No Freshman Jitters For Schmidt

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn expressed concern about starting a freshman pitcher in the Southeastern Conference, but Nick Schmidt eased his coach's anxiety during Friday's 9-1 win against South Carolina in front of 4,312 at Sarge Frye Field.

"He pitched more like a sophomore or a junior, really," said Van Horn. "I was concerned, not because he didn't have good stuff, but because he was a freshman ... you just never know on a freshman."

Schmidt's SEC debut turned into one of the top performances for an Arkansas pitcher in some time and couldn't have come at a better time against the high-powered offense of the No. 4 Gamecocks. The true freshman's 11 strikeouts were the most since 1999 and he didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning.

"He was on," said South Carolina slugger Brendan Winn, who struck out three times in three at-bats. "He was painting the inside corner, he was painting the outside corner, painting it with his fastball, his curveball and his change-up.

"He just came right at us."

That was the plan, according to the soft-spoken Schmidt, who completed seven innings by allowing one run on three hits and three walks.

"I knew they could hit, so I just went right after them," Schmidt said. "I spotted my fastball and I hadn't been able to locate my curveball lately, but it was there (Friday) night."

It extended the No. 15 Razorbacks' winning streak to 12 games and ended a six-game winning streak for South Carolina. It was the first time since 2000 the Hogs won their conference opener. Game 2 of the three-game series is set for 3 p.m. today

"It was Mr. Schmidt's night without question," said USC coach Ray Tanner, whose team suffered its worst home loss since a 14-5 beating against Florida in 2002. "For a true freshman to come into an SEC weekend on the road and have command like he did from the get-go, that was very impressive."

Six of Arkansas' runs came in the fifth when South Carolina starter Aaron Rawl hit the 100-pitch mark. Rawl, who earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors last month, allowed seven runs (three earned) on seven hits in five innings.

Consecutive singles by Scott Hode and Clint Arnold led off the big inning and Scott Bridges loaded the bases when he bunted and reached on a fielder's choice. Jake Dugger then smoked the first pitch he saw down the right-field line for a three-run double to make it 4-0.

"I was looking for an off-speed pitch," Dugger said. "(Rawl) was throwing a lot of off-speed first pitches, especially with runners in scoring position. I kind of had that in the back of my mind and read a change-up out of his hand and was able to turn on it."

The Hogs weren't through in the inning as Clay Goodwin reached on an error and Blake Parker blasted a three-run homer, his third, well over the palmetto trees beyond the left-centerfield wall.

For good measure and a little insurance, Hogs catcher Brian Walker smashed a solo homer in the top of the eighth.

Arkansas got on the board in the first inning with the help of a two-out fielding error by Tolleson, a first-team All-SEC shortstop, that scored Rowlett after he doubled off the leftfield wall with two outs. It was one of two errors for Tolleson as the Gamecocks allowed four unearned runs.

"They dominated us," Tanner said. "They out-played us, they out-pitched us and the big key was the unearned runs. If we don't give up the runs, it's a ball game, but they were able to open it up a little bit, especially with a guy like Schmidt dominating."

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