Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Beeks overcomes botches, saves split
Arkansas starter Trey Killian delivers a pitch during the first inning against South Carolina Friday, April 4, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas pitcher Jalen Beeks could have lost his head - or least the lead - when South Carolina got extra base runners in the fourth inning of Friday’s nightcap thanks to two errors by shortstop Michael Bernal.
But Beeks pitched around the errors and threw a complete game to help the Razorbacks beat the No. 1 Gamecocks 4-1 before an announced crowd of 6,326 at Baum Stadium and gain a split after South Carolina won the opener 2-1.
Beeks, a junior left-hander from Prairie Grove, minimized the damage in the fourth and kept Arkansas (19-12, 5-6 SEC) ahead 3-1 as he held the Gamecocks (26-4, 7-4) to one unearned run and stranded runners on first and second base by striking out Max Schrock for the third out.
“The man of the hour was Jalen Beeks,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “I tell you what, that inning where we gave them five outs, it didn’t faze him.
“You didn’t see him out there kicking around or pouting. He just kept fighting and fighting. He could’ve folded and said, ‘Man, what do I have to do?’ He didn’t say one word. He just went out there and got it done.”
Beeks (5-2) held the Gamecocks to 4 hits and 1 walk with a career-high 9 strikeouts while throwing 117 pitches and lowering his earned run average to 0.89. The Razorbacks’ infielders committed four errors, but they turned double plays to end the third, fifth and seventh innings. Bernal started two of the double plays.
“Bernal came through when it counted,” Beeks said. “With no one on, he made a couple of mistakes - which every one does - but he bounces back and I think he made two out of the three double plays, which really shows a lot about his character - being able to forget it easily. I give a lot of credit to my middle infielders.”
Beeks, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in 17 innings over his last two starts, credited catcher Jake Wise for helping him escape the fourth-inning jam.
“He called a great inning right there to get me out of it,” Beeks said. “I wouldn’t have thrown the pitches that he called, but I just trusted him and trusted how smart he is and he got me out of it.”
Center fielder Tyler Spoon, moved from the cleanup to leadoff spot in game two, helped the Razorbacks jump out to a 3-0 lead. He singled on the first pitch from South Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop (5-2) and scored on Brian Anderson’ single. Spoon added a two-run double in the second inning that scored Bernal and Krisjon Wilkerson.
“That was just phenomenal for sure to put some runs up early,” Spoon said.
The Razorbacks made it 4-1 in the sixth when Anderson reached second on an error and scored on Wilkerson’s sacrifice fly to center.
“I thought our team showed a lot of character and toughness and any other cliches you want to throw out there hanging in there and winning that second game,” Van Horn said. “It was just a big disappointment the first game.”
Trey Killian started the opener for Arkansas and the sophomore right-hander from Mountain Home held South Carolina to 2 runs on 6 hits over 7 2/3 innings with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks. He lowered his earned run average to 2.64, but his record fell to 1-5.
Arkansas has combined to score eight runs in Killian’s six starts.
His only victory came in a complete game 2-1 victory over Alabama two weeks ago.
“We need to score more runs for him,” Van Horn said. “I feel bad for him.”
South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery (4-2) and relievers Cody Mincey and Joel Seddon combined to strike out the Razorbacks 13 times and hold them to 4 hits and 3 walks.
The Gamecocks took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning when they scored twice - on doubles by DC Arendas and Tanner English and Marcus Mooney’s RBI single.
Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on freshman designated hitter Blake Baxendale’s two-out RBI double scored Anderson.
The teams will play the series’ deciding game at 6 tonight.
“This is a huge series for us, and we still have a chance to win it,” Van Horn said. “We’ve got to start winning series. That’s a fact. Our players know it. This is our home stadium, and we need to win.”Today’s game SOUTH CAROLINA AT ARKANSAS WHEN 6 p.m.
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 19-12, 5-6 SEC. South Carolina 26-4, 7-4 RANKINGS South Carolina is ranked No. 1 by College Baseball, No. 2 by Baseball America and No. 3 by USA Today.
TICKETS Reserved $12. General admission $10.
RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network statewide network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings. TELEVISION Cox Sports TV INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3 PITCHING MATCHUP South Carolina: Wil Crowe (RHP 6-0, 1.37 ERA). Arkansas: Chris Oliver (RHP 2-3, 2.41 ERA).
THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY vs. South Carolina, 6 p.m.
SUNDAY off MONDAY off TUESDAY vs. UNLV, 6:35 p.m WEDNESDAY vs. UNLV, 6:05 p.m.
THURSDAY off FRIDAY at LSU, 7 p.m.
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/05/2014