South Carolina went to Arkansas for a key series over the weekend and swept by scores of 3-2, 5-0 and 5-3.
The entire weekend the weather forecast called for a 75% chance of rain, probably thunderstorms. With the possibility of canceled games or shortened make up games, Friday night was critically important. Friday night was also the stage for the marquee pitching match-up of the weekend. Senior Blake Cooper brought his 3.05 ERA and 9-0 record to the mound for South Carolina. Arkansas countered with left hander Drew Smyly who had an ERA of 2.26 and an 8-0 record.
Living up to the hype Cooper and Smyly both lasted 7 full innings, but it was Cooper who earned the win. The scoring began in the first inning when South Carolina loaded the bases with no outs. Adrian Morales managed to hit a sac fly to score a run as two other Gamecocks struck out. Arkansas responded with a run of it own in the bottom of the first when a lead off walk came around to score. The pitching dominated until the sixth when again the teams exchanged runs. The Gamecock run came courtesy of a Kyle Enders RBI; the Razorback run came on an Andy Wilkins RBI double. In the seventh, Whit Merrifield scored after his bunt single and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s RBI double. That would prove to be the end of the scoring. Ethan Carter and Michael Roth would each record an out before Matt Price finished off the Hogs and recorded the save.
On Saturday Sam Dyson pitched a complete game shutout to lead South Carolina to the clinching win of the series. Flounder has a good write-up here.
On Sunday South Carolina took an early 1-0 lead when Christian Walker doubled to score Whit Merrifield. USC starting pitcher Tyler Webb then surrendered two runs in the bottom of the first. The teams exchanged runs in the third, and Webb’s day was done. 5 South Carolina pitchers handled the Hogs the rest of the way and didn’t allow another run. In the top of the eighth Merrifield followed a Scott Wingo walk with a homerun to give the Gamecocks the lead for good. Adrian Morales would add a solo shot in the top of the 9th for insurance. Matt Price earned the save by completing the final 1 1/3 innings.
Stars of the Series…Blake Cooper went 7 innings allowing 3 hits and 2 runs while striking out 7 and walking 2 to get the Friday night win…Sam Dyson pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 8 to get clinch the series on Saturday…Matt Price pitched 2 2/3 innings over 2 games allowing no hits and collecting 2 saves…Whit Merrifield was 5 of 12 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI…Jackie Bradley, Jr., was also 5 of 12 with 3 doubles and 2 RBIs.
What to take from the weekend…They don’t get much better than this. Beating a Top 10 team on the road is nice. Sweeping them is incredible. The team bounced back extremely well from the setback in Lexington last weekend. Next weekend will be for all the marbles, and this weekend will probably be remembered based on what happens then, but regardless of what happens against Florida, this weekend was great and should be remembered for a long time.
This and that…South Carolina won the weekend series for the first time since their sweep in Columbia in 2001…The series win in Fayetteville was the first for South Carolina ever…There have been 4 complete game shut outs pitched by SEC pitchers in conference play: 2 by Sam Dyson; 1 by Blake Cooper…Matt Price recorded the final 4 outs on Sunday, but only faced 3 batters. This anomaly was the result of Kyle Enders throwing out an Arkansas runner to end the eighth…
Up next…The Gamecocks return home to finish the regular season. They host Furman on Tuesday before playing Florida on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the SEC Regular season championship.