Razorbacks' Shaddy hits way out of team's 9-hole slot
FAYETTEVILLE - Batting Carson Shaddy ninth with his fellow Razorbacks hitting well in the preceding eight spots defined the luxury setting Arkansas apart in the SEC West.
Promoting Shaddy to bat fifth in Saturday’s SEC doubleheader sweep of South Carolina keeps Arkansas elite.
After fifth-year senior second baseman and Fayetteville native Shaddy went 1 for 3 with a walk twice to be on first among the four innings that Arkansas couldn’t score upon loading the bases in last Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to South Carolina, Coach Dave Van Horn altered the order. Shaddy batted fifth Saturday as after Friday night’s rainout Arkansas, (27-10, 10-5) swept South Carolina, 2-0 and 3-0 in the 7-inning games.
Shaddy scored both runs in the 2-0 first-game victory. His second-inning solo home run over left ultimately proved the game winner. Nearly homering again on a clout to left turned foul leading off the sixth, Shaddy got hit by a pitch from frustrated reliever T.J. Shook and was singled to third by Dominic Fletcher. He scored on reliever John Gilreath’s wild pitch.
In the sixth inning, with Arkansas up only 1-0, Shaddy hit the 1-out, 2-run home run to left creating, what the Gamecocks knew was an insurmountable 3-0 lead into the seventh against closer Matt Cronin. Cronin masterfully saved Saturday’s second game for winning starter Isaiah Campbell like he saved the first for Kacey Murphy.
“Obviously the big hitter of the day was Carson Shaddy,” Van Horn said.
And obviously the Hogs needed their leading hitter in average and home runs, .368 and 9, and second in RBI, 29, positioned to get more at bats than the 9-hole hitter gets.
So has Shaddy hit his way out of the 9-hole now?
“Well, yeah,” Van Horn said. “Some of the other guys were struggling a little bit and I just thought I needed to get him back up in there. Been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, but we’ve been winning. We won five or six in a row there and then we lost on Thursday night and he’s still swinging it better than most, I thought now is the time to do it.”
Though first-year South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston is entirely new to the SEC, he wasn’t surprised to see Shaddy star.
“What is he a fifth-year senior?’ Kingston mused. “Well, he's playing like a fifthyear senior. Guys that are in college that long, should be productive players and that's what he is.”
No doubt senior pride factored into Shaddy both taking it as a challenge and producing so well from Day One batting ninth including homering with four RBI in the season-opening victory over Bucknell back on Feb. 16.
After that 14-2 blasting of Bucknell, Shaddy acknowledged “joking around this morning” though likely with some concerns, about batting ninth for the first time opening his last season.
“You know that was the last thing I would have expected, was to be in the 9-hole,” Shaddy said during the Feb. 16 postgame. “It (batting ninth) probably was the first since I was a sophomore in high school. At the same time, like Eric (Cole, the 2-hole hitter) said, after the first inning it doesn't matter. It's just a number. I'll do whatever I can to help this team.”
Shaddy has so helped from the bottom of the lineup that maybe it’s not a cinch that he’ll permanently bat closer to the top.
“I think there is a possibility that I could still be in there,” Shaddy said of batting ninth after Saturday’s sweep. “Like we’ve all said before I don’t think it’s prototypical 9-hole spot in this lineup. Coach really likes me there. So we’ll see what happens.”
After wasting their 13 hits plus the good pitching of starter Blaine Knight and relievers Barrett Loeske, Evan Lee and Cody Scroggins by losing 3-2 Thursday, it seems all the Razorbacks must have felt pressure to produce last Saturday.
“I don’t know about pressure,” Shaddy said. “I think it was more about anger. I think a lot of us felt we were right there about to take it from them and were really angry we lost that game. It was more anger for us to do what we’re supposed to do.”
(Nate Allen covers the Razorbacks for the News Times.)