NO. 7 ARKANSAS 13,
NO. 24 S. CAROLINA 8
HOOVER, Ala. -- The No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks brought plenty of bats back to the Hoover Met to start their SEC Tournament opener.
The Razorbacks rocked No. 24 South Carolina with three home runs and a barrage of base runners in a 13-8 slugfest late Wednesday.Gallery: Arkansas defeats South Carolina at SEC Tournament
Arkansas (38-17), which hit 10 home runs in a run to the tournament championship game last year, advanced to face No. 3 Florida in the late game Thursday night.
Left-hander Kacey Murphy (7-4) held down the hot Gamecocks, who had won each of their last five SEC series since dropping two of three to Arkansas on April 12-14, for the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth.
Murphy was pitching in Hoover for the first time since throwing all seven innings of a 16-0 run-rule victory over Florida last year.
Dominic Fletcher started things with a three-run home run in the first inning and Casey Martin added a towering two-run blast in the fourth and a solo shot in the sixth for the Razorbacks, who scored multiple runs in each of the first four innings to grab a 10-1 lead.
Fletcher went 2 for 3 with 5 RBI, while Luke Bonfield, Martin and Jack Kenley also added two hits each in the Razorbacks' 11-hit attack.
Freshman Kole Ramage recorded eight outs in relief and Barrett Loseke coaxed a double play grounder from Chris Cullen to end the game.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn was notably aggressive, calling for hit-and-run plays in the second and third innings that both paid off with singles and first-and-third situations.
The Razorbacks got big production from their top-of-the-order stalwarts but the bottom of the order, which had been struggling in recent games, did damage as well. The trio of Grant Koch, Jared Gates and Kenley in the bottom spots combined to go 4 for 11 with 5 runs scored and an RBI.
Murphy started sharp, as he had in a 2-0 victory over the Gamecocks on April 14 when he had a perfect game broken up in the seventh inning. The junior from Rogers was lifted with two outs in the sixth after allowing 6 runs, 5 of them earned, on 5 hits and 2 walks.
South Carolina right-hander Logan Chapman (3-3) struck out Eric Cole and Carson Shaddy to open the game but began leaving his pitches up and allowed walks to Heston Kjerstad and Luke Bonfield.
Chapman fell behind Fletcher 3-1 and grooved one to the left-handed hitting sophomore, who sent the ball over the wall in right-center field.
The Hogs got busy again in the second, chasing Chapman and TJ Shook with a three-run inning. Jared Gates got it started with a one-out walk and went to third when he was off with the pitch on Jack Kenley's hard-hit single that second baseman Justin Row couldn't handle. Cole's single to center brought in Gates.
Shook came on and walked Shaddy, then gave up a sacrifice fly to Kerstad. After Bonfield's RBI single and a walk by Fletcher, Shook was relieved as the Razorbacks led 6-0.
The Gamecocks broke through in the third with the help of some sloppy Hogs' play. Jacob Olson ripped a shot up the middle off Murphy's leg and the left-hander threw wildly to first to send the runner to second base. After a wild pitch got Olson to third, nine-hole batter Matt Williams hit a shot that Martin snagged at third. Martin held the runner for a beat, but his throw pulled Gates off the bag at first, allowing Olson to score. Murphy struck out Madison Stokes looking with Williams at third to leave the score 6-1.
Bonfield singled to open the bottom of the fourth, his third time to reach base, and moved to second on Fletcher's bunt. Murphy went down on a low pitch from side-arming Hunter Lomas and swatted it over the left-field wall for a 10-1 Arkansas lead. He added his 12th home run to tie Cole for the team lead in the sixth.
South Carolina scored five runs in the sixth that were largely preventable and chased Murphy in the process. The inning featured shortstop LT Tolbert's grand slam to pull the Gamecocks to within 10-6.
Arkansas added to its lead with Martin's home run and Fletcher's two-out, two-run single in the seventh, which scored Kenley and Kjerstad.
The Gamecocks scored twice in the ninth off Ramage to close the scoring.
Sports on 05/25/2018
Print Headline: Despite late start, Hogs roll early