OMAHA, Neb. - After six close battles, Arkansas and South Carolina have proved that they are as close of a match-up as it gets, but the Gamecocks won the finale to make the championship round of the College World Series.
South Carolina overcame an early 2-0 deficit to defeat Arkansas 3-2 Friday at TD Ameritrade Park.
The two teams combined for just 11 hits, but the Razorbacks tied a season-high by walking nine batters, including two bases-loaded walks that accounted for South Carolina's game-tying and go-ahead runs.
The Gamecocks got took the lead in the seventh inning. Arkansas reliever Colby Suggs walked two batters before turning the ball over to Barrett Astin. LB Dantzler singled off Astin and Adam Matthews drew a bases-loaded walk to give South Carolina their first and only lead of the game.
"South Carolina did a great job of manufacturing the winning run late in the game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I knew it would be tight and it didn't surprise me that it was a one-run game."
Arkansas got off to a hot start by leading in the first inning for the third time in four College World Series games. Senior shortstop Tim Carver singled on the first pitch of the game and Matt Reynolds broke his 0-for-14 CWS slump with a RBI single.
Reynolds added another RBI in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to right field to extend the lead to 2-0, but South Carolina erased that lead in the fifth.
The Gamecocks got a RBI single from Joey Pankake and a bases-loaded, RBI walk by Christian Walker to deadlock the game.
"I've kind of struggled early on in the College World Series, but a couple of the older guys pulled me aside and told me to keep battling and keep fighting," Pankake said.
"Tonight, I got a couple of hits to fall and they were at the right time."
Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale allowed just four hits in 4 1/3 innings, but he walked a career-high five batters and allowed the two runs in the fifth that chased him from the game.
Suggs (7-1) suffered his first loss of the season by being charged with the run scored on the bases-loaded walk in the seventh.
"Colby is a bulldog," Van Horn said. "When we bring him in, it's usually a tight situation and we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. Tonight, he came in and I thought he was throwing the ball pretty well, but he struggled with the breaking ball. He threw his fastball about 95 percent of the time and I thought he spotted it well some and sometimes he didn't.
"I'm just proud of him for hanging in there and battling through it. The toughness he has spread throughout the team this year and it's definitely going to help us in the fall as we get ready for next spring."
South Carolina starter Colby Holmes did not last long against the Razorbacks once again, allowing two runs in his second straight start before being replaced by Tyler Webb for the second time in as many starts.
"We felt like for us to have a chance to win, we had to get nine innings out of Holmes, Webb and Price for two or three innings apiece and it kind of worked out that way," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said.
"We felt we had to hold them to three or four runs max to win and it just kind of happened exactly like that."
After Holmes allowed two runs, Webb tossed four scoreless innings before closer Matt Price took over and earned a College World Series record with his fifth career win in Omaha. The senior closer shut out Arkansas in the final three innings by striking out five and allowing just one hit.
"They were pounding the zone," Reynolds said of Webb and Price. "Tyler Webb had a really sneaky fastball that he could move around the plate.
"Price does what he always does and that's pound the zone and throw a good slider."
Arkansas had won seven consecutive one-run games. Reynolds said that while doubts about the team's postseason potential existed during the season, the team remained resilient and battled for the chance to make a championship run.
"Going to the College World Series has always been a dream of mine and we knew we had the team to do it this year," Reynolds said. "We went through a struggle mid-season, but we never gave up and we kept fighting.
"I think we really jelled as a team late in the season, early in the postseason and it's a bad feeling that it came to an end like this."
Colby Suggs went 7-1 on the season with a 1.38 ERA in 30 appearances.
Senior second baseman Bo Bigham hit .385 in the College World Series.
Jake Wise and Ryne Stanek embrace one another following the Razorbacks' season-ending loss to South Carolina.
South Carolina 3, Arkansas 2
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