COLUMBIA -- Ray Tanner's options to start on the mound Sunday for fourth-ranked South Carolina against Arkansas were Colby Holmes and Steven Neff. Tanner went with Holmes and started Neff in left field.
Both decisions worked out rather well.
Neff, the junior pitcher-turned-emergency outfielder, went 3 for 4 with a pair of home runs. Holmes, a sophomore right-hander, worked 8 2/3 innings, longer than any USC starter this year.
South Carolina's 7-1 victory in front of 8,124 fans clinched the series against the Razorbacks and kept USC in the hunt for the SEC title.
Going into the final weekend, the East's top three teams -- USC, Florida and Vanderbilt -- are locked up with 20-7 records.
The Gators host Kentucky next weekend. The Commodores travel to Georgia. USC goes to Alabama.
USC controls the head-to-head tiebreaker over Florida and Vandy, as a result of series wins.
"When you win 17, 18 games in this league, you're pretty good," Tanner said. "The race the way it's going, it's incredible. Those two clubs are really, really good. The three of us have been so consistent."
The weekend didn't get off to a great start for USC (41-11). A two-hour rain delay caused Friday night's game to start at 10 p.m., and then the Gamecocks kicked the ball around -- committing five errors -- in just Michael Roth's second loss of the season.
South Carolina choked away a 5-1 lead on Saturday night, and Arkansas threatened to take the series until Scott Wingo's walk-off home run to start the ninth inning gave the Gamecocks a 6-5 victory.
Tanner said the good vibes from that victory bled over into Sunday, evident from the beginning of the rubber game on a beautiful afternoon.
Already up 2-0 in the fourth, Neff clocked a two-run shot into the USC bullpen in right-center field.
That home run, off Hogs reliever Brandon Moore, went very close to the same place as Wingo's the night before, and very near where Neff's solo shot in the eighth was deposited.
Neff is hitting .306 (11-36) after injuries forced him into the lineup and left field about a month ago. Eight of his 11 hits, including the three homers this weekend, are extra-base hits.
"I think I've knocked some of the rust off," said Neff, who really had not batted much since a summer league stint in 2009. "I can get back in the swing of things pretty quick. Just had to knock some of the dust off."
Six of the 11 hits came this weekend, making someone who was a pitcher until March a legitimate threat for SEC player of the week. He's been a pick-me-up, no question, with Jackie Bradley Jr. (wrist) and Adam Matthews (hamstring) still sidelined.
"There's never been any doubt about his ability," Tanner said. "It's starting to show a little bit. It's been fun to watch. We needed it. We needed the help. He's stepped up big for us."
And then there's Holmes, who really scuffled in his start last week at Ole Miss. He gave up three runs on four hits and was yanked in the second inning.
Arkansas was greeted by a determined Holmes, whose fastball had a bit more zip. He located it well and hit Robert Beary's mitt in the low 90s all day. Holmes tied his career high, with seven strikeouts.
He got to within one out of USC's first shutout of the season. There will be no question as to whether Holmes will start at Alabama.
"I knew I had to make a statement today," Holmes said, "to show I still wanted it."
After a Friday night loss, South Carolina did the same for its SEC hopes. The Gamecocks are 30-4 this season at home this season and have not lost a home series.
E--Ficociello. DP--Ark 2. LOB--Arkansas 9, USC 10. 2B--Mooney. HR--Vinson, Neff 2. SF--Mooney. SB--Carver. CS--Morales.
WP--Taylor. HBP--by Lynch (Wingo); by Holmes (Kuhn); by Astin (Williams).