Razorbacks beat Gamecocks, take sole lead in SEC

Arkansas right fielder Kendall Diggs hits a run-scoring single Friday, May 12, 2023, during the third inning of play against South Carolina at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — The third-ranked Arkansas baseball team has sole possession of first place in the SEC with five games to play. 

Right fielder Kendall Diggs had 3 RBI and the Razorbacks defeated No. 7 South Carolina 4-1 on Friday in front of 10,218 at Baum-Walker Stadium. The teams are scheduled to play the second game of the series Saturday at 6 p.m. 

Arkansas (37-12, 18-7 SEC) entered the day in a tie with Vanderbilt for first place, but the fourth-ranked Commodores lost 10-0 at fifth-ranked Florida. 

After South Carolina tied the game on a two-out RBI single by designated hitter Braylen Wimmer in the top of the sixth inning, Arkansas took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Jace Bohrofen led off with a walk against Gamecocks starting right-hander Eli Jones. Bohrofen went to third base on a two-strike hit-and-run single by Ben McLaughlin and scored when Caleb Cali grounded into a double play up the middle. 

Arkansas right-hander Gage Wood pitched the final 3 1/3 innings to earn the win. He replaced left-hander Hagen Smith after Wimmer’s game-tying single — South Carolina’s third hit against Smith in the top of the sixth inning. 

Wood allowed two hits and recorded four strikeouts. He struck out Ethan Petry and Cole Messina, the Gamecocks’ Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, to strand a runner at first base in the eighth inning, and struck out pinch hitter Carson Hornung to strand a runner at first in the ninth.

Smith allowed 1 run, 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 7 in 5 2/3 innings. He threw 58 of 94 pitches for strikes against a tight zone from home-plate umpire David Uyl. 

Cali made a good stop from his position at third base, and first baseman Brady Slavens picked a ball out of the dirt to strand Gamecocks on the corners in the top of the sixth. South Carolina had base runners in every inning but the third, but stranded seven runners, hit into double plays in the first and fifth innings, and Evan Stone was thrown out by Arkansas catcher Parker Rowland trying to steal second base in the seventh. 

The Gamecocks (36-13, 14-10) were 2 for 15 for runners on base. South Carolina lost its fifth consecutive game and for the seventh time in nine games. 

Jones, who got the start because regular Friday starter Will Sanders stayed home with a lower-body injury, struck out a career-high 10 batters in five innings. But the Razorbacks did just enough against him. 

Peyton Holt led off the third inning with a double and scored on Diggs’ two-out single that had a 102 mph exit velocity and grazed off the glove of first baseman Gavin Casas. 

Diggs’ two-run single with the bases loaded gave Arkansas a 4-1 lead in the seventh. Those were Diggs’ team-leading 54th and 55th RBI — 16 of which have come in the Razorbacks’ last 6 conference games. 

Diggs improved to 7 for 15 and has 24 RBI with the bases loaded.