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South Carolina Gamecocks are another top-10 road matchup for Arkansas Razorbacks baseball in 2021

South Carolina Gamecocks are another top-10 road matchup for Arkansas Razorbacks baseball in 2021

HawgBeat’s coverage of the Diamond Hogs’ Road to Omaha is brought to you by CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers, which has locations in Fayetteville and Russellville.

Arkansas hits the road for a three-game showdown with South Carolina this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know about the series…

Schedule (TV)

Thursday, April 22 – 6 p.m. CT (SEC Network)

Friday, April 23 – 6 p.m. CT (SECN+)

Saturday, April 24 – 2 p.m. CT (SECN+)

The first game of the series will be nationally televised on the SEC Network, while the next two games will be available via SEC Network-Plus, meaning they can be watched online on ESPN3.com or the ESPN app with a cable provider’s log-in credentials.

Weather Report

There is a very good chance Arkansas plays a doubleheader for the third straight weekend, as The Weather Channel gives a 97 percent chance of rain in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday. It’s expected to start early that morning and continue throughout the day, with thunderstorms likely in the evening.

Because the series begins Thursday, the two teams can’t play Sunday. That means they’ll probably need to play a doubleheader Friday to get the games in.

“The weather’s pretty crazy down there,” head coach Dave Van Horn said Wednesday. “There is a definite possibility for a second game on Friday. We won’t know that until (Thursday), but we’ve been in contact with them and that could happen.”

The weather looks much nicer the first two days. It will be sunny with temperatures in the 60s for Game 1, while Friday will be partly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees – perfect conditions for a doubleheader, if needed.

Arkansas’ Starting Rotation (2021 stats)

Thursday – R-Jr. RHP Caleb Bolden (10 games/5 starts, 2-0, 4.63 ERA, 26 K/12 BB, 23 1/3 IP)

Friday – So. RHP Peyton Pallette (10 games/7 starts, 1-2, 4.06 ERA, 51 K/13 BB, 37 2/3 IP)

Saturday – TBA

With last weekend’s series against Texas A&M starting with a doubleheader on Saturday and this weekend’s series opening up on a Thursday, Van Horn was forced to tweak his starting rotation.

Bolden is making his first SEC start of the season and Pallette remains as the Game 2 starter. There a few options for the third game, including left-hander Patrick Wicklander and right-hander Zebulon Vermillion, but it won’t be the guy who has started that game all season – left-hander Lael Lockhart.

For a complete breakdown of the Razorbacks’ rotation, including Van Horn’s explanation and thought process for handling the weird weekend, click here.

In the Polls

For the second straight week, Arkansas is the unanimous No. 1 team in college baseball. As the top-ranked team in all six major polls, it is also No. 1 in the Rivals Composite Poll.

Yet another top-10 showdown on the road awaits the Razorbacks, as South Carolina checks in at No. 10 in this week’s Composite Poll. The Gamecocks are ranked anywhere from No. 7 (Collegiate Baseball) to No. 13 (NCBWA) in the individual polls.

Scouting the Opponent

Record: 24-10 (10-5 SEC)

Head coach: Mark Kingston (4th season)

Series history: Razorbacks lead 42-34

South Carolina’s starting rotation (2021 stats)

Thursday – R-Jr. RHP Thomas Farr (9 games/9 starts, 2-3, 3.28 ERA, 64 K/24 BB, 49 1/3 IP)

Friday – Sr. RHP Brannon Jordan (9 games/9 starts, 4-2, 3.15 ERA, 72 K/29 BB, 45 2/3 IP)

Saturday – Fr. RHP Will Sanders (15 games/7 starts, 6-1, 2.11 ERA, 40 K/6 BB, 38 1/3 IP)

South Carolina’s top hitters (2021 stats)

~DH Wes Clarke: .280/.442/.686, 15 HR, 35 RBI

~CF Brady Allen: .309/.402/.603, 9 HR, 30 RBI

~LF Josiah Sightler: .304/.397/.491, 5 HR, 21 RBI

Notes and Tidbits

~Much like Arkansas, South Carolina is a power-hitting team. It has 52 home runs this season, which ranks seventh nationally, and is slugging .471 as a team (27th).

~A good chunk of those long balls belong to designated hitter Wes Clarke, who is tied with Texas Tech’s Jace Jung and Florida State’s Matheu Nelson for the national lead at 15. However, only three of those have come in SEC play, which isn’t even among the top 22 totals in the conference. His production has dipped in conference, as he’s hitting just .200, which is significantly lower than his non-conference batting average (.338).

~One reason for the Gamecocks’ excellent 10-5 conference record has been the performance of Game 3 starter Will Sanders. The freshman right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA while averaging 5.5 innings in his four SEC starts this season. Not surprisingly, South Carolina is 5-0 in the third game of its conference series so far in 2020.

~On the flip side, the Gamecocks’ offense typically struggles in Game 1. Perhaps that’s to be expected because of the aces across the SEC, but they have scored three or fewer runs in five of their last six series openers, which encompasses SEC play and a series at Texas. In those five games, they hit just .132 as a team. (The lone exception was against Florida, when it pounded out 20 hits in a 14-inning 9-8 win.)

~South Carolina is increasing the number of fans allowed at Founders Park this weekend, upping it from 1,938 to 3,350. That is about 50 percent of its max capacity.

Quotable

Van Horn, on his assessment of South Carolina:

“They’re a powerful team. They can hit some home runs. They can score quick on you. They’ve got a power arm going at us (Thursday). Probably going to be anywhere from 93 to 96 (mph) most of the time. Pretty much the same type guys the next two days, right-handers that throw hard with a pretty secondary pitch. They’re good at home. They’ve played really well at home. They beat you in their own ballpark. So we’re going to have to play well. Defensively, they’re solid. They’re 10-5 in league play after the first half and they’ve played some tough teams. It’s not like you can say they’ve been playing teams that haven’t done well. They’ve played good teams that have winning records.”

Van Horn, on South Carolina increasing capacity at its ballpark for this weekend:

“Well, I know they’re not going to have more fans than Mississippi State or Ole Miss had, so it’ll be business as usual for us.”

HR Tracker

Arkansas hit another seven home runs against Texas A&M last weekend, giving it 70 for the season. That ranks first in Division I – eight ahead of Old Dominion – and is well ahead of its pace when it hit a school-record 98 home runs in 2018.

That season, the Razorbacks had only 57 long balls through their first 36 games and they didn’t hit No. 70 until their 46th game.

About the author

Erin Clark

Erin is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters her skills for the sports and health section of Report Door.