Todd masterful in win over Gamecocks

South Carolina had put together another comeback victory to advance into the winner's bracket of the SEC Tournament. Up against one of only two SEC teams ranked higher nationally, the Gamecocks had to face Arkansas and one of the best pitchers in the country. Texas native Jess Todd struck out 17 Gamecocks including the first nine in a row as Arkansas toppled USC 6-0.


When the opposing pitcher strikes out the side in the first inning it can be a tad intimidating. When he repeats the feat in the second, well, that's down right nasty. But when he comes out and does it again, for the third time in a row, it's a once in a lifetime thing.

When asked if he'd ever seen anything like the first nine striking out, Carolina third baseman James Darnell quickly said, "No. No. That's a first. It's something I've never seen before."

"Sitting here right now, that's the most dominating performance I've ever been on the other side of," said Gamecock Head Coach Ray Tanner.

With his fifteenth strikeout through 5.2 innings, Jess Todd tied the all-time SEC Tournament record for strikeouts in a game. Even scarier, Todd broke the All-Time SEC Tournament record for strikeouts in a game by two after only seven innings. Keeping in mind this is the South Carolina Gamecocks – one of the most feared offenses in the country, it's easy to see why this is widely considered the most dominating game ever pitched in SEC Tournament history.

One by one, the Gamecocks swung and missed all the way through the order until Travis Jones finally singled in the top of the fourth inning. By that time the Razorbacks already held a 5-0 lead.

Gamecock starter Arik Hempy was hit hard from the beginning. He hit a batter in between giving up three first inning hits, the last two of which drove in runs.

Short on comments after the game, Hempy said, "I didn't give us a chance to win."

In the third inning Arkansas came out quickly with two singles to start the inning followed by a long home run by 3B Logan Forsythe.

Though his consecutive strikeout streak came to an end, there was more to come. Inning by inning, Todd had Gamecocks swinging out of their cleats.

"You guys saw what happened," said Coach Ray Tanner, "He just completely overmatched us."

"He had a tremendous slider. He was able to locate his pitches inside and outside," said Carolina third baseman James Darnell, "We just tried to put the ball in play for a while, but you gotta' tip your cap because he made a lot of great pitches."

The first inning that Todd did not register a strikeout happened to be his last. In the eighth inning, having already thrown 107 pitches, the Gamecocks were able to actually put the bat on the ball but still went in three up, three down fashion.

"He was making us chase with two strikes. He was locating everything," said Darnell, "His fastball had movement on it too. He had everything working for him today."

Todd accomplished such a dominating performance with a nasty 87 mph slider and a sinking fastball that, according to Darnell "fell off the table."

"Today was the first game all year," said Arkansas starter Jess Todd, "where I had command of all three of my pitches."

He kept his composure throughout though, losing track of the number early in the game. "I lost count after the first three innings," said Todd, "When they announced it, I didn't know it was that many."

The Razorbacks tacked on another run in the sixth inning to end the scoring.

Todd was removed after eight because his pitch count had reached 120. Asked if the magic number 20 ever entered his thoughts, he said, "I guess when I got out of the game it entered my mind because Roger Clemens had 20, and I've always wanted to do just what he did."

The Gamecocks will have a re-match Friday against the Florida Gators, a team they beat 4-3 in twelve innings Wednesday. Coach Tanner says Mike Cisco will probably take to the mound tomorrow. The game will be at 2 p.m. EST in a loser leaves town match.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: For the Gamecocks, it had to be Travis Jones who had the only two hits against Todd. The true player of the game is obvious. Jess Todd.

PLAY OF THE GAME: A Gamecock actually wins an award... James Darnell's over the shoulder catch in foul territory was Derek Jeter-esque.

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME: It had to be when Todd completed his first run through the Gamecock lineup with nine strikeouts.

QUOTABLE:

"I have great respect for Arkansas' Coach Van Horn, and I certainly don't want to jinx him," said Tanner, "but I like their chances (throughout the post season)."

After the second inning of striking out the side:

"I looked at one of the box scores he had, and he struck out the first six," said Tanner, "I guess I remained cautiously optimistic."

"This guy overmatched us," said Coach Tanner, "That was certainly as unique a situation that I'd ever been a part of."

"It's a lot less stressful," said Arkansas catcher Brian Walker about the last two games he's caught (a near no hitter and the 17K performance), "There's a lot less runners on base."

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