) will host the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks (36-12, 14-9). The two teams essentially switched places in the latest rankings as the Hogs were the only ranked SEC team to win their series.
Good starts have been key to the South Carolina baseball season so far. They started the season 20-1 and began conference 9-1 before the competition stiffened up on them. The Gamecocks have made hay by beating up on their non-conference teams, though, going 22-3.
They also got an easy start to SEC play getting to play Georgia, Missouri and Mississippi State in their first three SEC weekends, before going through a murderers’ row of No. 1 LSU, No. 4 Vanderbilt and No. 3 Florida.
They held their own, going 5-3 with one game against LSU getting canceled and sweeping Florida. However, that stretch may have taken a toll on them as they have one win in the last two weekends and will enter Baum-Walker stadium on a 4-game losing streak. Their offense has slowed down as of late, scoring only 4.7 runs per game over the last two weekend series.
South Carolina has amassed a 6-6 record in other SEC ballparks this year while Arkansas is 11-1 in their own house with sweeps over Auburn, Tennessee and Texas A&M. The Hogs have won six straight conference games and hold a half-game lead on LSU in the west division. South Carolina sits in 3rd out east, half a game under Florida and half a game above Kentucky.
As always, Best of Arkansas Sports will be at Baum-Walker Stadium and providing live, inning-by-inning updates from Game 1 of the Arkansas vs South Carolina series below…
LIVE UPDATES — Arkansas vs South Carolina
South Carolina ace Will Sanders, who has struggled at times this year but is considered a top MLB Draft prospect, did not make the trip. Instead, the Gamecocks with start right-hander Eli Jones. It will be his 18th appearance of the season, but just his fourth start. The sophomore has a 3.38 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings this year.
T-1st: South Carolina 0, Arkansas 0
Smith’s first six pitches missed the strike zone, resulting in a four-pitch walk of Braswell and a 2-0 count against Casas, but he eventually settled in. He got Casas to ground into a 4-3 double play and then Petry looked at strike three. Smith threw just 12 pitches.
B-1st: South Carolina 0, Arkansas 0
In his first at bat back, Josenberger struck out on three pitches. He took two strikes and then swung and missed. Diggs made Jones work, fouling off some pitches and working it full, but the result was the same – a strikeout swinging. Jones thought he had Bohrofen looking, but instead, it was called a ball. In a full count, Bohrofen flied out to shallow left. It was a 17-pitch inning.
T-2nd: South Carolina 0, Arkansas 0
Messina made good contact, but his line drive was easily caught by Diggs in right. Wimmer followed with a three-pitch strikeout in which he took strike three at his knees. He had a chance to finish off a perfect inning, but walked LeCroy in a full count. He also walked Brewer, prompting a mound visit from Matt Hobbs. The visit worked because Stone struck out on three pitches, taking strike three right down the middle. Smith is up to 35 total pitches, only 19 of which have been strikes.
B-2nd: South Carolina 0, Arkansas 0
McLaughlin struck out to start the inning and nearly had a chance to reach when the third strike got away from the catcher, but he is a slow runner and was thrown out. Cali struck out on three pitches, but didn’t like the third strike call. Slavens followed with a fly out to shallow right. Jones has thrown 28 pitches through two innings.
T-3rd: South Carolina 0, Arkansas 0
Tippett popped out in foul territory, caught by Slavens, to start the inning. Braswell struck out swinging and then Casas flied out to right-center, caught by Josenberger. That ended a nine-pitch inning for Smith, who has now thrown 44 total pitches.
B-3rd: Arkansas 1, South Carolina 0
The first hit by either team and first base runner for the Razorbacks comes via a double by Holt, who poked it the other way and it stayed just fair down the right field line. Rowland worked the count full, but went down swinging for the first out. Bolton also worked the count full and fouled off a pitch, but also struck out. In yet another full count, Josenberger drew a walk. With runners on first and second, Diggs ripped a line drive that the first baseman wasn’t quite able to catch. It’s an RBI single that gets Arkansas on the board. With runners on the corners, Bohrofen grounded out to second to end the inning. Jones threw 29 pitches that inning, more than doubling his pitch count, which is now at 57.
