March 11, 2012
by Koby Padgett
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina (18-7, 2-1 SEC) came from behind, led by two homers from senior third baseman Evan Childs, to capture an 8-7 win over Arkansas (17-6, 1-4 SEC) to take the series on Sunday afternoon in front of 514 fans at Beckham Field.
Childs posted her second two-homer day of her career, the final one a two-run shot coming in the seventh to launch the Gamecocks to the victory. Senior centerfielder Lauren Lackey started the seventh by legging out an infield single. Westfall replaced Lackey on first after the Razorbacks threw out Lackey on the sacrifice-bunt attempt. Childs stepped up and drove the first pitch of the at bat well over the centerfield wall for a two-run blast to end the contest.
"The big part of the seventh was getting Lackey on base," said Gamecock second-year head coach Beverly Smith. "And there was nothing more clutch than Evan's two-run walk-off homer. That was awesome."
Childs, Lackey and Westfall all had two hits on the day, with Childs driving in four runs, Lackey two and Westfall one. Westfall and Childs both scored twice, with Lackey crossing home once.
The Gamecocks started the second part of the comeback bid in the fifth when Childs followed Westfall's two-out hit with a homer to left, making it 7-5. Freshman Olivia Lawrence stepped up in the sixth with a huge pinch hit, scoring sophomore second baseman Dana Hathorn after she started the frame with a double. Lawrence fought back from a 0-2 count to make it even before putting a solid swing on the hit to center. That set up Childs' seventh-inning heroics.
"Olivia Lawrence's pinch-hit RBI was huge for us in the sixth," added Smith. "She came up with two outs and battled with two strikes to get the huge, clutch hit off the bench."
Arkansas took the initial 5-0 lead in the second with two down. Chloe Oprzedek hit a three-run homer, scoring Maddie Reese and Tori Mort after a hit batsman and a walk, respectively. The Razorbacks continued the attack, loading the bases on Clarisa Navarro's bunt hit, Devon Wallace's intentional walk and Amanda Geile's free pass. Sierra Bronkey took a 2-2 pitch back up the middle to score two and make it 5-0 Arkansas.
The Gamecocks chipped away in the third with well-placed hits to left. Singles by junior catcher Shelby Gonzales and senior first baseman Molly Brossart set up junior shortstop Samie Garcia's sacrifice bunt. Lackey drove in both runs, scored by senior pinch runners Jackie Slawson and Sam Arbaugh, with her double that eluded the Razorback leftfielder on her running attempt at the catch. Westfall followed with another double to left that glanced off the glove of the leftfielder when she tried to make a running over-the-shoulder catch, plating Lackey in the process to make it a 5-3 game.
The Razorbacks stretched the lead back to four in the fourth. Navarro scored from third when a wild pitch on the fourth ball to Geile gave her the chance. Bronkey drove one deep to center for a sacrifice fly, allowing pinch runner Hope McLemore to score the seventh Razorback run. Oprzedek and Bronkey both had three RBI on the day, while Navarro went 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
Redshirt junior pitcher Audrey Broyles (5-2) tossed 3.2 innings in relief without allowing a run, scattering two hits and a walk while fanning three in the win. Chelsea Cohen (10-5) took the loss for the Razorbacks, giving up eight earned runs on 11 hits and a walk. She struck out four.
"I'm proud of my team," commented Smith. "We talk about being relentless competitors all the time. You never want to give up five runs early, but our team kept putting runners on and putting pressure on Arkansas, and they never gave up. That's what we talk about a lot; if we keep the game close, we've always got a shot to win, and Evan proved that today with her big home run."
Childs tied the Gamecock single-game record for the second time in her career with a two-homer day. The second homer tied her for ninth on the Gamecocks' career list with 14. Her seventh and eight homers of the year, Childs is tied for fifth on South Carolina's single-season charts after today.
South Carolina continues its stretch of 21 games in 23 days on Tuesday, as Mississippi State comes to Columbia for a 4:30 p.m. doubleheader.
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