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March 25, 2013

USC-Arkansas Diamond Extra: New ground broached

It didn't take Chad Holbrook long to do something Ray Tanner never did - only unlike the no-hitter earlier this year, the accomplishment isn't one that Holbrook will want to include on his resume.

In his 16-year career at USC, Tanner was never swept at home in a three-game, nine-inning weekend series. The last home sweep of any kind was 1999 by Kentucky, but the final two games of that series were of the seven-inning variety. The last home weekend sweep with three complete games played came in 1996 vs. Florida in June Raines' last year.

With Sunday's 5-3 loss to No. 21 Arkansas that completed the Razorbacks' three-game sweep of No. 5 South Carolina, Holbrook watched the first home sweep allowed by USC in Carolina Stadium history.

The home sweep was just the fifth by a visiting team since USC joined the SEC in 1992. The other two sweeps were by by LSU in 1992 and Tennessee in 1994.

FRESHMEN MAKE SEC DEBUTS: Although he didn't get a decision, freshman starting pitcher Jack Wynkoop drew praise from Holbrook after the game on Sunday.

"I thought Wynkoop today, for a freshman making his first SEC start, kept us in the game," Holbrook said. "We had four-and-two-thirds innings, and that's what we wanted out of him, four or five innings."

In those 4 2-3 innings, Wynkoop allowed seven hits and three runs, all earned, while striking out four and walking two.

He was replaced after getting into trouble in the fifth by another freshman making his SEC debut, Curt Britt. Entering the game with runners on second and third and trailing 3-1, Britt struck out Arkansas second baseman Dominic Fiociello to end the threat and finished with 1 2-3 innings and allowed one hit, a walk and struck out two with no runs.

"Curt came in and got his first taste of (SEC play) and threw the ball well as well," Holbrook said.

ARM STRENGTH: Arkansas came into the series ranked No. 3 nationally and first in the SEC in ERA at 1.81. Against the Gamecocks, that number dropped even lower as the Razorbacks allowed one earned run Sunday in 11 innings, none on Saturday and three on Friday for a total of four in 29 innings and a 1.24 ERA.

"It's no easy task to hit a baseball, especially against the quality arms we faced this weekend," Holbrook said. "They have a terrific pitching staff. Their bullpen guys, starters, there's no weak link in there.

"The guy they put in there to mop up on Friday, he had a terrific arm, too. They're as advertised, they're as good and as deep as any pitching staff in the country and they can do it a number of ways. They can finesse you, like (Randall) Fant did today, and they can throw power arms at you. It's tough facing those guys."

WEBB STRETCHED: Not needed in a blowout loss on Friday or a close game Saturday in which starter Nolan Belcher and reliever Adam Westmoreland combined to go the distance, Holbrook knew he had closer Tyler Webb for extended innings of relief if called upon.

Just how many extended innings that turned out to be, however, he had no idea. Brought with one out in the seventh to close the door on an Arkansas threat, he did that and wound up throwing 100 pitches before eventually taking the loss in the 11th.

In his longest outing of the season, Webb finished the game with 4 2-3 innings pitched and allowed four hits, two runs - both earned - struck out six and walked three.

"There in the later innings I felt good, they just strung a couple of hits together," Webb said. "I didn't get ahead as well as I did in earlier innings, but that wasn't a fatigue factor, that was just an execution factor."

Holbrook said he was more than impressed with Webb's work.

"Tyler was terrific again," Holbrook said. "I know the stat line doesn't look that good, but he gave us a shot to win. Our hitters didn't do enough for him. We had a few chances to win it there with runners in scoring position and we couldn't get the big hit."

Arkansas 5, USC 3 (11)
LSU 8, Auburn 2
Vanderbilt 5, Florida 4
Texas A&M 2, Ole Miss 1
Texas A&M 10, Ole Miss 6
Alabama 3, Georgia 0

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