May 14, 2010
Fayetteville, Ark. - Jackie Bradley Jr.'s one-out double in the top of the seventh inning broke a 2-2 tie and Gamecock starting pitcher Blake Cooper allowed just two runs on three hits in seven innings of work to improve to 10-0 on the year as South Carolina defeated Arkansas 3-2 in the first game of a three-game SEC baseball series on Friday night. The Gamecocks are 39-11 and 18-7 in the SEC while the loss drops Arkansas to 38-12 and 16-9 in conference play. The two teams will meet in game two of the series scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET on Saturday and can be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network and at GamecocksOnline.com.
The pitching match-up between Cooper and Arkansas starter Drew Smyly lived up to the billing as both guys battled and matched each other inning after inning and limited the teams to base runners through the first two-thirds of the game. With the score deadlocked at 2-2 in the seventh, Carolina made its move as Whit Merrifield reached base with one out on a bunt single. That set the table for Bradley, who stroked a 1-2 pitch from Smyly to the gap in left center that scored Merrifield and put the Gamecocks in front.
The last three innings would not be without drama though as Arkansas looked to rally in the bottom of the eighth. Collin Kuhn drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second base. With one out and Kuhn in scoring position, Carolina head coach Ray Tanner went to bullpen for lefty Michael Roth against Arkansas three-hole hitter Zack Cox. In the spot, Roth delivered as he struck out Cox swinging on three pitches for the second out of the inning. The Gamecocks went to the pen one more time for freshman right-hander Matt Price, who after walking Brett Eibner to put a second runner on base, got Carolina out of the inning with a 1-3 ground out against Andy Wilkins to keep Carolina ahead by a run. Price kept the momentum going in the bottom of the ninth retiring all three batters he faced with a pair of strikeouts and a ground out against James McCann to end the game and preserve Carolina's victory.
Cooper struck out seven and walked two in his seven innings of work. He is now 10-0 on the year and leads the SEC in victories. Smyly went seven innings as well and allowed three runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and two walks to suffer his first loss of the season. He is now 8-1 for the year. Price's 1.1 scoreless innings of relief for Carolina earned him his sixth save of the year.
"It was a great college baseball game," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "It really was anybody's game there and we were fortunate to win. (Cooper) was able to make some pitches. He got in some situations where they had a couple of runners at third with two outs and he had to continue to make good pitches. He made a lot of great pitches tonight, he had to."
Carolina finished with a 6-3 advantage in hits with Merrifield finishing 2-for-5 with two runs scored and Bradley also 2-for-4 on the night. Kuhn went 1-for-2 with run and also walked twice to lead Arkansas at the plate.
Both teams traded runs in the first inning. South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the top half as Merrifield opened the game with a single followed by a base hit by Jackie Bradley Jr. and a walk to Christian Walker. With one out, Adrian Morales drove a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Merrifield. Arkansas answered in the bottom half of the first. Collin Kuhn drew a leadoff walk and with one out scored on Zack Cox's double down the right field line.
South Carolina again traded runs in the sixth inning to bring the score to 2-2. Each team would also hit a batter to set up the runs scored. Smyly let one slip to open the sixth inning to put Nick Ebert on base. With two outs and pinch runner Evan Marzilli on second, Kyle Enders drove a RBI single to right field scoring Marzilli. With Arkansas at the plate, Brett Eibner was hit by a pitch with two outs and Andy Wilkins drilled a double to right field scoring Eibner all the way from first base and tying the game.
Blake Cooper's 10th win gives him 31 now for his career at Carolina and ties him for sixth on the South Carolina career victories list with David Marchbanks (2001-03), Matt Threehouse (1989-93) and Dennis Lubert (1979-82).
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