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March 24, 2013
For South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook, analyzing what went wrong in Sunday's 5-3, 11-inning loss to No. 21 Arkansas was simple.
Teams that get timely hits win. Teams that don't, lose. In a weekend in which No. 5 USC was out-hit 35-15 and managed just eight runs to Arkansas' 24, there was little Holbrook could do but congratulate the better team, one that found multiple ways to win and out-played the Gamecocks in nearly every facet of the game to earn a rare series sweep in Columbia.
"It was a frustrating weekend for us, and congratulations to Arkansas," said Holbrook, whose team fell to 18-6, 2-4 SEC. "They come in to Carolina Stadium to sweep us; that's no easy task.
"They have got a great team and they played terrifically all weekend long."
After swapping runs and tied at 3 after nine innings, Arkansas finally got the last big hit it needed in the 11th. Tyler Webb, entering his fifth inning, allowed a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Jacob Morris but followed with a strikeout of Jacob Mahan. A single from Tyler Spoon advanced Morris to third, but then a great defensive play by LB Dantzler on a squeeze bunt got Morris at the plate for the second out, and it appeared that Webb would wriggle out of the jam.
A bounder to deep short that could have ended the inning was fielded by Joey Pankake, but Chase Vergason wasn't quite ready for the throw at third and the runner was safe. That defensive lapse was costly, as the next batter, Matt Vinson, lifted a single to left just inches over Pankake's glove to score the winning runs.
On Sunday, four of Arkansas' five runs - including the game-winner - came with two outs, while after tying the game at 3 in the seventh, USC had two more chances in regulation with runners in scoring position and both times wasted a leadoff single and sacrifice.
Only one batter had more than one hit - Pankake, who went 2-for-6 - and the Gamecocks are now hitting a miserable .172 in SEC play.
"I think we have a good group of guys, good hitters, but you wouldn't know that by looking at our stats in SEC play, for sure," Holbrook said "That's not good enough. We have to make a few adjustments and our mindset and mentality a little bit and see if we can get some positive momentum going.
"We're not doing enough offensively. Our pitchers are keeping us in games. We had a chance to win today and offensively, we just couldn't get it done.
"We thought we'd be a little bit better offensively at this point than what we've showed through six games in SEC play. We'll get better. We will. It's a long season ahead of us and we've been down this road before."
The Gamecocks started quickly on Sunday, pushing a run across in the first to take the lead when Vergason was hit by a pitch, then moved to second on a balk. After a Pankake grounder to second, Dantzler hit a looping single into short right field over the head of the second baseman for an RBI.
But Arkansas, as it has done all weekend, pushed right back. The Razorbacks scored a run in the second on a leadoff walk, followed by a double and an RBI grounder to Pankake to even the score at 1, then went ahead 3-1 two innings later when a leadoff single, sacrifice and RBI single scored one run, and three straight two-out singles followed to score another.
USC fought back to tie the game in the seventh, catching a break on a walk to Grayson Greiner and an error by Arkansas shortstop Brian Anderson to put runners at first and second with one away. Designated hitter Erik Payne, 0-for-2 to that point, then lined a curving single into right field, scoring Greiner. Sean Sullivan, in as a replacement in left for Shon Carson, who had misplayed two balls in the field and struck out twice, drew a walk to load the bases, and another walk to Tanner English brought in the tying run before Vergason flew out to end the inning.
In the end, all that was left was to face the reality of a second straight poor SEC start.
"It's no fun sitting up here 2 and 4, just like it was no fun sitting up there 1 and 5 last year," Holbrook said. "Digging yourself out a hole in this league is not easy. I felt fortunate we were able to do it last year. We have our work cut out for us. We need to try to win Tuesday at the College of Charleston, then we have a good Texas A&M team coming in here Thursday.
"Our guys are hurting. They care. But I think you'll see our team bounce back."
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