Sophomore righthander Colby Holmes came within one pitch of a complete-game shutout, and South Carolina clinched the series victory over Arkansas with a 7-1 win Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
Holmes (5-2) pitched 8.2 innings – the longest outing by a South Carolina pitcher this season – giving up just one run on six hits while tying a career-high with seven strikeouts and walking just one Razorback hitter. A solo home run by Arkansas (33-17, 13-14 SEC) with two strikes and two outs in the ninth broke up what would have been South Carolina’s first complete-game shutout of the season, giving way to Tyler Webb and John Taylor to close out the victory.
Steven Neff was once again the offensive star for the Gamecocks (41-11, 20-7 SEC) as he went 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs and three RBI. The Gamecock lefthander, who had a total of five career hits coming into the weekend, finished the series 6-for-8 with three home runs, a double and five RBI. Robert Beary was also 3-for-4, scoring and driving in one run apiece. Peter Mooney and Scott Wingo both finished the day 2-for-3.
The Gamecocks finished their home SEC schedule with a 12-3 mark and remain in position for the regular-season SEC championship, pending the outcome of other games around the league today and next weekend.
South Carolina broke ahead 1-0 in the top of the first inning. Carolina loaded the bases with no outs as Mooney singled, Wingo was hit by a pitch and Christian Walker walked. Mooney would score on a 6-3 double play off the bat of Brady Thomas.
Carolina increased the lead to 2-0 in the top of the second inning. The Gamecocks again loaded the bases with no outs as Evan Marzilli walked followed by base hits from Beary and Neff. Marzilli scored on Peter Mooney’s RBI sacrifice fly to right field.
After Beary singled to lead off the fourth, Neff delivered his second home run of the weekend into the right-field bullpen to increase the Carolina lead to 4-0. It would then move to 5-0 after Jake Williams was hit by a pitch with one out, moved to second on a groundout to short by Adrian Morales, then scored two batters later as Beary delivered his third hit of the game to further pad the Gamecock lead.
A leadoff double by Mooney in the sixth led to another Gamecock run. Wingo reached on a bunt single, and the throw from the Arkansas third baseman hit Wingo in the back, ricocheting away from the first baseman and allowing Mooney to score from third to make it 6-0. Two innings later, Neff would deliver another decisive blow with his second homer of the game into the right-field bullpen to make it 7-0.
All the while, Holmes was cruising, allowing just one baserunner to make it past second base through eight innings while scattering five hits. Despite having thrown more than 115 pitches, he came out for the ninth inning to try and nail down South Carolina’s first complete game of the season. He did succeed in delivering the longest outing by a Gamecock pitcher this year at 8.2 innings after retiring the first two Razorback hitters, but a solo home run to right field by Arkansas’ Matt Vinson on a 1-2 pitch ended the shutout and Holmes’ day as he left to a rousing ovation from the 8,142 in attendance at Carolina Stadium. Webb and Taylor then faced the Razorbacks’ final three batters to preserve the victory for Holmes.
Razorback starter Cade Lynch (4-3) took the loss after giving up two earned runs on three hits while walking three and striking out one in an inning-plus. Arkansas used five pitchers in the contest.
Six South Carolina seniors were honored on the field prior to today’s game – Robert Beary, Jose Mata, Adrian Morales, John Taylor, Brady Thomas and Scott Wingo all received framed jerseys in a pregame ceremony.
The Gamecocks will close out the 2011 home schedule on Tuesday with a visit from UNC Asheville. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. with the game to be televised by SportSouth.