Gamecocks visit Baum-Walker for top-10 showdown with Hogs

It’s a huge weekend for the No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks at Baum-Walker Stadium as the Hogs play host to the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks in a key Southeastern Conference series.

Top-10 matchups are a big deal anytime in any sport On the Hill, but with the UA holding commencement ceremonies this weekend and thousands of extra folks in town, more than a few will make their way to the ball park in an attempt to squeeze even more out of a special weekend.

The atmosphere should be lit considering what is at stake on the field and how many extra Razorback fans who will be seeking to attend this game.

Tonight’s game is at 6:30 p.m. and will feature the annual fireworks display after the contest.

First pitch Saturday is at 6 p.m. Fans are asked to wear red for the “Red Out,” and there with be a “mystery giveaway item” for fans who get to the park early.

Sunday’s game is at 2 p.m., and in honor of Mother’s Day, kids will have the opportunity to run the bases with their mom following the game.

As always the real action is going to be on the field.

Razorback Baseball

No. 3 Arkansas (36-12, 17-7 SEC)
Opponent: No. 6 South Carolina (36-11, 14-9 SEC)
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 12
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville

Up next:

6 p.m. Saturday — South Carolina (ESPN/SEC +)
1 p.m. Sunday — South Carolina (ESPN/SEC +)

The Razorbacks (36-12, 17-7 SEC) and the Gamecocks (36-11, 14-9 SEC) seem to be going in different directions. The Hogs, who are tied with Vanderbilt at the top of the league standings and hold a half game lead on LSU, have swept their last two SEC series, while the Gamecocks have lost six of their last eight games, including their last two SEC series despite dealing with an assortment of injuries.

Both squads have their eyes set on capturing one of eight national seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament that gives a program home-field advantage up to the College World Series.

The winner of this series won’t have a guarantee for one of those eight slots, but with just one more weekend left in the regular season, the loser will have a lot of ground to make up.

Like the Razorbacks and several other SEC teams, South Carolina has struggled with injuries at the every-day positions this season, but their pitching has been an issue, too, of late.

Over the last two weekends Kentucky and Auburn stunned the Gamecocks by combining for 30 runs on 37 hits 27 innings for an ERA of 9.87. Even at a team’s offensive best, that’s hard to overcome.

South Carolina is altering its pitching rotation with Will Sanders out with an injury. Gamecocks coach Mark Kingston plans to go with Eli Jones (4-2, 3.38 ERA) tonight and Mathew Becker (4.1, 4,46 ERA) on Sunday, according to “The State” newspaper. Saturday’s starter is to be announced.

Hagen Smith (7-1, 2.5 ERA) will once again be on the mound for the Razorbacks in the opener. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said who will start on Saturday and Sunday depends which pitchers have to be used in relief tonight.

It sounds like both coaches are planning to do whatever it takes with their bullpens tonight to get that first win.

Hunter Hollan’s leg injury is also a part of the picture. If he feels good, Hollan will likely get a start this weekend. Brady Tygart could get one of the starts with Will McEntire set for long relief.

The Razorbacks will be without regular left field Jared Wenger, who has a broken thumb, once again. Second baseman Ryan Stovall will rest a sore shoulder again this week, which remains worrisome for the Hogs. However, center fielder Tavian Josenberger, who has been dealing with a hamstring issue in recent weeks, might see time this weekend.

The Gamecocks have a young but excellent right fielder in Ethan Petry, who is batting a stunning .395 with 21 homers and 48 RBI. He is a dangerous customer. Having that kind of power with that kind of eye makes him a threat any time he is at bat.

The Hogs have no one that can play home-run derby with Petry, but even without sluggers Wenger and Josenberger, the Hogs have held their own at the plate this season. First baseman Brady Slavens has been on a tear of late and Jace Bohrofen and Kendall Diggs have swung the bat well all season.

And while new faces have dotted the infield for the Razorbacks this season after great players matriculated out of the program last year and injuries have have taken performers out, Van Horn’s defense always seems to rise to the occasion.

Winning this series would be huge for the Razorbacks on all counts, but it would also keep the pressure off their backs as they travel next weekend for a showdown with the Vandy Boys in Nashville that could decide the regular-season championship.

SEC West Standings

Arkansas 17-7 36-12
LSU 16-7 38-10
Alabama 11-13 33-16
Texas A&M 11-13 29-20
Auburn 11-13 27-19
Ole Miss 6-18 25-23
Miss. St. 6-18 24-23

SEC East Standings

Vanderbilt 17-7 35-13
Florida 15-9 37-12
South Carolina 14-9 36-11
Kentucky 14-10 34-13
Tennessee 12-12 33-16
Georgia 10-14 27-21
Missouri 7-17 27-20