Photographs by Andy Shupe
Arkansas second baseman Carson Shaddy follows through with a solo home run Saturday, April 14, 2018, during the second inning against South Carolina at Baum Stadium.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE -- Good things happened in twos for the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday at Baum Stadium.
The No. 3 Razorbacks swept a doubleheader from South Carolina, winning 2-0 and 3-0 in seven-inning games before an announced crowd of 5,868.
Sophomore closer Matt Cronin got two saves for the Razorbacks (27-10, 10-5 SEC) and second baseman Carson Shaddy hit two home runs -- one in each game.
It was the first time the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville had shutouts in a conference doubleheader in 34 years, since beating Texas A&M 1-0 and 4-0 at George Cole Field on April 7, 1984, when both teams were in the Southwest Conference.
Oh, and Kacey Murphy was three outs away from becoming the first Razorback to throw a perfect game in the opener.
"As far as the whole day, what can you say?" Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "The pitching just held them down and gave us an opportunity to win a couple of games."
Murphy, a junior left-hander from Rogers Heritage, retired the first 18 batters before South Carolina second baseman Justin Row lined a single to left field on a 2-2 pitch leading off the seventh inning to break up the perfect game.
"He hit a mistake," Murphy said. "I tried to bust him on a backdoor breaking ball, and I left it over the middle."
It was Murphy's 70th pitch, but Van Horn decided to go to Cronin with the Razorbacks leading 2-0 and Carlos Cortes -- who hit a two-run home run in the Gamecocks' 3-2 victory in the series opener Thursday night -- at the plate representing the tying run.
"Of course I'm going to be upset," Murphy said of being taken out of the game. "I'm just competitive. But I knew what [Van Horn] was doing. It's his call, and I trust Cronin with everything I've got.
"He's the best closer in the nation, to me. They had gone twice through the order and seen everything I've got."
Cronin retired all three batters he faced -- getting Cortes on a flyout to center fielder Dominic Fletcher, striking out Madison Stokes looking and getting cleanup hitter Jonah Bride on a flyout to left fielder Heston Kjerstad.
Murphy (5-2) was attempting to become the first Razorback to pitch an individual no-hitter since Scott Roehl in a 2-0 victory over Kansas State on March 20, 2001.
"Disappointed a little bit," Murphy said. "But at the end of the day, we won. That's all I really care about. It's a big win. We had to have it. I'll get over it."
Van Horn praised Murphy's approach on a day the wind was blowing out, especially to left field.
"When the wind's blowing out like that, as a pitcher you just have to be fearless," Van Horn said. "I thought that's what he was.
"He just said, 'Hey, I'm going to do what I do and if you hit it and it blows out, you do it.' "
Nobody did, but Van Horn didn't hesitate to go to Cronin, who has 9 saves, a 2.05 ERA and is holding opponents to a .129 batting average with 32 strikeouts in 30⅔ innings.
"[Murphy] hadn't thrown a lot of pitches," Van Horn said. "But our thing was once they got a runner on, we were going to bring in Cronin because that's the way we've been doing it and it's worked."
Murphy kept the Gamecocks off balance with a variety of pitches.
"I had really good command of my slider on the outer edge," he said. "I stuck with that a lot.
"My changeup felt really good. It had some dive to it, so I liked that pitch for a groundball when I was ahead in the count. I was trying to live at the knees with the fastball."
Key defensive plays behind Murphy included Kjerstad running down a line drive to left field in the second inning, shortstop Jax Biggers making a stop deep in the hole and throwing out Jacob Olson in the third, and third baseman Casey Martin charging a grounder by Bride and throwing him out leading off the fifth.
"Our defense really helped," Murphy said.
Shaddy hit a home run in the second inning off South Carolina starter Adam Hill (3-4) to give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead.
Shaddy led off the sixth by being hit by a pitch, went to third on a single by Fletcher and scored on a wild pitch by John Gilreath.
In the second game, Shaddy hit a two-run home run off South Carolina closer Eddy Demurias in the sixth inning to give Arkansas a 3-0 lead.
Shaddy, a fifth-year senior from Fayetteville, leads the Razorbacks with nine home runs. He had three of their five RBI Saturday.
"He's playing like a fifth-year senior," South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston said of Shaddy. "Guys that are in college that long should be productive players, and that's what he is."
Van Horn moved Shaddy to fifth in the batting order for both games Saturday after having him bat ninth most of the season.
"The best part about it was that it fell straight into my approach for today," Shaddy said. "The pitches that I hit were both 2-0 fastballs, and they were both elevated inside."
Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the second game in the first inning off South Carolina starter Cody Morris (6-3) when Luke Bonfield singled, went to second on a passed ball and scored on Kjerstad's single.
Sophomore pitcher Isaiah Campbell (3-3) started the second game for Arkansas and went five innings before Cronin worked the last two.
Cronin threw 45 pitches combined in the doubleheader, including 32 strikes.
"I'm always nervous as a coach bringing somebody back a second time, even through he only threw 13 pitches in the first game," Van Horn said. "It's three hours later, but he kept himself loose and ready to go."
Van Horn said a telltale sign Cronin was tired would have been if he didn't have good control.
"But he came in there just pounding the strike zone," Van Horn said. "It looked like his first time of the day."
Cronin said he couldn't remember pitching in both ends of a doubleheader before, but he didn't have any problems.
"Sometimes if I haven't thrown in a while I'll throw like a 10- or 15-pitch bullpen ... before the game," Cronin said. "So I looked at [the opener] as an almost more intense version of that.
"I felt great in the second game, too."
Sports on 04/15/2018
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