T-4th: Arkansas 1, South Carolina 0
Petry opened the fourth with a single into left, but Smith bounced back by striking out Messina and Wimmer – both looking. LeCroy then popped out to short to end the inning. It was a 22-pitch inning that brings his total to 66.
B-4th: Arkansas 1, South Carolina 0
McLaughlin came up swinging and made solid contact, but the center fielder was able to rather easily track it down in left-center. In a full count, Cali took strike three for the second time today. Slavens then ripped a line drive over the first baseman’s head and into the right field corner for a two-out double. He was stranded there when Holt grounded out to second. Jones’ pitch count is at 68 through four innings.
T-5th: Arkansas 1, South Carolina 0
Holt made a nice play to get Brewer on a ground out. Smith then plunked Stone, but Tippett – after failing on back-to-back pitches to get a bunt down – grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. It was a nine-pitch inning for Smith, who is sitting at 75 through five innings.
B-5th: Arkansas 1, South Carolina 0
Jones struck out Rowland and Bolton to start the inning, but Josenberger scorched a single that deflected off the second baseman’s glove and into right for a single. He was stranded when Diggs struck out three pitches. It’s the 10th strikeout of the game for Jones, who is up to 87 pitches.
T-6th: Arkansas 1, South Carolina 1
Smith thought he had another strikeout, but the umpire didn’t give it to him and it instead resulted in a leadoff single by Braswell, who hit a flair into left that fell in front of Bohrofen. He bounced back to strike out Casas and then got Petry to fly out to shallow center. With two outs, Messina singled to center. Much like Braswell’s hit, it fell because Arkansas’ outfield is playing very deep.
Again with two outs, Wimmer tied it up with a single up the middle. It also put runners on the corners. That was it for Smith. Freshman right-hander Gage Wood came in and got LeCroy to ground out to third to end the inning and keep it tied.
B-6th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1
Jones walked Bohrofen on four pitches and that’s it for him. The new pitcher for South Carolina is right-hander Cade Austin. He promptly got behind 3-0 to McLaughlin, but managed to battle back to a full count before giving up a single to right. The Hogs had the hit-and-run on, so Bohrofen ended up on third easily.
Cali put the ball in play, but it resulted in a 6-4-3 double play. He doesn’t get an RBI, but a run scored on the play, putting Arkansas back on top. Slavens struck out to end the inning.
T-7th: Arkansas 2, South Carolina 1
Brewer lined out to center to start the inning. In a full count, Stone was hit by a pitch for the second time. He was nearly picked off by Wood and then Rowland, but then did get caught stealing. South Carolina challenged the call, but Bolton made a tremendous tag, getting him on the leg for the out – which was confirmed after review. Tippett, who once again failed to get a bunt down before Stone was caught stealing, grounded out to second to end the inning. Wood has thrown 21 pitches to get four outs.
B-7th: Arkansas 4, South Carolina 1
Holt managed to check his swing on ball four to draw a leadoff walk. Rowland followed with a shot to right-center that the right fielder caught while colliding with the center fielder. Bolton followed with a chopper that got through the left side for a single. Josenberger then walked to load the bases.
Diggs delivered a single into right that scored two and put runners on the corners. Bohrofen then popped out in foul territory, with the catcher making the play. McLaughlin thought he had a walk, but the 3-2 pitch was called a strike to end the inning.
T-8th: Arkansas 4, South Carolina 1
Braswell hit a fly ball toward the right field corner and Diggs managed to track it down. Casas followed with a single into right. Wood then blew a fastball by Petry for a strikeout. He then struck out Messina to end the inning. He’s at 41 pitches through 2 1/3 innings.
