Middle innings doom Gamecocks to 6-4 loss

South Carolina pitcher Sam Dyson started strong but fell victim to seven Arkansas hits over the course of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings as the Razorbacks held off a Gamecock rally for a 6-4 win in Friday night's series opener. The loss drops USC to two games below .500 in league play as they hit the midway point of the season. For more details, continue reading below.

South Carolina held Arkansas scoreless in the first three and final three innings of Friday's series opener. But it was those middle three innings that came back to bite them.

Behind a strong start from Dallas Keuchel (5-0), the Razorbakcs used seven hits and six runs over the third through fifth inning to take a 6-1 lead they would not relinquish and earn a 6-4 victory in game one of the weekend series.

All of Arkansas' runs came off USC starter Sam Dyson who dropped his second game of the season.

"As expected, Dallas Keuchel game Arkansas a great start and Dyson gave us a great start but the difference was in the middle innings they got to Dyson a little bit," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "I don't think it's any big secret. He was really good early, you saw him. He was making some pitches and then in the middle innings he didn't make some pitches. He left some balls up and they hit them. That's what great teams will do."

The Gamecocks (19-9, 4-6 SEC) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a DeAngelo Mack RBI single. Dyson (4-2) cruised through the first 10 batters retiring them in order while amassing five strikeouts.

But Arkansas began its run in the fourth as Scott Lyons tied the game on a solo home run. A single and walk later allowed designated hitter Jacob House to give the Hogs (21-5, 9-1 SEC) a 2-1 lead with an RBI single.

A leadoff hit-by-pitch and sac bunt put Ryan Cisterna at second with the top of the order coming to the plate in the fifth. Chase Leavitt gave Arkansas another run on an RBI single to make it 3-1.

"I don't know what happened. It was embarrassing and a disappointment," Dyson said. "I think everybody expects more out of me, especially as a Friday night guy and that's not how I've been pitching lately."

The big blow came in the sixth as Arkansas placed two runners on with a single and double. That's when third baseman Zack Cox stepped in and took a Dyson offering over the right field bullpen to give the Hogs plenty of breathing room at 6-1.

After a strong opening to the game, Dyson said a change in approach resulted in the Razorbacks being able to post their rally.

"I used my change up pretty well in the first couple of innings then I was sort of babying it midway through, at least their second time around. I elevated a couple of fastballs and they took advantage of it," Dyson said. "The second home run we threw back-to-back changeups. They were just bad pitches in general and the kid made a good swing on a ball that was over the plate and hit it about 5,000 feet."

The Gamecocks tried to answer with a bases loaded RBI single in the sixth to make it 6-2. USC continued to chip away in the seventh as Whit Merrifield pushed an offering from relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger just over the wall in right to make it 6-4.

But Bolsinger would shut things down from there as he gave up just one more hit while striking out six, including all three batters in the ninth.

"It was frustrating. I thought we might have had some momentum going after I hit my ball but you know the pitcher, give him credit, he came right back on and came right back at us," Merrifield said. "We didn't capitalize on some situations we should have. It's what cost us the game. When you've got two teams going at it like that, whoever capitalizes on the most opportunities is going to win."

The loss drops the Gamecocks into unfamiliar territory under Tanner as they are now two games below .500 in SEC play for the first time since last season when they had to beat Tennessee twice to finish at even. With his team is at the midway point of the season, Tanner knows the key now is battling back.

"I would like to have two or three more wins and be realistic about it but we don't have them. We're a little bit off the pace from where I would like to be," Tanner said. "But this team has done some good things and we've battled, we hung in there tonight. We tried to get the tying run to the plate but Bolsinger made some good pitches when he needed to and we're going to have to fight our back, there's no question about it."


NOTES:

-DeAngelo Mack extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the eighth. Meanwhile, Jackie Bradley, Jr's hit streak ended at 11 games.

-Andrew Crisp's sixth inning single gives him 216 career hits which stands alone as the 14th most all-time in USC history. He was tied with Reese Havens at 215.

-The Gamecocks have now homered in 24 of 28 games this season. The home run for Merrifield was his fifth of the year.

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