FAYETTEVILLE — As nearly perfect antidotes for the Arkansas Razorbacks losing 3-2 to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Thursday night, Kacey Murphy, Isaiah Campbell and Matt Cronin pitched nearly perfectly Saturday.
Aided by five-hole hitter Carson Shaddy hitting a home run each game, the three pitchers propelled the Razorbacks to a 2-0 and 3-0 doubleheader SEC sweep of the Gamecocks in 40-degree cold and 20 miles per wind before 5,868 at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas and South Carolina their series with two 7-inning games Saturday after Friday night’s scheduled 9-inning game was rained out.
Winning two of three from the Gamecocks boosts Arkansas to 26-10 before hosting Missouri State in a Tuesday night nonconference game at Baum and a 10-5 best in the SEC West before its next three-game SEC set Friday through Sunday at Mississippi State.
South Carolina falls to 20-15, 6-8 in the SEC East.
Junior lefty starter Murphy, now 5-2, faced the minimum 18 Gamecocks for Saturday’s first six innings with no hits, walks or hit batsmen behind errorless defense while striking out six.
Justin Row hit a 2-2 pitch, Murphy’s 70th pitch for a single lead in the the seventh with Arkansas up 2-0.
Coach Dave Van Horn immediately summoned Cronin, who notched his eighth and ninth saves during the doubleheader. Cronin pitched a 1-2-3 seventh on Campbell’s behalf.
In Saturday’s nightcap, lefty Cronin allowed just a seventh-inning single after summoned to start the sixth on behalf of winning starter Campbell, now 3-3.
Campbell allowed just two hits, one a windy infield popup falling between three fielders, through five complete.
Arkansas had wasted 13 hits and stranded 12 runners and failed to score four times with the bases loaded four times Thursday night. The Razorbacks mustered just seven hits for Saturday’s doubleheader but Shaddy’s second-inning home run off hard-luck losing starter Adam Hill, sufficed for Saturday’s first success augmented by Shaddy, hit by a pitch leading off the sixth and singled to third by Dominic Fletcher, scoring on a wild pitch.
Cody Morris, South Carolina’s hard-luck losing starter in Saturday’s second game, was touched for a first inning unearned run as Luke Bonfield, infield single and advancing on a passed ball, scored on Heston Kjerstad’s single to center.
“As far as the whole day, Game 1 and 2, what can you say?” Van Horn said. “The pitching just held them down, gave us an opportunity to win a couple of games.”
Defense helped, too. Errorless for the series since the Bermuda popup between first and the mound fell untouched, the Hogs had defensive gems by left fielder Kjerstad and shortstop Jax Biggers helping Murphy stay perfect through six.
Center fielder Dominic Fletcher made a run-saving sprawling catch after Row’s pop fly single and Campbell’s only walk.
Murphy dominated Saturday’s opener.
“My arm felt good coming out,” Murphy said. “Defense really helped, too. I was threw all three pitches for strikes so I felt really good. I was a little disappointed (losing the perfect game). He hit a mistake. But at the end of the day we won and that’s all I care about.”
Any arguing with Van Horn when the coach came with the hook?
“No,” Murphy said. “Of course I’m going to be upset. I’m just competitive. But I knew what he 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.”
Ineffective in a start last week coming off a week inactive because of elbow soreness, Campbell proved Saturday, with Cronin’s assistance, that he’s back in form.
Campbell said watching Thursday pitchers Blaine Knight, Barrett Loeske, Evan Lee and Cody Scroggins pitch effectively and Murphy dominate, “gave me confidence.”
“And it’s nice having a guy on the back end like Matt,” Campbell said. “You know he’s going to throw strikes and compete. It’s incredible he has nine saves through this many games and we still have a lot of games left.”