B-8th: Arkansas 4, South Carolina 1
The new pitcher or South Carolina is right-hander Austin Williamson. He promptly got two outs on two pitches. Cali crushed the ball on his, but it was to the deepest part of the park and easily caught. Slavens’ wasn’t hit nearly as well. Holt then drew a two-out walk. Arkansas dialed up a hit-and-run and Rowland’s blooper fell just fair down the left field line for a single. Holt easily made it to third on the play, but briefly ran through a stop sign. Luckily he was able to dive back into third before getting tagged. With runners on the corners, Bolton worked the count full and hit a line drive – but the second baseman made a leaping grab to rob him of an RBI.
T-9th: Arkansas 4, South Carolina 1
Wimmer went down swinging for the first out. LeCroy followed with a bloop single to left. Brewer flied out to left. Wood then struck out a pinch hitter to end the game.
FINAL: Arkansas 4, South Carolina 1
BOX SCORE – Arkansas vs South Carolina
Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs South Carolina
|South Carolina Baseball||Arkansas Baseball|
|1. Michael Braswell – SS||1. Tavian Josenberger – CF|
|2. Gavin Casas – 1B||2. Kendall Diggs – RF|
|3. Ethan Petry – RF||3. Jace Bohrofen – LF|
|4. Cole Messina – C||4. Ben McLaughlin – DH|
|5. Braylen Wimmer – DH||5. Caleb Cali – 3B|
|6. Talmadge LeCroy – 3B||6. Brady Slavens – 1B|
|7. Dylan Brewer – LF||7. Peyton Holt – 2B|
|8. Evan Stone – CF||8. Parker Rowland – C|
|9. Will Tippett – 2B||9. John Bolton – SS|
|Pitching: So. RHP Eli Jones||Pitching: So. LHP Hagen Smith|
Arkansas Baseball Recent Trends
One of the biggest storylines around the Razorbacks are the injuries they’re dealing with. With pitchers Jaxon Wiggins, Koty Frank and Dylan Carter lost for the year, a trio of injured position players are expected to return this year.
Junior center fielder Tavian Josenberger, who has been nursing a grade 1 strained hamstring, was at about 80% healthy during the Mississippi State series according to Dave Van Horn and was on the travel roster. “Josenberger’s looking good,” Van Horn said on Thursday. “He worked out with us yesterday. He’ll be out there again today. So he’ll be on the roster again.”
Senior left fielder Jared Wegner is recovering from a fractured thumb but Van Horn said he’s not yet swinging the bat in practice so it’s “probably highly unlikely” he will play this weekend: “Wegner got his pins out on Monday. He’s still pretty sore. He’ll be on the roster. Still not sure about playing [him] yet”
Sophomore second baseman Peyton Stovall is in the same boat with a strained shoulder, and Van Horn said he hasn’t recovered enough so far to warrant a return this weekend.
The three that have been carrying the load as of late are junior outfielder Jace Bohrofen, senior first baseman Brady Slavens and junior third baseman Caleb Cali.
Bohrofen has been the undisputed team-MVP this season, hitting 13 home runs and 44 RBIs while slashing .373/.493/.702 in 47 games. He is also a very good fielder, starting in right but also filling in at left and center field while his outfield counterparts fell to injury.
Slavens had a monster weekend in Starkville and will look to keep the momentum going at home. He homered in each game and drove in five runs during the series sweep. That brings his season totals up to 8 home runs and 38 RBIs to go with a .277/.352/.522 slash line.
Cali started the season off pretty slow, similar to Braydon Webb last year, but has been one of the more productive bats since. He started the year 1-14, but homered in his first at-bat in the Wright State series and is hitting .336 since the slow start.
South Carolina Baseball Storylines
The top headline around South Carolina this season has been the long ball. The Gamecocks were swatting home runs at an alarming rate to start the season. They have four players in double-digit home runs, including freshman phenom Ethan Petry with 21 round-trippers to go with 68 RBIs and a .395/.479/.802 slash. He has cooled off lately, but has still posted a solid .257 average with 2 home runs and nine RBIs over his last 10 games.
