Super regional notebook:

Knight supplies quality

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018
Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight throws during an NCAA Tournament game against South Carolina on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight throws during an NCAA Tournament game against South Carolina on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Blaine Knight hasn't thrown a complete game for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but the junior right-hander has plenty of quality starts.

Knight had another one against South Carolina on Saturday night when the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville opened its NCAA super regional at Baum Stadium.

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Knight threw 95 pitches in 6 innings and held the Gamecocks to 6 hits, 3 runs and 1 walk with 4 strikeouts.

The junior from Bryant pitched at least 6 innings for the 13th time in his 17 starts. He matched a career high by throwing eight innings in the Razorbacks' 10-2 victory over Oral Roberts in Arkansas' regional opener June 1.

Knight has pitched six or more innings in 22 of 33 starts the past two years.

Record crowd

Saturday's Fayetteville Super Regional opener drew a crowd of 11,722, the third highest at Baum Stadium.

The record is still the 12,167 fans who came out for the Hogs' Saturday super regional game against Missouri State on June 6, 2015. The second-best crowd was 11,869, also against the Bears on June 5, 2015. Baum Stadium's capacity is listed as 11,159.

Rowdy rundown

South Carolina posted a weird double play to get out of a jam in the third inning, but not before Jared Gates scored on a sacrifice fly and Jax Biggers engaged in a funky rundown.

Right fielder Jacob Olson's throw to the plate was cut off by first baseman Matt Williams as Gates chugged home on Eric Cole's sacrifice fly. Shortstop LT Tolbert bobbled Williams' throw to second base, but Biggers had stopped by then and started back to first. Tolbert relayed to second baseman Justin Row and he dropped the throw, but again Biggers had already thrown on the brakes. He was eventually tagged by Williams at first after juking around Row.

Closed Gates

Arkansas first baseman Jared Gates added to his growing list of strong defensive plays in the postseason with a couple of stops on hot ground balls.

His best in Saturday's game came with two outs in the seventh against South Carolina hitter Danny Blair, who smoked a ground ball that Gates dove to make a back-handed pick on, then raced to the bag to get the out.

Close one

South Carolina catcher Hunter Taylor made Dominic Fletcher his 22nd victim of a caught stealing in the second inning.

The play at second appeared to be very close, as Taylor's throw pulled second baseman Justin Row's glove toward the shortstop side of the bag before he swiped down to Fletcher's leg. Second-base umpire Billy Haze made a demonstrative out call on the non-reviewable play.

HRs vs. Knight

LT Tolbert's solo home run in the fourth inning made it the eighth consecutive start by Arkansas right-hander Blaine Knight in which he has allowed a home run. Madison Stokes added a solo shot for the Gamecocks in the sixth inning to tie the game 3-3.

Knight has allowed 18 home runs on the season and 12 in the past eight games. Knight has given up 13 solo home runs, nine in the past eight games.

Make it 18

Arkansas freshman Heston Kjerstad was hit by a pitch for the 18th time when he took a ball off his side from South Carolina starter Adam Hill.

Kjerstad is tied for fourth on Arkansas' single-season list of hit by pitches with Michael Connor (2004) and Michael Bernal (2014).

Still ahead of Kjerstad are Collin Kuhn (25 in 2010), Joe Jester (22 in 1999) and Casey Coon (21 in 2007). Kjerstad keeps extending his Arkansas freshman record for hit by pitches, which had been 12 by Ryan Lundquist in 1996.

Tolbert repeats

South Carolina shortstop LT Tolbert has hit two of his seven home runs against Arkansas. The junior hit his second off the Hogs when he sent a Blaine Knight pitch over the right-field fence in the fourth inning.

Tolbert hit a grand slam off Kacey Murphy in the Razorbacks' 13-8 victory in the SEC Tournament.

Kacey on the mound

Arkansas left-hander Kacey Murphy (8-4, 2.86 ERA) will try to beat South Carolina for the third time this season today when he faces off against Gamecocks right-hander Cody Morris (8-3, 3.68).

Murphy's two victories were vastly different. He took a perfect game into the seventh inning of the opener of a doubleheader on April 14 before allowing a single to Justin Row. He settled for a combined one-hitter with Matt Cronin that day in a 2-0 victory.

Murphy pitched 5⅔ innings of the Hogs' 13-8 victory over the Gamecocks at the SEC Tournament, but he gave up five earned runs, including LT Tolbert's grand slam when the Hogs led 10-2 in the sixth.

"It's going to be the same as usual," Murphy said when asked about his plan against the Gamecocks. "I'm going to stick to my game plan and make them hit me.

"If you look at them, they're an older hitting club. Even their young guys have really good numbers. I like to attack inside a lot, and they kind of stay on the plate. So it's kind of a head-to-head matchup between those two."

Catching it

Arkansas catcher Grant Koch caught Murphy's gem against the Gamecocks, which came on a gray day with the temperature around 40 degrees and the wind chill dropping to near freezing.

"That outing he did basically what he does best all the time, and everything kind of fell into place for him that game," Koch said. "He was just spotting every pitch that I called. He was going in and out with both the breaking ball and the fastball, threw a change-up.

"It was just an overall amazing performance. I was hoping so hard he would finish it out, but he did as well as you could do."

Call crew

The four-man crew working the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional entered the weekend with 12 super regional appearances among them. Home plate umpire Mark Wagers is working his second, while crew chief Billy Haze is working his sixth, and Mike Morris is working his seventh. Casey Moser, who was at third base Saturday, is making his super regional debut.

Hill's deal

South Carolina's Adam Hill threw 88 pitches, and more than one fourth of them came on three at-bats. Jared Gates worked a pair of eight-pitch walks from the right-hander in the third and fourth innings. Eric Cole's eight-pitch walk to lead off the fifth inning was Hill's final batter.

He was in line for the loss when he was replaced by Eddy Demurias, but Madison Stokes' sixth-inning home run tied the game 3-3 and took him off the hook.

Around the horn

• Arkansas third baseman Casey Martin's throwing error in the third inning was the freshman's team-high 12th of the season.

• South Carolina second baseman Justin Row made a strong defensive play in the sixth inning, diving to his left to stop a hard-hit grounder by Jared Gates and throwing him out.

Sports on 06/10/2018

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