Photographs by Andy Shupe
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Monday, April 16, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks opened SEC play by pounding Kentucky for 39 runs in a three-game sweep.
The Razorbacks followed that with 12 runs against Florida and 20 against Ole Miss -- even though they went 1-2 in each of those series -- and scored 20 again in sweeping three games from Auburn.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Coach Dave Van Horn said he knew his team couldn't keep averaging 7.6 runs against SEC opponents, and he was right.
In three games against South Carolina last weekend, the No. 3 Razorbacks scored seven runs combined.
"I knew we were swinging it so well that we'd slow down a little bit," Van Horn said. "I talked to the pitchers about that a few weeks ago -- 'We've been scoring a lot of runs, but one day it's going to be up to you guys. We're going to need you to keep people down.' "
That day came Saturday when the Razorbacks beat South Carolina 2-0 and 3-0 at Baum Stadium in a doubleheader featuring seven-inning games after Friday night's game was postponed because of inclement weather.
"I think it just shows we can win in many ways," Arkansas senior second baseman Carson Shaddy said. "We don't have to hit six home runs to win a game.
"It's good for us to actually play the game of baseball and not just rely on home runs and big hits."
Shaddy hit two home runs on Saturday -- one in each game -- but those were the Razorbacks' only extra base hits.
"The pitching dominated on both sides and they got a couple more hits than we did," South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston said. "That was the difference in the games."
Three Arkansas pitchers -- starters Kacey Murphy and Isaiah Campbell and closer Matt Cronin -- combined to shut out the Gamecocks and hold them to four hits -- all singles -- in Saturday's sweep. Murphy (6-2) retired the first 18 hitters he faced before giving up a hit.
"I thought he was electric," said Cronin, who replaced Murphy after Justin Row's single. "He went out there and competed really hard."
Murphy, a junior left-hander, fell two short of the school record of retiring 20 consecutive batters set by Tim Deitz in 1983 against Texas A&M and matched by Rodney Nye in 1996 against Iowa State when they both threw no-hitters.
"Kacey put us on his back and got us going in the right direction," Shaddy said.
A strong start by Murphy was crucial for Arkansas after the Gamecocks won Thursday night's opener 3-2.
"For him to go out and get us into the fifth, sixth, seventh inning knowing that we have another game, to us that was big mentally," Van Horn said. "I would have loved to have seen him finish that seventh inning and nobody reach base, but he gave us everything he had and we didn't want to press our luck there."
Cronin, a sophomore left-hander, retired all three batters he faced in Saturday's first game, then allowed just one hit in two innings in the second game when he came in for Campbell to earn his eighth and ninth saves on the season.
Campbell (3-3), a sophomore right-hander, held South Carolina to 2 hits and 1 walk in 5 innings in his second start after missing the Ole Miss series because of elbow inflammation. He went one inning at Florida and two innings against Auburn in his previous two starts.
"I feel like I'm back to 100 percent health," Campbell said. "It's nice being back out there."
The Razorbacks beat South Carolina with solid defense to go along with stellar pitching. They didn't have any errors in the series, though in Saturday's second game an infield popup by Row fell for a single. Catcher Grant Koch called for the ball, but then the wind blew it away from him.
"We surrounded it," Van Horn said. "But nobody caught it."
After Campbell walked Matt Williams, Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher made a diving catch for the third out.
"Fletcher made just a tremendous play in center that kept them from scoring two runs," Van Horn said. "The defense picked us up right there."
Kingston faced Arkansas for the first time after being hired as South Carolina's coach following three seasons at South Florida.
"It's a very solid team," Kingston said. "They don't have many weaknesses. They pitch, they're athletic on defense and then they have a lot of power.
"There's a reason why they're ranked in the top 10."
Arkansas (27-10, 10-5) is leading the SEC West at the midway point of the conference schedule.
"That's a good spot to be, especially this year with as good as the league is," Van Horn said. "You just feel like everybody's going to kind of beat each other up a little bit or if you have a bad weekend, find a way to win one and when you get a chance to sweep somebody, get that sweep.
"For us to bounce back and get to 10-5 after losing a couple of series on the road, it was big."
NO. 3 ARKANSAS
VS. MISSOURI STATE WHEN 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 27-10, Missouri State 22-10.
SERIES Arkansas leads 53-26 STARTING PITCHERS TBD
RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network TELEVISION None
INTERNET SEC Network-Plus
Sports on 04/16/2018
NWADG.com for only
$0.99 for the first month.