Arkansas puts it all together
University of Arkansas batter Joe Serrano connects for a base hit with the basses loaded to drive in 3 runs in the second inning of the Saturday, April 5, 2014, game against South Carolina at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - South Carolina Coach Chad Holbrook felt Arkansas’ series-clinching victory was over for the most part in the second inning Saturday night.
“Because of who they had on the mound,” he said.
The Razorbacks rode the momentum of a five-run second inning and the arm of junior Chris Oliver to beat the top-ranked Gamecocks 7-0 and clinch the three-game series in front of an announced crowd of 7,023 at Baum Stadium.
Oliver (3-3), a right hander from Farmington, struck out a season-high 10 and scattered 4 hits over 8 innings without walking a batter. South Carolina (26-5, 7-5 SEC) had only one runner get in scoring position against Oliver and was held scoreless for the first time this season.
“He had special stuff and overpowered our guys,” Holbrook said.
Arkansas (20-12, 6-6) chased previously unbeaten South Carolina starter Wil Crow (6-1) in the second inning after scoring 5 runs on 3 hits and 2 Gamecocks errors.
The Razorbacks never looked back after that, finishing with 11 hits.
“It’s all about timely hitting and executing for us,” Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn said. “With our pitching, if we hang with them we have a chance in every game.”
Oliver set the tone from the start and said his breaking ball was his go-to pitch.
“It was sharp today,” he said. “I felt like I had command of it the whole game.”
“That was probably the best I’ve seen his curve ball location and sharpness at the end of it,” Arkansas catcher Jake Wise said.
Clark Eagan scored the first run of the second inning when Andrew Benintendi drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk. Joe Serrano then singled to right field, driving in Wise and Tyler Spoon, and two South Carolina miscues on the play allowed Benintendi to score as Arkansas took a 4-0 lead. Brian Anderson drove in Serrano with a line drive single to the right-center gap to push the lead to 5-0 and chase Crow.
It was the shortest outing of the season for Crow, a freshman who entered the game with a 1.37 ERA.
“[Oliver] didn’t walk anybody, didn’t give us any free bases, and we did right out of the shoot and that contributed to that five-run inning,” Holbrook said. “We gave up two walks, a bloop and a nubber and they pushed across three or four runs, and then their best hitter busts one and the game was essentially over.”
The Razorbacks added a run in the fifth and another in the sixth off Gamecocks reliever Reed Scott. It was the first run Scott had given up in seven relief appearances this season.
“We got beat by a better team this weekend,” South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner said. “We didn’t play to our ability offensively or defensively. We didn’t help our pitchers out at all this weekend. We are fortunate to come out of here 1-2 the way we played.”
Anderson was 3 for 4, and Serrano and Eric Fisher were 2 for 4.
“This was definitely a confidence-booster, taking 2 of 3 from the No. 1 team in the RPI,” Anderson said. “It’s a steppingstone.”
Saturday’s game was the seventh time Arkansas has shut out an opponent this season and pulled it to .500 in conference play with six SEC series left.
“It’s just a great win for our team,” Van Horn said. “We played one of our best games of the year, a total game. I’m really proud of the team. We win this series and kind of get back in the race a little bit.”
Arkansas steps out of SEC play with a two-game series against UNLV that begins Tuesday before traveling to LSU next weekend.
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/06/2014