FAYETTEVILLE - In a pitchers' duel that seemed destined to be decided by one big hit late, Jackie Bradley Jr. provided just that.
Bradley's seventh inning double that plated Whit Merrifield proved to be the game-winner as the Gamecocks downed Arkansas 3-2 Friday night before 9,217 fans at Baum Stadium.
That hit was the difference in keeping South Carolina hurler Blake Cooper (10-0) undefeated and blemishing the mark of Drew Smyly (8-1).
"They just played better than us and they pitched better than us," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "That's why they have the record they do and they didn't make any mistakes.
"We had a runner at second two different times to try to tie up the game and we never got the hit. They got the hit, we didn't and they beat us, 3-2, in a good pitcher's duel. It's disappointing on our end because we didn't swing the bats well."
The left-handed Bradley got behind, but then got a pitch he could drive the opposite way to the gap in left field.
"He (Smyly) got off to a good start on me and got me down 0-2," Bradley said. "I was able to battle. He threw me a fastball high and away and I went with it. I tried to just see it and barrel it up and was able to hit it."
Bradley had two of the Gamecocks' six hits off of Smyley, who fanned nine and walked a pair while surrendering the six hits in his seven innings of work before giving way to DJ Baxendale for two scoreless frames.
"He's a great pitcher," Bradley said of Smyly, who threw 121 pitches. "He was battling all night. But we got his pitch count up and that was big for us. He labored a little bit."
Cooper limited the Razorbacks (38-12, 16-9) to a season-low three hits – all doubles from Zack Cox, Andy Wilkins and Collin Kuhn.
South Carolina manager Ray Tanner took him out after seven innings and 101 pitches.
He would use three more pitchers – including Michael Roth, who fanned Cox with the tying run at second in the eighth inning.
"If he would have twisted my arm, I probably would have left him," Tanner said. "But he was honest. He said, 'I've got a little bit in my tank but it's getting low.' You've got a mature guy, a veteran guy like that that's honest, we've got guys in the bullpen."
Arkansas had won nine of the last 10 against South Carolina (39-11, 18-7) and the Gamecocks had not won a Friday night game in Fayetteville in 10 years.
"I don't really know about the past, but we are trying to move on and come out here and do what we are supposed to do," Bradley said. "To get past that we have just got to keep winning."
Bradley noted that getting a Friday night win between two clubs that were being projected as national seeds in the NCAA Tournament going into this weekend.
"Really getting off on the first win on Friday is really key," Bradley said. "It gives you momentum going into the other games. We just kept fighting."
The two teams will hook up again Saturday at 2:05 p.m. in the second of a three-game set.
The Razorbacks are scheduled to start RHP Mike Bolsinger (5-2, 4.65 ERA) while the Gamecocks will hand the ball to RHP Sam Dyson (4-4, 4.30 ERA).
One Big Hit
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