Bottom-of-the-order bats made Hogs' lineup longer

Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt celebrates after hitting a double, Sunday, May 14, 2023, during the fifth inning of the Razorbacks’ 5-1 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — South Carolina starting pitcher Matthew Becker is a left-hander, but Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn put his lineup together for Sunday’s game based on statistics that indicated the Gamecocks’ sophomore struggled more against left-handed hitters than righties.

“The book on getting to Becker is that the lefties are the ones that hit him,” Van Horn said. “We stacked them up there in the middle against him, and he got them out.”

Left-handed hitters came into the game batting .286 (14 for 49) against Becker, while righties were batting .188 (18 for 97), according to NCAA statistics.

But the Razorbacks flipped those stats and it was the right-handed hitters — and those at the bottom of the order — who fueled the offense in Arkansas’ 5-1 victory over South Carolina at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Razorbacks batting right-handed against Becker — including switch-hitting leadoff man and center field Tavian Josenberger — combined to go 5 for 11.

The lefty batters against Becker — Jace Bohrofen, Kendall Diggs, Brady Slavens and Ben McLaughlin in the order after Josenberger — were 1 for 12.

Josenberger, who returned for the South Carolina series after missing eight games with a hamstring injury, is batting .314 on the season, but he was 0 for 3 against Becker from the right side.

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The other Razorbacks batting right-handed — Caleb Cali, Peyton Holt and John Bolton along with switch-hitting Parker Rowland — combined to go 5 for 9 against Becker.

Rowland, a catcher batting .191 coming into the game and hitting in the No. 8 hole, went 1 for 2 against Becker and had a two-run single in the fifth inning that scored Cali and Holt — who had doubled and singled — to give Arkansas a 3-1 lead.

Holt, filling in for injured Peyton Stovall at second base and batting in the No. 7 hole, was 2 for 2 against Becker.

After Holt singled in the third inning, he scored on a double by Bolton — the No. 9 hitter who was batting .205 coming into the game — to tie it 1-1.

Slavens had the lone hit by a left-handed batter against Becker with an RBI double in the sixth inning. He then scored on a single by Cali, the first batter faced by South Carolina reliever James Hicks — a junior right-hander from Conway — after he replaced Becker.

The bottom of the order produced more than enough offense to back Hunter Hollan, who pitched Arkansas’ first complete game of at least nine innings against an SEC opponent since 2016, when Dominic Taccolini went 10 innings in the Razorbacks’ 1-0 victory at Kentucky.

After the Razorbacks (38-13, 19-8 SEC) took 2 of 3 games from South Carolina, they moved up to a tie with Florida (40-12, 18-9) for No. 2 in the USA Today coaches poll behind No. 1 Wake Forest.

Arkansas leads the SEC overall standings by a game over Florida going into the Razorbacks’ series at No. 6 Vanderbilt (35-16, 17-10), which opens Thursday night, and they lead LSU (39-12, 17-9) by 1 1/2 games in the West.

“After I congratulated Hunter, I said something like, ‘How about the 7, 8, 9-hole hitters today?’ ” Van Horn said of his postgame Sunday huddle with the Razorbacks. “And the team erupted.

“The end of the order did it for us. You look at the top of the order, there’s some zeroes there. … After that, it gets kind of pretty.”

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Holt, a junior from Greenwood who transferred to Arkansas this season from Crowder (Mo.) Community College, went 3 for 4 Sunday to raise his batting average to .333. He was 6 for 10 in the series, including two doubles.

“I think it shows how deep our lineup is as a whole,” Holt said of how the bottom of the order came up big on Sunday. “The top of the lineup hasn’t been going as well as they usually are, so I think it shows when we all get going and get hot, we’re really hard to beat.

“And I think it’s good for the bottom of the lineup to get going and produce some runs.”

Bolton, a shortstop who transferred from Austin Peay, is batting .348 (8 for 23) in the past nine SEC games with 7 runs, 4 runs batted, 8 walks, 4 sacrifice bunts and 3 stolen bases.

Van Horn said Bolton has been working with assistant coach Nate Thompson on making some adjustments at the plate.

“More of it was just a little bit of how he was going to attack the ball,” Van Horn said. “He’s just doing a good job offensively.

“I think that he’s starting to get some confidence and it’s nice to have a guy down there in the 9-hole that can take a walk, steal a base.

“Now if you can hit a little bit for us, let the top of the order move you around, drive you in. It’s been really good to see.”

After Bolton’s RBI double in the third inning Sunday, Becker got Josenberger on a groundout and struck out Bohrofen.

“The big boys up top, they can’t do it all the time,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got to get some help, and our lineup seemed a little longer [Sunday] than it had been in the last few days.”