Arkansas puts damper on South Carolina’s post-game fireworks with 2-1 road win


In a contest that was anything but offensive, Arkansas left-handed specialist Stone Hewlett ended up with the ball in his hands before and after the game’s final pitch.

The trio of Razorback starting pitcher Hagen Smith, and relievers Gabe Gaeckle and Hewlett shined in visiting Arkansas’ 2-1 win at South Carolina on Friday night.

It was the first game of a three-game series between the Razorbacks (33-5, 13-3) and Gamecocks (26-12, 8-8), who will play a doubleheader at noon on Saturday due to rain expected on Sunday.

Both teams had just four hits with Arkansas leaving 14 on base and South Carolina 10.

“Yeah just, wow, what a great game,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “A lot of pitching, some decent defensive plays. And I don’t know, it just  seemed like both teams just kept getting out of jams.

“I thought our pitching staff was amazing again, starting with Hagen, who gave us six really good innings, got into a little trouble and then got out of it. Bases loaded and they only scored one run. Almost had a double play ball there but it didn’t happen. He finished it up.”

Smith (8-0) fanned 11 batters – including his 100th of the season – while allowing just one run on two hits and walking x while going six innings, his 10th quality start of the season.

Christian Foutch allowed both Gamecocks he faced in the seventh to reach base, but Gaeckle came in and ended the threat.

“I felt good,” Gaeckle said. “I had the same mindset going into it that I have in every other outing. Just pounding the zone and make them hit it. Luckily, I’ve got really good defense behind me. When they put it in play, they were outs and I was able to get out of it.”

Van Horn notes that Gaeckle’s calmness on the mound belies his freshman status.

“He comes into the game with a little bit of calmness to him and I think he’s probably calm because he knows how good his stuff is,” Van Horn said. “He trusts it and he just attacks. They have to figure out how to hit a pitch that’s 96-97 and he dumps a slider in there. He’s got a really good changeup that lefties have a lot of trouble with. He’s confident. He’s good.”

Gaeckle would end up pitching 2 2/3 innings, turning it over to Hewlett after South Carolina pinch hitter Blake Jackson doubled with two outs in the ninth.

Arkansas  intentionally walked Cole Messina so Hewlett could face Noland, who was retired when Razorback first baseman Ben McLaughlin fielded a grounder and tossed it to Hewlett covering the bag to end it and hand him his fourth save.

South Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth on Parker Noland’s RBI ground out that plated Talmadge LeCroy, who Smith had walked leading off.

Smith then intentionally walked Ethan Petry before fanning Dalton Reeves.

As it has been known to do this season, Arkansas answered right back by loading the bases on two walk and Peyton Holt beating out a sacrifice bunt.

“Really, really good bunt by Holt,” Van Horn said. “It was just going to be a sacrifice and he laid a beauty down and beat it out.”

McLaughlin would score on a one-out wild pitch to tie it and Jack Wagner’s sacrifice fly plated Nolan Souza for a a 2-1 edge.

“Yeah, I mean, that was big,” Van Horn said. “We gave up a run. Could have been more. Great job like I said by Smith just getting through it.

“But I don’t know, just proud of the way they found a way to score. Things weren’t going our way…I mean, we were so close to breaking that thing open like three different times. We just needed one big hit or something to drop and it never happened. We found a way to hang on.

“But that was a great response there in the sixth after a tough fifth inning.”

Roman Kimball stats and went 2 1/3 innings before Ty Good (4-1) , Chris Veach, Parker Marlatt an Jake McCoy followed him to the mound.

Arkansas is set to start Mason Molina (3-0, 3.32 ERA) against South Carolina’s top pitcher Eli Jones (3-1, 3.57) in opener of the doubleheader.

Brady Tygart (3-1, 2.59) is set to go for the Razorbacks in the night cap of two scheduled nine-inning games while the hosts have not yet announced who will open that contest for them.

“The game will tell us what to do but for example, we won’t ask Hagen or Gabe to come back tomorrow,” Van Horn said. “{I’m not saying Foutch couldn’t throw again and Hewlett could come in but we’ve got plenty of guys out there that are ready to go. We’ll go in the same order that we were planning. Game one we’ll go Molina and then go Tygart game two.

Arkansas did not use value long reliever Will McEntire (2-0, 2.70) on Friday night so he, Koty Frank, Colin Fisher, Gage Wood and others will be available.

“It’s good,” Van Horn said. “We’re going to use them all tomorrow. There’s going to be a lot of innings played. It’s supposed to be a nice day. Not as warm as today, low 80s instead of 90s, upper 80s, super humid today.

“We’ll just take it one inning at a time, ty to figure out how to get through it and move to the next.”

Photo courtesy of Razorbacks Communications

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