The South Carolina lineup is deadly all the way through. They get it done with a high batting average as well as the power stroke. Sophomore third baseman Cole Messina is another dangerous bat to watch out for. He is hitting .315/.434/.658 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.
Also, junior first baseman Gavin Casas is another long ball threat, mashing 19 home runs and 48 RBIs for the Gamecocks. He has recently broken out of a cold stretch by going 7-17 with three home runs and five RBIs in the past four games. Before that, he was 3-39 in his previous 12 games.
There are a couple of hitting streaks going on in the top of the South Carolina lineup. Sophomore shortstop Michael Braswell is hitting .324 over his 8-game hit streak. Senior center fielder Dylan Brewer is on his own 6-game streak, hitting .333 during that time. Brewer has a formidable bat as well, hitting .277 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs.
The Gamecocks are the current home of former Razorback Caleb Denny. He was on the 2019 Razorback roster but did not appear in a game before transferring to Oral Roberts. Denny is struggling, going 0-12 over the previous four games.
Another Gamecock with Arkansas ties is junior pitcher James Hicks from Conway, Arkansas. He has a 6-1 record with a 3.88 ERA over 46.1 innings.
How to Watch Arkansas vs South Carolina
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 12
Where to Watch: SEC Network+
Arkansas:LHP Hagen Smith (7-1, 2.56 ERA)
South Carolina: RHP Will Sanders (4-3, 5.75 ERA)
Hagen Smith has been filling in a long-relief role since Brady Tygart got injured. Now that Tygart is back and possibly getting close to full capabilities, Smith could become the Friday starter once again.
His last start in Baum-Walker was against Louisiana Tech on March 10, allowing two runs over five innings, striking out seven. After a rough patch, Smith has allowed just three runs in 17 innings over his last four outings, good for a 1.59 ERA.
Sanders has had a rough year for South Carolina. After back-to-back years of posting an ERA around 3.50, he has struggled to stop runs from scoring. After holding LSU scoreless for three innings, he has allowed 18 runs in 22 innings over his last four outings, giving him a 7.36 ERA in that stretch.
When: 6:00 p.m. Saturday, May 13
Where to Watch: SEC Network+
Arkansas: RHP Brady Tygart (2-0, 3.86 ERA)/
RHP Will McEntire (6-2, 5.64 ERA)
South Carolina: RHP Jack Mahoney (4-2, 4.42 ERA)
Over the past two series, Tygart has started the second game for a brief stint before McEntire came in for a long relief outing. Last weekend, Tygart looked very sharp, pitching two hitless innings and McEntire entered and tossed five innings, allowing two runs in a 14-2 mercy rule victory over Mississippi State.
However, Van Horn could decide to put Tygart back in the closer role after making two appearances since returning from injury. In that case, McEntire would probably get the start. He has for the most part been an effective starter, but a handful of rough outings have not helped his ERA. McEntire has a 4.63 ERA in four appearances since a bad start in Athens.
Mahoney had a good start to the season, posting an impressive 2.72 ERA over seven starts where South Carolina was 7-0 in those games. Since then, Mahoney has a 7.40 ERA over five starts, including five runs allowed in each of the last two, while the Gamecocks are 1-4 in those games.
When: 2:00 p.m. Sunday, May 14
Where to Watch: SEC Network+
Arkansas: LHP Hunter Hollan (6-2, 4.15 ERA)
South Carolina: LHP Matthew Becker (4-1, 4.46 ERA)
Hollan is going through a rough stretch for Arkansas in his last three starts. He has allowed 13 runs over 12.2 innings, for a 9.24 ERA. He has moved from the Friday starter to the Sunday guy now. Over his first nine starts, he allowed more than two runs once, but now he has done it three games in a row.
