Tough to call Hogs-Gamecocks tilt
Stats say game will be pitchers' duel; history says different
OMAHA, Neb. -- Are you ready for a pitcher’s duel on Monday night when Southeastern Conference foes Arkansas and South Carolina clash in a College World Series winner’s bracket game?
The Razorbacks and Gamecocks boast two of the nation’s top pitching staffs with 2.87 and 3.06 ERAs, respectively, so it sure seems like the spotlight will shine on the mound in the battle between these league foes.
South Carolina and Arkansas have given up just 7.32 and 7.6 hits per nine innings, respectively, this season, which ranks third and fifth in Division I. Both pitching staffs are also striking out an average of eight batters per game, among the nation’s best.
Neither squad is known for its offensive prowess, both with batting averages hanging right above .270, so predicting a 3-2 final score would not be that off-base. Drawing it up that way would make perfect sense, but this is baseball – a game that breaks the law of averages every day.
The perfect example was the regular season SEC series between these two teams in early May. The three-game series in Fayetteville defied all of the season’s trends and was chock full of hits and runs as the Gamecocks took two of three contests.
Arkansas’ offense performed well above its season average against the Gamecocks, collecting 39 hits and posting a .379 batting average in the series led by Matt Reynolds who went 7-for-13 with three RBI. The Razorbacks drew 10 walks and struck out just seven times in three games against South Carolina pitchers.
“I remember them putting up a lot of hits against us on that weekend,” South Carolina sophomore DH Eric Payne said. “And I know they're really good. They're a top SEC team. And you just gotta go out there and battle.”
South Carolina also put together some nice offensive numbers in the series, batting .302 with 24 runs, slightly above the Gamecocks’ season averages, along with three home runs.
“You wouldn’t think that we’ll see many runs [on Monday night],” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “I didn’t think we’d see that many runs when we went to Fayetteville, but sometimes what you think in baseball goes the other way. You would think, though, in this part of the season it will be a low-scoring game.”
Arkansas sophomore Ryne Stanek will take the mound on Monday, and even though South Carolina chased him out his start after five innings on May 4, he is ready for redemption. Stanek gave up five runs on six hits and struck out five batters in that no-decision.
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“We’re right there with them, we’re a good team, too,” Stanek said. “I’ve got to go out there and keep it close and just get the win.”
“[Stanek’s] dynamite … we were able to scrap against him in Fayetteville,” Tanner said. “But that's the first thing you gotta figure out -- how do you run scores against a big guy like that, pitching really well.”
Stanek (7-4, 2.91 ERA) has been solid in the NCAA postseason, tossing seven scoreless innings against Rice in regional action, and then keeping it close against Baylor in a no-decision that the Razorbacks eventually won, 5-4.
South Carolina junior right-hander Colby Holmes (7-1, 2.80 ERA) did not face Arkansas in the regular season, but has been outstanding in the NCAA postseason. In two starts, he has given up just two hits and struck out 12 batters in 13.0 innings of work.
“We haven’t faced him, but we know it is going to be a battle,” Reynolds said. “It’s the biggest game of the season on Monday.”
Arkansas leads the series 31-26 in 57 meetings, including a 1-0 record in NCAA tournament games against the Gamecocks.
|**Does not include all players|
|**Does not include all players|