For Diamond Hogs, big inning often enough

By: Matt Jones
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018
Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers bats during an NCAA Tournament game against South Carolina on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers bats during an NCAA Tournament game against South Carolina on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Most opposing teams have experienced one back-breaking inning against Arkansas this season.

For South Carolina, that inning was the seventh Saturday night at Baum Stadium. The Gamecocks allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in the inning, turning a manageable 4-3 deficit into an insurmountable deficit of 8-3.

Arkansas won 9-3.

The game was tied 3-3 until Jax Biggers' two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. The Razorbacks scored six runs and had 10 base runners over their final three innings at the plate.

"This lineup is really deep, so when one guy gets on it translates to another guy," said Biggers, who was 3-for-4 hitting last in the order. "The phrase 'hitting is contagious' really is true. That one guy gets a hit and it just kind of builds confidence...and you can kind of take off on a team real quick."

The Razorbacks' four runs in the seventh inning would have provided enough runs to defeat the Gamecocks.

Arkansas has scored more runs in an inning than its opponent has in a game 20 times this season. Five more times the Razorbacks have equaled their opponents' total run production in one inning.

"I think most teams that are pretty offensive, when they get it rolling a little bit they can put up some runs pretty quick," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "You walk us and you hit us and you give up a single to us, a lot of times this year we hit a ball out of the park. This is two games in a row that we've won without hitting a home run.

"It's a credit to the depth of our lineup....Once we get it going it builds some confidence. Guys in the dugout get excited and a lot of times it bothers the other team's pitchers when they feel like we're putting a little heat on them. We've had a lot of big innings this year. We've got a good offensive team."

The seventh began with a double down the left field line by Casey Martin. After a fly out, four consecutive batters reached with one out. Luke Bonfield walked and Dominic Fletcher was intentionally walked after a wild pitch by reliever Eddy Demurias allowed the runners to advance.

South Carolina coach Mark Kingston said he made the choice to pitch around Fletcher, a .294 hitter who he described as "a really quality lefty," in order to set up a double play. Kingston said Shaddy, who entered as a .331 hitter, had a 60 percent ground ball rate coming into the game.

"I thought it was a no-brainer," Kingston said.

But Shaddy drove a 2-2 pitch off the wall in left-center field, just missing a grand slam. He advanced on Grant Koch's single in the next at-bat and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jared Gates.

Biggers singled with two outs, but Arkansas missed an opportunity to possibly go ahead by more when Koch was caught trying to leg out a first-to-third move on Biggers' hit to right field.

Arkansas scored again in the eighth after a pair of two-out hits by Heston Kjerstad and Luke Bonfield.

All nine of the Razorbacks' hitters reached base and six players had hits. South Carolina walked eight and hit two Arkansas batters, including Fletcher with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

"It just got away from us there at the end," Kingston said. "I thought the difference was the number of free passes that we gave them and they didn't give us."

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