Kingston’s fire helps South Carolina force series-deciding Saturday night finale with Arkansas

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-04-20 15:54 PM


South Carolina head baseball coach Mark Kingston didn’t see the end of Arkansas’ 2-1 win on Friday night, but that was by design.

Kingston didn’t like the game home plate umpire Mark Winters was having behind the plate, culminating in a ruling that Razorback Peyton Holt had been hit by a pitch in the eighth.

“I thought it was the right time to fight for our team based on what I was seeing,” Kingston said. “That’s what I did, and he has the right to eject me.”

That fight was rewarded on Saturday when No. 20 South Carolina (27-12, 9-8) responded with a 6-3 win over No. 2 Arkansas (33-6, 13-4) in the opener of a doubleheader.

The two teams are slated to play a series-deciding nightcap around 4:15 p.m, with Brady Tygart (3-1, 2.59 ERA) starting on the mound for Arkansas, a squad who has left 27 runners on base in the first two games this weekend.

The Razorbacks will enter the game with a one-game lead in the SEC Western Division race over Texas A&M (35-5, 13-5), who lost to Alabama 10-9 on Saturday after sweeping a doubleheader in Tuscaloosa on Friday.

Eastern Division leader and No. 3 Kentucky (32-6, 15-2) has the overall SEC lead after taking two of three from visiting No. 4 Tennessee (32-7, 11-6) this weekend.

The Gamecocks used a four-run sixth inning, caped by Parker Noland’s two run single, to extend a 2-1 lead to 6-1 on Saturday.

That inning saw seven consecutive runners reach base via six singles and an intentional walk against against Parker Coil and Koty Frank.

Arkansas cut it to 6-3 on Kendall Diggs’ RBI ground out in the seventh against Matthew Becker (5-2) and Peyton Stovall’s ninth inning homer, his seventh blast of the season.

Stovall, who was 3 of 5 and is now hitting .348, was one of four Razorbacks that had hits in the ninth against South Carolina closer Garrett Gainey as the Razorbacks loaded the bases with one out.

That brought Peyton Holt to the plate as the go-ahead run, but Connor McGreery got Holt on a fielder’s choice and fanned Jayson Jones to end the game and get his first save of the season.

Arkansas starting pitcher Mason Molina (3-1) was wild from the start, tossing a ball to the back stop while throwing to his first batter and ending up walking seven while allowing two runs on two hits and fanning three.

Molina tossed 70 pitches, only 30 of which were strikes, while going 3 1/2 innings in a contest where South Carolina starter Eli Jones went four innings, allowing one run on seven hits, walking one and striking out a batter.

It was quite the difference from Friday night when Arkansas ace Hagen Smith (8-2), Gabe Gaeckle and Stone Hewlett – who picked up his fourth save – limited South Carolina to one run on four hits.

Smith fanned 11 while allowing one run on two his in his 10th quality start of the season.

“That’s why he’s gonna be the first pitcher off the board for the Major League draft,” Kingston said. “He’s done that to everyone this year. We were no different.”

South Carolina also got a great combined effort on the mound from stater Roman Kimbrell, Ty Good (4-1) and three other relievers as the Razorbacks were held to four hits and stranded 14 baserunners.

Kimball had to leave the game in the third.

“Something just went wrong with his thumb where it went numb and he couldn’t hold onto the ball,” Kingston said. “That’s why we took him out of there.”

Photo courtesy of Razorbacks Communications

(Last updated: 2024-04-20 15:54 PM)