Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Hogs handcuffed by Mahoney, Gamecocks
Arkansas’ John Bolton prepares to bat against South Carolina on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — South Carolina right hander Jack Mahoney handcuffed No. 3 Arkansas for seven innings and the No. 7 Gamecocks managed one breakthrough inning to secure a 3-1 win on Saturday.
South Carolina (37-13, 15-10 SEC) tied the series at one game apiece and snapped a seven-game SEC winning streak for Arkansas (37-13, 18-8 SEC). On a sultry night, the Razorbacks fell to 29-3 at Baum-Walker Stadium before a crowd of 10,432.
Arkansas maintained its half-game lead over LSU for the overall SEC lead, as the Tigers lost 9-4 at home to Mississippi State. Arkansas is also a game ahead of SEC East co-leaders Florida and Vanderbilt.
The teams will play a rubber game at 2 p.m. today with Arkansas lefty Hunter Hollan (6-2, 4.15) facing off against South Carolina right-hander Matthew Becker (4-1, 4.46).
The game wound up being a pitcher’s duel, with both teams using just two pitchers and each team scoring in one inning. South Carolina had four of its six hits and scored all its runs in a three-run fourth inning against Will McEntire (6-3), who worked the last 6 innings and tied a career high with 9 strikeouts.
“I mean, he just didn’t locate in that first inning,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said of McEntire. “After that he was really, really good and he gave us an opportunity to win the game. I was proud of him for hanging in there. He just kept getting them out. But their pitchers kept getting us out as well.”
Said McEntire, “My stuff didn’t really have downward movement in the first inning. I’ve just got to learn to come into games better.”
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Meanwhile, Mahoney (5-2) was on his game from the outset.
He spotted up his fastball, which was registering 92-94 mph on the scoreboard, and was effective with the rest of his off-speed pitches. Mahoney worked a season-high 7 scoreless innings, allowing 5 hits and 2 walks and striking out 6.
“I was telling everyone in there … and I’m not going to lie tonight, but Arkansas is the one place in the SEC that I have always wanted to pitch,” Mahoney said. “And this place did not let me down.”
South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston said Mahoney was the story of the game.
“Probably one of the best pitching performances we have had here in a long time under the circumstances: On the road in a great ball park, great crowd, team we are playing. For him to come through like that after a heartbreaker yesterday just tells you every thing that you need to know about him.”
South Carolina closer Chris Veatch allowed an eighth inning run on Jace Bohrofen’s RBI single but he retired the Hogs in order in the ninth to notch his fifth save.
The Razorbacks managed to get a runner on base each of the first five innings, but only two of them — Kendall Diggs’ one-out walk in the first inning and John Bolton’s leadoff double in the third — came with less than two outs.
Arkansas lost a good chance to break on top in the third, as Tavian Josenberger bunted Bolton to third with one out. However, Mahoney struck out Diggs looking and retired Bohrofen on a routine fly ball to left.
Trailing 3-0, the Razorbacks had a promising start to the seventh inning when Brady Slavens singled to right, beating a shift, and Peyton Holt singled over third baseman Talmadge LeCroy.
However, pinch hitter Jayson Jones hit a comebacker that Mahoney speared and threw to shortstop Michael Braswell to start a 1-6-3 double play.
Mahoney struck out Bolton swinging on a 3-2 pitch and roared his approval as the out left Slavens at third base.
“You’ve got to give credit,” said Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt, who went 2 for 4. “He did a really good job mixing his pitches. I thought we had a good pregame approach, and I just think we didn’t execute it that well during the game.”
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Arkansas right hander Brady Tygart continued to make progress in his recovery from a strained elbow ligament. In his third start, Tygart cruised through three innings on 37 pitches, 26 of them strikes. He allowed a one-out hit by pitch in the second and a leadoff single to Will Tippett in the third.
Tippett advanced to second with two outs but was stranded there. Tygart struck out four, including Dylan Brewer for his final out with a runner in scoring position.
Tygart said it’s “not fun” to come out after three innings.
“Especially when I felt like I was in control,” he said. “But these games, they don’t matter compared to the postseason, and that’s what we’re building towards, so, can’t be too mad about it.”
Tygart has allowed no runs, just one hit and four baserunners in six innings since returning.
“I thought he was good, really good,” Van Horn said. “He spotted his fastball in and out, breaking ball, changeup. And he pitched well. You know 37 pitches and 40 was the most we really wanted him to go tonight.
“He throws well, limited pitches. But at the same time you’re thinking about down the road, and down the road is getting here. It’s going to be here before we know it.”
The Gamecocks greeted McEntire with a series of soft-contact singles in the fourth after Ethan Petry was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Catcher Cole Messina and first baseman Gavin Casas dinked singles the opposite way into right field, the last bringing home Petry.
Braylen Wimmer hit a single over the pitcher’s mound for another run, still with no outs, then nine-hole hitter Evan Stone bounced a single just out of reach of third baseman Caleb Cali to make it 3-0.
McEntire’s work gave the Razorbacks more bullpen options for Sunday.
The right-hander from Bryant allowed 5 hits and walked 2 while giving up 3 runs on 98 pitches, 63 of them for strikes.
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