Arkansas 4, South Carolina 1

Jalen Beeks pitches a complete-game four hitter and Tyler Spoon has a pair of hits and RBIs while batting lead off as Arkansas downs No. 1 South Carolina 4-1 Friday night to grab a spilt of a doubleheader before a season-high 6,326 fans at Baum Stadium.

After a disappointing 2-1 loss to No. 1 South Carolina in the opener of a doubleheader Friday, Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn handed the baseball to pitcher Jalen Beeks and the lead off spot to Tyler Spoon.

It proved to be great decisions on both parts.

Beeks hurled a complete-game four hitter with a career-high nine strikeouts and Spoon had two hits a pair of RBIs as the Razorbacks downed the Gamecocks 4-1 Friday night before a season-high crowd of 6,326 fans at Baum Stadium.

"I wasn't in the clubhouse for very long (between games), but I could tell that it was kind of a stony silence," Beeks said. "We were angry and we came out and played angry. That usually works out pretty good for us. We came out in the first inning with a little bit of vengeance in us and we looked really good in that second game."

Van Horn was effusive in praise for his Razorbacks (19-12, 5-6) after losing the opener in tough fashion – leading 1-0 going into the eighth inning against the Gamecocks (26-4, 7-4).

"I thought our team showed a lot of character and toughness and any other clichés you want to throw out there hanging in there and winning that second game," Van Horn said.

That certainly included Beeks, who pitched his second complete game of the year and in a contest where he literally had to get five outs in one inning when his defense let him down.

He is now 5-2 this season with a microscopic ERA of 0.89 and pitched around four Razorback errors in the second game - a contest Arkansas had only four hits and none after the third inning.

"The man of the hour was Jalen Beeks," Van Horn said. "He did a tremendous job. I tell you what, that inning where we gave them five outs, it didn't phase him. You didn't see him out there kicking around or pouting. He just kept fighting and fighting. And he just kept getting on the mound and didn't let it bother him.

"That's a guy, you've got to give him a lot of credit, man," Van Horn said. "That was an awesome outing. And that was the inning he could've folded and said, man, what do I have to do. He didn't say one word. He just went out there and got it done and he got them out five different times and he only gave up one run. So hats off to the team and Jalen Beeks."

South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook was obviously feeling the exact opposite of Van Horn about game two.

"It's disappointing the way we played in game two," Holbrooks said. "It was really neat to see Jordan Montgomery throw the way he did in game one. It is a difficult place to play and their pitchers are awfully good, they can overpower and overmatch. We consider ourselves fortunate that we got a game. Tomorrow is the rubber game. They have another good arm going and we have a good one going as well. We'll see what we are made of tomorrow."

After Beeks fanned the side in the top of the first, Spoon ripped the first pitch he saw from South Carolina starter and loser Jack Wynkoop.

Spoon moved up on Bobby Wernes' sacrifice bunt, to third on Joe Serrano's ground out and eventually scored on Brian Anderson's single.

"Well, obviously, he hits the first pitch and singles to right field," Van Horn said. " Kind of fired up the team a little bit. I was just trying to shake it up, man. I mean, struggling, trying to score runs, frustrated a little bit. "I just told them before the game, I called them up and said, 'hey, I'm changing up the lineup. Not a big deal. It doesn't matter where you're hitting. Just take it one pitch at a time and let's find a way to get a win.' I don't think anybody was uptight. They just went out there and played."

Spoon then pushed that to 3-0 in the second inning with a two-out double that chased home both Krisjon Wilkerson and Michael Bernal.

"I like to be aggressive and I know that's probably why Coach put me there," Spoon said. "I just had the same mentality. I like hitting lead off. It was fun. I just tried to do whatever I could to get on."

Spoon knew how big it was for Arkansas to have something positive happen early after the disappointing first-game loss.

"That was definitely just phenomenal for sure to come out early and put some runs up early," Spoon said. "We definitely haven't done that much lately especially for Beeks because he just shuts them down every time he goes out there.  He  does an awesome job and just playing behind a guy like that makes your job a little easier. We just tried to do whatever he could to help him out because we know he is going to help us out all the time."

South Carolina - which had three its own errors in game two - cut it to 3-1 in the fourth via some misplays on the infield by Arkansas' infielders and Connor Bright's two-out RBI single that drove home Joey Pankake.

But Beeks then closed the door after getting what easily could have been five outs in that inning. He credited Arkansas catcher Jake Wise with a big assist.

"I feel like I have always been pretty level-headed and I don't get fired up easily, which could be good or bad, but luckily it turned out good," Beeks said. "I just put a lot of credit with Jake. He called a great inning right there to get me out of it. I wouldn't have thrown the pitches that he called, but I just trusted him and trusted how smart he is and he got me out of it."

The Razorbacks got that run back in the sixth when Anderson's towering pop fly on the infield was dropped by Pankake as he raced to second.

Blake Baxendale - who had two hits while starting both games - moved him over to third and then Wilkerson's sacrifice fly made it 4-1.

Beeks threw a trio of inning ending double play balls, including one in the seventh with Brison Celek at the plate as the tying run.

Beeks picked his team up, including pitcher Trey Killian, who was the hard-luck loser on the mound for the Razorbacks in game one.

"It's amazing, huh?" Killian said. "Jalen is having a great year so far. What I like to see from Jalen that I haven't seen a lot this season is a fist pump every now and then. Jalen is a pretty quiet guy, a modest guy and doesn't show much emotion. I think after – I can't remember what inning it was – but after a big play, which I think was a double play, he came off the mound and was fired up and fist pumping."

Arkansas allowed Beeks to close out the game after he needed just five pitches to get through the eighth innings.

He hurled 117 pitches – 86 for strikes – and was down to his last batter one way or another after issuing his only walk of the game with two outs in the ninth.

"If he hadn't had such a quick eighth, we were going to go to the pen," Beek said. "But I think he only threw 7,8 pitches in the eighth, and both (pitching coach) Dave (Jorn) and I looked at each other and I said, 'Let him go.' We had those guys playing catch (in the bullpen) … I don't know if we would have let him go another hitter or two, but I'm glad we didn't have to deal with that."

Beeks has not allowed an earned run in 17 innings in his last two starts.

"I felt more comfortable than I have," Beeks said. "I am just trying to go out there and – I know it is cliché – but just taking it one day at a time and not get ahead of myself and just trying to throw strikes."

Arkansas will try to take the series from the nation's top team when the Razorbacks and Gamecocks meet Saturday night at 6 p.m.

Van Horn said earlier this week this was a must-win series for his team.

"I probably say that every series," Van Horn said. "But, no, this is a huge series for us, and we still have a chance to win it. We've got to start winning series. That's a fact. Our players know it. This is our home stadium, and we need to win."

Photos by Jason Ivester

Joe Serrano lines a double in the opener of the twinbill.

Brian Anderson and Tanner English meet at second base.

Anderson watches the flight of his ball after connecting.

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