Hogs silence Gamecock bats late in 7-4 win

South Carolina opened the rubber game of the Arkansas series with a 4-0 lead but could not hold off a Razorback rally as they fell 7-4. The loss is the third dropped SEC series of the season for Carolina as they are just 5-7 in conference play. USC returns to the field for two midweek games against Clemson starting on Tuesday. For more details, continue reading below.

South Carolina started Sunday's series finale against Arkansas by scoring four runs in the first inning and chasing starter Drew Smyly after four batters.

But the hot start came to a screeching halt after as the Gamecocks notched only two more hits all day and didn't get another base knock after the fifth inning as the Razorbacks took the rubber game of the series 7-4.

"I knew four runs wasn't going to be enough for sure. Arkansas did a great job of battling back. They came up with a couple of big swings of the bat," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "They battled back, came up with some clutch hits and we weren't able to do anything after the first inning."

Eight batters dug in for Carolina (20-10, 5-7 SEC) in the first inning as the first four players up scored. A bases loaded balk provided the first run and was followed by a Parker Bangs double. The final run came on a DeAngelo Mack single that gave the team a 4-0 lead.

Though Gamecock starter Blake Cooper did give up hits early, the defense provided damage control as he induced ground outs and fly balls through the first three innings. However the Razorbacks (22-6, 10-2 SEC) got their rally started in the fourth inning with a leadoff home run by Jacob House which was followed two batters later by a two-run shot from Zack Cox trimming the USC lead to 4-3.

"You've got to give those guys credit, they battled," Cooper said. "Two strikes they take the two strike approach and try to put it in play and that's what was happening. The one time I fell behind in the count they hit it out of the park."

Cooper's time on the hill came to a close in the sixth as he walked the first batter of the inning and was pulled for Alex Farotto. Eventually, the tying run was charged to Cooper as Farotto gave up the lead with a two out two RBI double to Chase Leavitt for a 5-4 lead.

The Razorbacks picked up all the insurance they would need in the seventh inning as a single, walk and sacrifice bunt sequence set up Cox for two more RBI with a two out single just over Andrew Crisp's head in left field giving Arkansas a 7-4 lead. The hit was one of many balls on the day that were hit into a no-mans-land for Arkansas in clutch situations.

While the Hogs were notching timely hits, the Gamecocks couldn't find an answer for the relief pitching of Justin Wells and Mike Bolsinger. The USC bats put good swings on the pitches they saw but many ended up being caught or fielded on solid plays to go for outs. After battering Arkansas for five hits in the first three innings, the Carolina bats fell silent as the last hit of the day came on a Bangs single in the fifth inning.

"We were hitting some balls pretty good, hitting balls on the screws and they were making plays," Mack said. "They were getting bleeders here and there. It was frustrating but it's baseball. That's just how it works."

Bangs attributed the lack of offensive prowess to Wells and Bolsinger being able to keep the batters guessing at what was coming down the pipe.

"They just mixed it up, kept us off balance. We couldn't sit on one pitch," Bangs said. "It's tough when a pitcher's doing that, successfully throwing his breaking pitches for strikes, throwing his fastball where he wants to. It's tough to get comfortable in the box in that kind of situation."

Things don't get any easier for USC as they host in-state rival Clemson on Tuesday at 7 p.m. before traveling to the upstate for a game with the Tigers on Wednesday. The team then heads to Oxford to face Ole Miss over the weekend.

With a tough stretch ahead, Tanner is hopeful his team can get some momentum going in spite of what has happened lately.

"We're certainly not a great club. We've battled hard. At times I think we're going to put it together pretty good. Then you have a setback, not to take anything away from Arkansas. They're leading the league in the SEC, so not to take anything away from them," Tanner said. "We're going to have to fight our rear ends off in the second half."

NOTES:

-Andrew Crisp extended his hitting streak to eight games with his double in the third inning.

-For Blake Cooper it was the first time since facing East Carolina on Feb. 23, 2008 that he has not recorded a strikeout in a game.

-The six hits one the day are the second lowest total of the season for the Gamecocks

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