FAYTTEVILLE, Ar. - When you lose the battle of the free 90s, you often lose the game.
When you hit into three inning-ending double plays in addition to committing three errors that led three unearned runs, you almost always lose the game.
No. 2 South Carolina lost the battle of the free 90s - walks, errors and the like - couldn't get a timely hit to save its life and fell 2-1 to Arkansas in front of a season-high 6,326 fans at Baum Stadium to even the SEC series at a game apiece.
South Carolina fell to 26-4, 7-4. Arkansas improved to 19-12, 5-7. Game three is set for 7:35 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday).
"Defensively was very bad today," Holbrook said. "We can't catch two routine fly balls, and offensively we hit into three double plays, so that's six outs."
"Against Arkansas, you've got to try to limit their free 90s, you've got to try and win the free-90 battle, meaning errors, hit-by-pitches, walks. If you win it, you feel like you're in pretty good shape. They definitely won it tonight in Game 2.
"The way they play, you have to make thm earn everything they get because their pitching is so good. When you're down 2-0, you feel like it's five or six because they just don't give you anything on the mound."
Stymied time and again by Arkansas' Jalen Beeks, who pitched a complete-game four-hitter and didn't allow an earned run, the Gamecocks rarely threatened.
"He was a very good pitcher," said Kyle Martin, one of only four Gamecocks with a hit. "He hid the ball well, and I think the shadows helped him out a little bit, too.
"He had good stuff. It was tough to pick up most of the time and it got on you really quick."
When the Gamecocks did threaten, they hit the ball to the worst places possible.
Twice USC had a runner in scoring position with one out, beginning in the third. With one away, an error on the Arkansas first baseman fielding a throw from short allowed Brison Celek to take second. Celek then moved to third on a perfect bunt single from Tanner English. Designed as a sacrifice, English placed it beautifully down the third-base line and his head-first slid beat the throw from the third baseman to put runners at first and second with one out.
That rally was squashed by an Elliott Caldwell 5-4-3 double play, and it wouldn't be his last.
After the Gamecocks scored an unearned run in the fourth to make the score 3-1, a single from Celek to right field got him aboard with no outs. A strikeout from English followed for the first out, then Caldwell hit into his second double play to end that threat.
The final nail in the rally coffin came in the seventh. Trailing 4-1, South Carolina got a leadoff single from Kyle Martin before a strikeout from Connor Bright put an out on the board. While swinging and missing at strike two, Max Schrock's bat grazed the glove of catcher Michael Gunn. Catcher's interference was called, and Schrock took first, pushing Martin to second with one down.
Celek killed that rally with a hard grounder to the second baseman, who was able to field it easily, step on the bag himself to get Schrock and throw in plenty of time to get Celek.
"We've got to help our pitchers out more than what we're helping them," Holbrook said.
Defensively, South Carolina gave three runs away on two Joey Pankake errors. After Arkansas scored a run in the first on a single from Tyler Spoon, a sacrifice bunt and RBI single from Brian Anderson, they got two more on a two-out error from Joey Pankake.
After a leadoff walk to Krisjon Wilkerson, Clark Eagan sacrificed Wilkerson over for the first out and Wynkoop retired Jake Wise on a fly to right for the second out. A grounder from Michael Bernal to Pankake bounced off his chest and into left field, and putting Wilkerson on third and Bernal on first. Spoon then doubled the wall in right center, scoring both runs for a 3-0 lead.
In the sixth, after the Gamecocks had trimmed the lead to 3-1, Brian Anderson popped up to Pankake at third. A high shot, it took a long time in coming down, and when it did, it landed in Pankake's glove for a second before popping right back out for a two-base error. Anderson moved to third on a fly ball to center and another fly ball to center scored him for the final run of the game at 4-1.
The mistakes marred a fine effort by Jack Wynkoop (L, 5-2), who allowed just one earned run and four hits over 6.1 innings while striking out four and walking two. He was relieved by Taylor Widener in the seventh, and Widener thre the final 1.2 innings without allowing a hit or a run.
"Jack threw well," Holbrook said. "One earned run, that's not too bad. And Taylor, I liked the way he came in and threw the ball.
"It was disappointing the way we played in game two," Holbrook said. "We didn't deserve to win game two by any shape or form by the way we played."
"But you consider yourself fortunate that we got a game. Now tomorrow's a rubber game and they have another good arm going and we have a pretty good arm (in Wil Crowe). We'll see what we're made of."
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