Redshirt senior bats out of ninth
Batting Carson Shaddy ninth with his fellow Razorbacks hitting well in the preceding eight spots defined the luxury setting Arkansas apart nationally, ranking second or third in various college baseball polls and best in the Southeastern Conference’s West division.
Promoting Shaddy to bat fifth in Saturday’s SEC doubleheader sweep of South Carolina (20-16,
6-9) keeps Arkansas (27-10, 10-5) elite.
Fifth-year senior second baseman and Fayetteville native Shaddy went 1-for-3 with a walk to get on base in two of the four innings in which the Razorbacks failed to score with the bases loaded during Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Gamecocks. Coach Dave Van Horn altered the order.
Shaddy batted fifth Saturday as Arkansas swept South Carolina, 2-0 and 3-0, in Saturday’s seven-inning games. He scored both runs in the 2-0 victory in the first game. His second-inning solo home run over the left field wall ultimately proved the game-winner.
Nearly homering again on a clout to left, Shaddy was hit by a pitch from frustrated reliever T.J. Shook after the long foul ball to lead off the sixth inning. He was singled to third by Dominic Fletcher and scored on reliever John Gilreath’s wild pitch.
In the sixth inning of Saturday’s second game with Arkansas up only 1-0, Shaddy hit the one-out, two-run home run over left to create what the Gamecocks knew was an insurmountable 3-0 lead into the final inning against Arkansas closer Matt Cronin. The sophomore left-hander masterfully saved Saturday’s second game for winning starter Isaiah Campbell
(3-3) like he saved Saturday’s first for winning starter Kacey Murphy (5-2).
“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 nine, and second in RBIs with 29 positioned to get more at-bats than the nine-hole hitter gets.
Van Horn was asked if Shaddy hit his way out of the ninehole.
“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., Kingston coached Illinois State and then South Florida from 2010-17.
“What is he, a fifth-year senior?’ Kingston mused. “Well, he’s playing like a fifth-year 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 RBIs in the season-opening 14-2 victory over Bucknell back on Feb. 16. 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 nine-hole,” Shaddy said. “It (batting ninth) probably was the first since I was a sophomore in high school. At the same time, like Eric (Cole, the two-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 he will 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 a prototypical nine-hole spot in this lineup. Coach really likes me there. Som we’ll see what happens.”
After wasting their 13 hits plus the good pitching of starter Blaine Knight (6-0) and relievers Barrett Loseke, Evan Lee and Cody Scroggins in the one-run loss on Thursday, it seems all the Razorbacks must have felt pressure to produce on 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.”