Becker has joined the weekend rotation for the last four series. He has an ERA of 6.00 in those games, but he has faced brutal competition, including two top-5 teams in Vanderbilt and Florida. Before his move into the rotation, Becker had a 3.10 ERA from the bullpen with an occasional mid-week start.
The Gamecocks would probably win the battle of the bullpens. The Arkansas pen was already shaky, but with the injuries, it is also looking pretty slim as well.
South Carolina has a number of arms in the bullpen that they trust, and the numbers back them up.
Austin Williamson has a 1.80 ERA over 15 innings and their closer Chris Veach has a 1.86 ERA over 19.1 innings and a team-leading four saves. Hicks, the native Arkansan, has the most innings pitched out of their bullpen arms with 46.1 with his 3.88 ERA. South Carolina has three other relievers with over 30 innings pitched and all of them have an ERA below 3.50: Eli Jerzembeck (2.84), Noah Hall (3.29), and Eli Jones (3.38).
With Carter injured, Arkansas’ most used arm in the bullpen will be Cody Adcock who has a 5.20 ERA over 45 innings, including six starts. Nobody else in the Arkansas pen has over 30 innings.
Freshman Gage Wood has been the only reliable arm out of the bullpen as of late. The young pitcher has a knee-buckling curveball and a fiery intensity on the mound. He has a 2.62 ERA over 24 innings with a team-leading five saves. Over his last three outings, he has not given up a run over 6.1 innings with 11 strikeouts and picking up two saves.
Arkansas vs South Carolina Prediction
The Gamecocks are seemingly imploding at the end of the season after a fantastic start to the year. They have played some of the best teams in the country lately, but they have not been able to win many games lately. The offense has been flat and the pitching hasn’t been great in conference play.
Baum-Walker Stadium is also one of the hardest places to win a game. Despite the injuries, the Razorbacks have continued to win games, collecting three sweeps in their last four series. Now, some of those injured players may see the field.
Most signs point to a Razorback sweep at home, to continue their conference winning streak to nine games. Sure, some would consider that a cocky prediction considering South Carolina’s level of talent, but Arkansas deserves the benefit of the doubt at home given the recent trajectories of both teams.
Still, baseball can be a fickle sport. With a dangerous, offensive team like the Gamecocks, there is always the possibility Arkansas pitching fails to control them in one of the games. Most likely the series will end in a sweep, but it is still very possible for South Carolina to get hot one night with the bats and steal a game on the road.
Composite College Baseball Top 25
Unlike football and basketball, which have just the AP and Coaches Polls all year (with football adding the CFP rankings late in the season), college baseball has five major polls. (Collegiate Baseball used to be included, but it was dropped to due severe inconsistencies in its rankings.)
To get a better feel for how teams stack up, BoAS has combined those rankings into a single top 25 by using a points system in which a No. 1 ranking = 25 points, No. 2 = 24 points and all the way to No. 25 = 1 point. We will update this each week throughout the season…
|1. Wake Forest||ACC||+1||125|
|t-6. South Carolina||SEC||-3||99|
|8. Coastal Carolina||Sun Belt||-1||87|
|10. Miami (Fla.)||ACC||—||73|
|11. Campbell||Big South||+1||69.5|
|12. West Virginia||Big 12||+1||68.5|
|13. UConn||Big East||-3||68|
|14. East Carolina||AAC||—||60|
|15. Dallas Baptist||C-USA||-1||45.5|
|19. Oregon State||Pac-12||+1||35.5|
|21. Boston College||ACC||-2||27|
|22. Oklahoma State||Big 12||+3||17|
|23. Maryland||Big Ten||+4||16|
|25. Texas Tech||Big 12||-3||13.5|
MOVED IN: Clemson (t-17), Maryland (23)
MOVED OUT: Oregon (18), Arizona State (21)
- SEC: 7
- ACC: 6
- Big 12: 3
- C-USA: 2
- Pac-12: 2
- AAC: 1
- Big East: 1
- Big South: 1
- Big Ten: 1
- Sun Belt: 1