Thursday or Friday, it doesn’t matter — SEC series openers and South Carolina baseball just don’t go together.
For the fourth consecutive week and sixth time in seven series, the No. 11 Gamecocks started a weekend set with a loss, falling 6-1 to No. 1 Arkansas at Founders Park.
USC starter Thomas Farr, still seeking his first win since March 5, did post one of his strongest outings of the season, going a season-high seven innings and giving up just five hits and three earned runs for a quality start.
But yet again, the Gamecocks were done in by a lack of run support for their ace, posting just two hits on the night and going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Things looked promising early — Farr motored through a quick first inning, and Carolina loaded the bases in the bottom half of the frame with a pair of walks sandwiched around a single from junior first baseman David Mendham. With capacity at Founders Park recently expanded due to loosened COVID-19 restrictions, a crowd of 3,350 and the Gamecock dugout were energized and primed to go wild.
A groundout ended the threat, though, and Arkansas first baseman Robert Moore pounced on Farr in the second, homering to right to put the Razorbacks up early.
South Carolina managed to tie the game in the fourth, as senior outfielder Andrew Eyster led off with a walk and sophomore catcher Colin Burgess drove him in with a double down the line that just evaded the first baseman’s glove. But that marked the last hit of the game for USC.
The Gamecocks did get one more good opportunity; In the bottom of the sixth, Mendham walked and Eyster was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no out, giving the crowd and USC dugout another jolt of excitement. As quickly as it came, though, it faded as junior outfielder Josiah Sightler popped out trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt and Burgess grounded into a double play.
The Gamecocks’ inability to push a run across immediately came back to haunt them — in the bottom of the seventh, Christian Franklin led off with a single, and Moore then crushed an 0-2 fastball to right for his second home run of the game.
The damage continued when Farr, fielding a throw on a soft ground ball to first base, was ruled to have not touched the base with his foot, allowing the runner to reach. The play was reviewed but stood as called, and the runner, Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz, advanced to second on a wild pitch and third when third baseman Jeff Heinrich snagged a line drive and threw the ball into right field trying to double him up. He then scored when the Razorbacks executed a perfect squeeze bunt down the third base line.
Arkansas pushed across two more runs against the USC bullpen, one each in the eighth and ninth.
With inclement weather expected for Saturday, the two teams are set to meet for a doubleheader to complete the series Friday. The first game will start at 2 p.m., with the second at 7 p.m.
NEXT USC BASEBALL GAME
Who: No. 11 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Arkansas
When: 2 p.m. Friday
Where: Founders Park
Watch: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus