FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - No. 2 South Carolina entered Saturday batting just .174 against Arkansas through two games.
On Saturday, it managed to lower that average.
The Gamecocks got just five hits in 32 at-bats (.156) against the Razorbacks in a 7-0 shutout that gave Arkansas the series win and handed South Carolina its second consecutive road series loss in the SEC.
For the second straight day South Carolina's bats went quiet as the Gamecocks (26-5, 7-5) got only two runners in scoring position all game, the second coming with two outs in the ninth. With runners on base, USC hit .063 (1-for-16). For the weekend, the Gamecocks scored three runs in three games against Arkansas (20-12, 6-6).
"We're in a funk obviously, offensively, that goes without saying," Chad Holbrook said. "It's magnified a little bit when you face arms like they have and they threw the way that they threw. We have to try and go back to the drawing board offensively and get better.
"I came into the year and the fall thinking we're going to be a darn good offensive team, and we've shown flashes of it, but against better pitching we've been overpowered, so we have to kind of go back to the drawing board and regroup."
The Gamecocks got nothing going against Arkansas starter Chris Oliver. A day after USC got just one unearned run as the Razorbacks' Jalen Beeks threw a complete game, Oliver allowed no runs at all and just four hits. He struck out a season-high 10 batters, walked two and only allowed one runner to reach second base.
"(Oliver has) an electric arm," Holbrook said. "He's a mid-90s fastball and his breaking ball was lights out, too."
Arkansas got all it needed with a five-run second inning that chased USC starter Wil Crowe (L, 6-1) from the mount in the worst start of his young career.
It began with a leadoff walk to designated Clark Eagan followed by a groundout to third from third baseman Bobby Wernes. Crowe then walked catcher Jake Wise on five pitches but struck out No. 9 hitter Michael Bernal to get two outs with runners on first and second.
Leadoff hitter Tyler Spoon then reached on a dribbling infield single to short, loading the bases, and Crowe walked right fielder Andrew Benintendi for the game's first run. No. 3 hitter Joe Serrano then delivered a 2-RBI single into right field that scored three runs when right fielder Connor Bright bobbled the ball for an error. Serrano then took second when Marcus Mooney bobbled the throw from Bright for the second error on the play and scored when the next batter, cleanup hitter Brian Anderson, doubled to the wall in right center, chasing Crowe from the game.
"Two walks, a bloop and a nubber and they're pushing three or four runs across, then they bust one when their best hitter gets in there and the game was essentially over because of who was on the mound," Holbrook said of the inning.
For a team that prides itself on its defense, committing two errors in one inning that led to another unearned run - USC allowed four unearned runs off errors on the weekend while only scoring three runs itself - was hard to swallow.
"We didn't play very good defense," said third baseman Joey Pankake, whose two errors Friday led to three Razorback runs in a 4-1 loss. "That's not who we are as a team. To win, we have to play defense behind our pitchers, and we didn't do that this weekend.
"We need to play better behind our pitchers. We need to give them better run support. Our pitchers are pitching really well."
"We have to hit better with runners in scoring position and take advantage of our opportunities."
He'll get no argument from Grayson Greiner, who didn't get a hit in the three-game series while going 0-10.
"We have to flush it," Greiner said. "We got beat by a btter team this weekend. We didn't play up to our capability offensively, defensively and our pitching. Our pitching and defense is the backbone of our team, and we didn't help our pitchers out defensively this weekend.
"We're pretty fortunate to come out of here 1-2 with the way we played."
For the weekend, Arkansas pitchers allowed just 16 hits in 27 innings, striking out 26 while walking six.
"We didn't have very good at-bats from the doubleheader yesterday through today," Greiner said. "That's a credit to their pitching. Their pitching is very good.
They've got some really good arms in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. You've got to give them credit, but we also didn't fight them enough in the box to give ourselves a chance to win. We can't expect our pitchers to be perfect."
For Holbrook, there is no silver lining to a losing series in which his team appeared to concede defeat.
"We didn't put up much of a fight, and that's tough to take," Holbrook said. "Getting beat on the road, that happens in this league, but you have to fight a little bit harder and be a little tougher than we were tonight.
"When you lose, it stings (no matter how you lose). I just wanted to see a little more fight out of my team. That's disappointing. That's not who we are, and that's not what got us to this point both this year and in years past. That can't continue."
"A lot of season to play, a lot of games to be played, a lot of challenges in front of us with similar arms. Disappointing the way we performed tonight."
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