Cortes' blast lifts Gamecocks over Razorbacks

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018
South Carolina outfielder Carlos Cortes rounds third base after hitting a home run during a game against Arkansas on Thursday, April 12, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
South Carolina outfielder Carlos Cortes rounds third base after hitting a home run during a game against Arkansas on Thursday, April 12, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Facing unbeaten Arkansas ace Blaine Knight with a freshman making his first start, South Carolina coach Mark Kingston knew his team would face a challenge at Baum Stadium on Thursday.

But three Gamecock pitchers managed to strand 12 Arkansas runners, Knight left after the fourth inning and sophomore Carlos Cortes’ two-run homer in the fifth proved to be the difference as South Carolina took a 3-2 win in the opener of a three game series against the No. 3 Razorbacks.

“That was a really good baseball game,” Kingston said. “Both sides played really well; pitched well. Both teams had double-digit hits. At the end of the day, we got the big home run and that was the difference in the game.”

Cortes’ blast came with South Carolina (20-14, 6-7 SEC) down 2-1 in the fifth inning and off Arkansas reliever Barrett Loseke.

“He got off to a slow start this year, but just kept working and if you do that long enough and you are talented, the tide will eventually turn and it has been turning for him lately,” Kingston said. “He basically won the game for us.”

It was Cortes’ eighth home run of the season and the 20th of the sophomore’s career.

“You can definitely tell when he’s starting to hit less lazy fly balls and more balls on-line,” Kingston said. “That home run was on-line. He’s been hitting a lot of balls at a much better angle off the bat instead of just too high. He’s hit the ball hard all year, but now we’re just definitely starting to hit more balls that can turn into hits and production.”

Loeske entered the game after Knight threw 70 pitches while allowing 1 run on 6 hits, and fanning 4 without any walks.

“He is one of the best in the conference,” Kingston said. “Coming here on a Thursday night before a packed house or stadium, that;’s a tough challenge. I was just happy to get out of here with a win.”

Arkansas (25-10, 8-5) had four bases-loaded situations - three that came with two outs and one that the Gamecocks escaped with a double play from first base to home and back to first.

“We had a big double play on the 3-2-3, which was huge and our pitchers did great to get out of those big jams,” Kingston said.

South Carolina freshman starter Logan Chapman went 4 innings and up 2 runs on 7 hits. He walked and struck out 2 batters.

“He did a good job,” Kingston said. “Obviously this is a tough environment to pitch in. A freshman making his first SEC start, I was really impressed with his poise. His command was pretty good. We made some really nice plays behind him. So all in all, I think a good first SEC start.”

Sawyer Bridges (2-0) pitched 2 2/3 innings of four-hit scoreless baseball to get the win while Eddy Demurias hurled the final 2 1/3 innings to get his third save.

"Arkansas did a really good job all night taking at-bats, but our pitchers were just able to make big pitches when it mattered,” Kingston said.

South Carolina has ace Adam Hill (3-3, 4.79 ERA) is set to take on Arkansas’ Kacey Murphy (4-2, 2.41) in Friday night’s 6:30 p.m. game.

“Hill needs to give us a great outing tomorrow because Arkansas pitchers are really good all the way through,” Kingston said. “We need our next guy to step up and give us another good game.”


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