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Razorbacks drop SEC tourney opener to Gamecocks


Rally falls short as South Carolina sends Arkansas to losers’ bracket, 6-5

From the University of Arkansas

HOOVER, Ala. – Despite a one-out rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, No. 5 Arkansas (43-13) lost to South Carolina (35-21), 6-5, Wednesday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in the SEC Tournament opener.

Arkansas, the No. 2 seed, will now play third-seeded Kentucky in an elimination game at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 23, on SEC Network with Dave Neal (play-by-play) and Chris Burke (analyst) on the call. Razorback ace and SEC Pitcher of the Year Hagen Smith (9-0, 1.52 ERA) will start on the mound against Wildcat right-hander Trey Pooser (4-1, 4.34 ERA).

South Carolina fended off Arkansas all afternoon, opening the scoring in the top of the first inning before retaking the lead in the third, fifth and ninth. Sophomore right-hander Ben Bybee started on the mound and went 2.1 innings against the Gamecocks, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks with one strikeout before departing the ballgame.

After falling behind by a run in the first, Jared Sprague-Lott’s two-strike single to right in the bottom of the second inning tied the game up.

South Carolina retook a onerun lead in the third before Ryder Helfrick’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly scored Ben McLaughlin from third in the fourth inning and evened the game at two apiece.

In relief of Bybee, fellow sophomore right-hander Christian Foutch was the first to emerge from the bullpen, firing 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts to allow the Razorback offense to even the game at two entering the fifth.

For the season, Foutch now owns a 0.86 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 21.0 innings of relief work over 18 appearances.

South Carolina used a tworun homer in the fifth to reopen a 4-2 advantage, but Arkansas punched back in the seventh. Following back-toback leadoff singles by pinchhitter Will Edmunson and Kendall Diggs, Peyton Stovall, who finished 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI, drove in Edmunson from second on an RBI double to straightaway center field.

McLaughlin’s sacrifice fly to left later in the inning scored Diggs from third, as the Razorbacks erased their two-run deficit to tie the game at four. Jake Faherty, meanwhile, tossed two scoreless innings on the mound with three punchouts, raising his season strikeout total to 21 while lowering his season ERA to 1.54 in 11.2 innings over 14 appearances.

True freshman Gabe Gaeckle worked the final two frames, striking out three but allowing a two-run homer in the top half of the ninth. The Hogs, however, would not go quietly when faced with another tworun deficit, scratching out a one-out rally in the bottom of the ninth thanks to three consecutive singles by Stovall, Hudson White and McLaughlin.

McLaughlin’s one-out single to left center scored Stovall from second and cut South Carolina’s lead to one, but Arkansas could not complete the comeback and, ultimately, suffered a 6-5 defeat in its SEC Tournament opener.

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