NCAA SUPER REGIONAL NO. 6 ARKANSAS 9, SOUTH CAROLINA 3:

Arkansas within 1 win of College World Series

By: Tom Murphy
Published: June 10, 2018 at 3:22 a.m. - Updated: June 10, 2018 at 3:22 a.m.
Arkansas infielders Carson Shaddy, left, and Jax Biggers celebrate following an NCAA Tournament win over South Carolina on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas infielders Carson Shaddy, left, and Jax Biggers celebrate following an NCAA Tournament win over South Carolina on Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston elected to walk Dominic Fletcher with first base open and his team trailing by a run in the seventh inning against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Carson Shaddy made him pay by ripping a double off the wall in left-center field to clear the bases and give the Razorbacks key insurance runs in their 9-3 victory in the opening game of the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional on Saturday night.

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A crowd of 11,722, the third-largest in Baum Stadium history, watched the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (43-18) reach the brink of its ninth College World Series trip.

"I thought that was a no-brainer," Kingston said. "Really quality lefty at the plate. And then Shaddy's ground-ball rate is 60 percent, so we thought that made the most sense. Got two strikes on him and then we just left a ball up that he put a good swing on."

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said he would've done the same thing, looking for a ground-ball double play and matching up the right-handed Shaddy instead of the lefty Fletcher against right-hander pitcher Eddy Demurias.

"Shaddy ... got to a count where the pitcher had to come in there a little bit better, and he did a great job of getting his hands inside the baseball and putting the barrel on it," Van Horn said. "Obviously it was huge for us at the time. It changed the whole game."

South Carolina (36-25), which held a pair of one-run leads in the early innings against Blaine Knight (12-0), must win two in a row against the Hogs, who improved to 33-3 at Baum Stadium.

The Razorbacks won their 15th consecutive game at Baum Stadium and improved to 14-3 in games started by Knight, who allowed 3 runs on 6 hits while throwing 95 pitches through 6 innings. Knight pulled within one victory of the school's single-season record.

Barrett Loseke struck out four in the final three innings to pick up his fourth save.

Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers went 3 for 4 in the nine hole and put Arkansas ahead for good with a two-out RBI single in the sixth, the Razorbacks' first hit with runners in scoring position to break an 0-for-4 start.

Casey Martin and Shaddy scored two runs each, and Shaddy drove in four runs to lead the Razorbacks, who improved to 4-1 against the Gamecocks.

According to ESPN, 79 percent of teams that have won the opening game of a super regional have advanced to the College World Series.

The Razorbacks will send left-hander Kacey Murphy (8-4, 2.86 ERA) to the mound for today's 2 p.m. game, likely against South Carolina right-hander Cody Morris (8-3, 3.68).

The teams had been tied at the ends of four innings and had never been separated by more than one run before the Razorbacks put together a big seventh against Demurias (7-1), who suffered his first loss.

Martin led off the four-run frame with a double. Luke Bonfield drew a one-out walk, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. At that point, the Gamecocks opted to walk Fletcher.

Shaddy barreled up a 2-2 pitch, sent it to the wall and jumped for joy as he pulled into second after putting his team in front 7-3. Jared Gates' sacrifice fly two batters later made it 8-3, and Bonfield singled in Heston Kjerstad in the eighth.

South Carolina struck first with a run in the second inning while making Knight labor through 27 pitches. Knight caught too much of the plate on an 0-2 pitch to Justin Row, and the second baseman flared a ball into center field to lead off the inning. Knight induced a pop-up from LT Tolbert on the first pitch, but with Row running on a 1-1 count, catcher Hunter Taylor laced a deep shot into the right-center gap. The extra strides paid off as Row scored ahead of the relay throw from Biggers.

Knight also gave up solo home runs to Tolbert and Madison Stokes.

"Body-wise, arm-wise, I felt fine," Knight said. "I didn't have the big breaker and struggled with fastball command. Slider, I left one hanging and Stokes hit it out. I just had to gut through it and get it done. The defense backed me up big time like they have all year long."

The Razorbacks broke through against Hill in the bottom of the third, ignited by Gates' one-out walk. Biggers notched the first hit against Hill with a shot to right field that sent Gates to third base.

Eric Cole hit a fly ball to medium-depth right field on which Gates tagged and scored as first baseman Matt Williams cut off the throw.

Tolbert gave the Gamecocks a 2-1 lead with his home run into the right-field bullpen in the fourth, his seventh of the year. The lead didn't last long as Arkansas scraped together two runs on only one hit in the bottom of the frame.

Martin reached on a single that Jonah Bride knocked down at third base but couldn't retrieve in time. Hill hit Kjerstad with a 1-2 pitch, then Bonfield drew a walk to load the bases.

Hill plunked Fletcher to bring in the tying run, then Shaddy hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to make it 3-2.

Stokes, the Gamecocks' designated hitter, led off the sixth with his 11th home run to tie the game 3-3.

Again, the tie didn't last long, as Shaddy walked to open the bottom of the sixth, advanced on a Gates ground ball and a wild pitch, and came home on Biggers' single to center.

"I was just trying to get a fastball to hit," Biggers said. "I got in a good hitters' count and got the fastball I was looking for and hit it up the middle."

Up next

NO. 6 ARKANSAS BASEBALL

VS. SOUTH CAROLINA

WHEN 2 p.m. today

WHAT NCAA super regional

WHERE Baum Stadium

STARTING PITCHERS South Carolina RHP Cody Morris (8-3, 3.68 ERA); Arkansas LHP Kacey Murphy (8-4, 2.86)

RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Check local listings.

TV ESPN

Sports on 06/10/2018

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