Arkansas had numerous opportunities to take the lead, loading the bases on four different occasions, but failed to take advantage of any of them in a 3-2 game one loss to South Carolina in Baum Stadium on Thursday night.
The Razorbacks racked up 13 hits but could only muster 2 total runs, stranding 12 base runners. Blaine Knight was pulled after giving up 1 run on 6 hits in four innings, a move that confused many and yielding unfavorable results as reliever Barrett Loseke immediately surrendered a two-run homer. Arkansas (25-10, 8-5) left the bases loaded three times and grounded into a double play with the bags juiced in another.
South Carolina (20-14, 6-7) wasn't much better offensively, going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and only totaling 3 runs on 12 hits. Reliever Sawyer Bridges entered in the fifth inning and pitched two and two-thirds of scoreless work on the mound on the way to his second victory of the season.
Here's how the Diamond Hogs dropped a disappointing game one:
THE WINNING INNINGS
Justin Row recorded South Carolina's third hit of the game on a single in the top of the second. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt then was brought home on a tw0-out RBI single by Hunter Taylor to give the Gamecocks an early 1-0 lead.
Arkansas' first base knock of the night came from Luke Bonfield on a single up the middle in the bottom of the second. Dominic Fletcher followed that up with a single of his own to right, moving Bonfield to third. Grant Koch tied things up, 1-1, with a sacrifice fly to deep left. The Hogs loaded the bases but stranded all three runners when Jax Biggers popped out.
A leadoff single by Eric Cole off the pitcher's glove started the bottom of the third for Arkansas. Casey Martin then smacked a double down the left field line and scored Cole from first when the left fielder bobbled the ball, making it 2-1 Arkansas.
Surprisingly, Dave Van Horn pulled Blaine Knight after four innings to give way to Barrett Loseke, who almost immediately gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Cortes, his eighth of the year. Loseke escaped the top of the fifth without any more damage, leaving it at 3-2 South Carolina.
In the bottom of the fifth, Arkansas loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a cather's intereference but failed to convert yet again, making them 0 for 3 with the bases juiced to that point in the game.
South Carolina had a chance to add another run in the top of the seventh, but Shaddy gunned down Cortes at home for the third out of the inning.
For the fourth time, the Razorbacks loaded the bases and left the inning with nothing to show for it, as Koch grounded out for the third out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Martin singled to put one runner on with one out in the top of the ninth, but Kjerstad struck out and Bonfield grounded out to third to end the game, giving the Gamecocks a 3-2 game one victory.
Dave Van Horn on Thursday night's performance:
"Just a game of missed opportunities...Blaine just didn't really have very good stuff tonight...We just didn't feel like there was any reason to send him out for the fifth...We had a lot of chances to tie that thing up or grab a lead...First time we've lost game one, we'll see how we react tomorrow."
Van Horn on Blaine Knight's status:
"He's fine. There's nothing wrong with him. He didn't want to come out."
Van Horn on how his team will react to the loss:
"I think we'll respond fine. We're pretty resilient. We have a little bit of an older team that knows you're going to get beat every now and then...Hopefully tomorrow we have some better results."
Eric Cole on if the mindset needs to change before game two:
"I think having the same approach coming into today as we had tomorrow...You can't switch stuff up just because you win or lose."
Cole on leaving so many men on base:
"It's always going to be frustrating, but it's baseball. It's the hardest sport there is...Everybody comes through for us nine times out of ten...It's a tough sport. That's what baseball is and that's what makes it such a great sport."
STAT OF THE GAME
At four innings, tonight was the shortest outing of the season for Blaine Knight and the shortest he's had since April 21, 2017 when he only lasted two and a third against Auburn. Knight held the Gamecocks to only a run but gave up 6 hits and didn't appear to have his best stuff. Van Horn and players assured the media it wasn't a health issue.
The most frustrating stat of the night is that Arkansas went 0 for 4 in bases-loaded situations. Jax Biggers, who is 3 for his last 23, and Grant Koch each recorded the final out of the inning with the bases loaded twice. Biggers grounded into a crucial double-play with the bags full in the fourth inning. The Hogs stranded 12 baserunners.
Tonight's defeat was Arkansas' first SEC home loss of the season (6-1). The one-run loss, however, is not a first for Arkansas this season. Six of the 10 games in the loss column have come by only one run.
WIN: Sawyer Bridges (South Carolina): 2 2/3 IP (55 pitches), 4 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 0 ER
SAVE: Eddy Demurias (South Carolina): 2 1/3 IP (41 pitches), 2 H, 3 K's, 0 BB, 0 ER
Game two of the series is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, April 13, at 6:30 pm (CDT) in Baum Stadium. The game can be seen on SEC Network+ or the WatchESPN app. Kacey Murphy takes the mound for the Razorbacks.