Simply Dominating

Jess Todd

HOOVER, Ala. -- As good as Nick Schmidt was for Arkansas on Wednesday, Jess Todd somehow did him one better.

Just a day after getting a two-hit pitching gem from Schmidt, the No. 15 Razorbacks managed to get an even prettier masterpiece out of Todd.

In one of the most dominating pitching performances either side of the dugout could remember seeing, the junior right-hander struck out a school-record and Southeastern Tournament record 17 batters in just eight innings, pacing Arkansas past South Carolina, 6-0, to move the Diamond Hogs into the SEC Tournament semifinals at Regions Park.

For the No. 9 Gamecocks (41-17), facing Todd looked almost humorous.

If nothing else, the Arkansas pitcher -- who fanned the first nine batters he faced -- certainly left South Carolina humbled.

"You guys saw what happened," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. "(Todd) just completely overmatched us. You know, our scouting reports indicated that this guy was really special. I think he went into his last four starts with double-digit strikeouts, so we knew he was going to be tough. But he was really, really good and we weren't able to get anything going. "We were hoping to keep it close and then get something going late, but he was just too good for us."

Todd -- who has now gone 5-0 in his last six starts -- let it be known right from the start that the Gamecocks stood little chance. After the Razorbacks (40-18) built an early, 2-0 first-inning lead and ballooned the margin up to 5-0 after a third-inning three-run homer run by Logan Forsythe, Todd was the obvious highlight show the rest of the night.

After striking out the first nine batters he faced, Todd increased the total to 11 K's through four innings, 14 through five innings and up to a school-record 17 after just 6 2/3 innings of work while allowing just two hits. Todd's 17 strikeouts broke the school record of 16, set by both Warren Hemm in 1976 and David Walling in 1998.

"Today was probably the first game all year that I've had command of all three of my pitches," Todd said. "I could get ahead in the count and that really helped me out going deep in the game."

"I lost count (of the strikeouts) after the first three innings. When they announced it (was a record), I didn't know it was that many. I knew it was up there, but I didn't know it was that many."

Despite coming out of the game with a 119-pitch count through eight innings, Todd (9-2) left a lasting impression on everyone involved.

Especially on the almost helpless Gamecocks. "I've had probably more of those games happen to me than I'd like to remember," Tanner said. "But sitting here right now, I can't think of a more dominating performance. There might of been a few others, but he was impressive.

"A lot of people when you think of Arkansas, you think of Nick Schmidt. But this guy Jess Todd is his equal. That's why they won the West. They've got some good pitching and they score runs, too. So you just tip your hat to them."

Arkansas moves to 2-0 in an SEC Tournament for just the third time and now gets today off before facing the South Carolina-Florida winner at 10 a.m. Saturday.

"This was basically the same game we played (Wednesday)," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We just got tremendous starting pitching which allowed us to relax a little bit, we got a couple of big hits and we just felt good.

"Jess had another tremendous outing, he's had like six or seven in a row like that and it just feels good to be 2-0 and stay in that winner's bracket."

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