Contributed by Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas won its first annual SEC West 3-game baseball series over the LSU Tigers since 2011 but the Razorbacks couldn’t complete their 3-game sweep of 2011.
Pulverized 14-4 and 11-6 by the Razorbacks Thursday night and Saturday night at Baum-Walker and trailing 2-0 Saturday afternoon with two on and 1-out in the eighth inning, the Tigers prevailed, 3-2 on Antoine Duplantis’ gone with the wind 3-run home run over right field off losing reliever Jacob Kostyshock before 8,978 ticket scanned fans
Arkansas freshman Saturday starter Connor Noland of Greenwood, 5 1-3 innings, and reliever Cody Scroggins had combined for a 5-hit shutout until Kostyshock, who had pitched effectively relieving winning middle reliever Kevin Kopps Friday night, got tagged by his first batter upon relieving Scroggins after an eighth-inning leadoff single, deep fly to center and walk.
“Jacob doesn’t give up a whole lot to left-handed hitters,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said of the right-handed reliever’s matchup against LSU’s left-handed hitting right fielder. “He’s been really good at getting them out, but he made a mistake. The ball wasn’t hit great, but it was hit good enough. We thought it was a fly ball to the track, but it had backspin on it and the wind was blowing out of the north and it just barely blew out of the park. That’s kind of the way the game goes.”
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz lamented, “It was a fastball kind of up the middle. The kid just threw his hands to it, caught a little barrel, caught a lot of wind and it went over the fence.”
The Hogs knew they should have been able to give up the 3-run home run with runs to spare had they cashed opportunities against LSU Saturday starter Landon Marceaux and winning reliever Todd Peterson like they cashed Thursday and Friday. They whacked 15 hits with five home runs on Thursday night’s behalf of winning starter Isaiah Campbell, and Friday whacked 12 hits including Heston Kjerstad’s second home run in two days and buried the Tigers with a 6-run eighth inning.
After manufacturing a 1-0 lead in Saturday’s first inning without a hit as Bryant native Trevor Ezell led off walking, stealing second, tagging third on Casey Martin’s fly to right and scoring on Matt Goodheart’s infield out, the Hogs stranded runners at second and third in the second, stranded runners at first and third grounding into a doubleplay in the fourth and stranded another in the fifth.
A potentially huge sixth inning netting just a run haunted the Hogs.
Goodheart and Dominic Fletcher whacked consecutive doubles scoring a run followed by Heston Kjerstad’s walk before LSU Coach Paul Mainieri summoned Peterson. Peterson was greeted by Jack Kenley’s single loading the bases then shoved Arkansas’ sweeping broom into the broom closet. Peterson induced Jacob Nesbit rapping into a forceout at home then induced Optiz, a home run Friday and two hits and three runs scored Saturday, to hit into the let the air out of the tires doubleplay.
“He threw me a curveball kind of on the backside, a good pitch,” Opitz said of the doubleplay. “You’ve got to execute in those situations. Especially against an SEC opponent in a game that can flip at any moment you’ve got to put as many runs up on the board as you can. I personally did a terrible job on that today. Just got to move on and be better next time.”
Van Horn said, lauding Noland’s work said, ‘We just needed to score a couple of runs. Obviously, if we would have punched in one here and one there, we would have built up a pretty good lead and felt pretty good about it. That puts a lot more pressure on the other team’s offense. Just really a game of missed opportunities on our side.”
But as Van Horn and junior center fielder Fletcher said, still “ a good weekend overall” taking 2 of 3 from the 17th-ranked Tigers after losing eight straight series to them since 2011.
“Anytime you take 2 out 3 from a team and win a series on a SEC weekend it’s a good weekend,” Fletcher said. “That was my first series win against LSU in three years. Obviously, it’s huge. Now it’s time to move on to Texas A&M.”
The nationally No. 4 Razorbacks, 39-13 and a 19-8 best in the SEC West, finish their SEC regular season and a 3-game SEC West set at nationally No. 17 Texas A&M.
LSU, 31-21, 15-12, closes Thursday through Saturday hosting Auburn in Baton Rouge, La.
The SEC Tournament follows starting May 21 in Hoover, Ala.
LSU……….000 000 030 – 3 7 0
Arkansas…100 001 000 – 2 8 1
Marceaux, Peterson (6) and Garza; Noland, Scroggins (6), Kostyshock (8), Denton (9) and Opitz.
W-Peterson (4-2). L-Kostyshock (1-2).
HR-LSU: Duplantis (9).
Friday night linescore
LSU……….120 000 003 – 6 9 1
Arkansas…001 011 26x – 11 12 0
Walker, Hess (5), Vietmeier (7), Ripoll (80) and Garza; Wicklander, Kopps (4), Kostyshock (8), Trest (9), Cronin (9) and Opitz.
W-Kopps (5-3). L-Hess (3-4).
HR-LSU: Garza (4). HR-Kjerstad (14).
Thursday night linescore
LSU……….110 000 20 0 – 4 7 0
Arkansas…123 601 10x – 14 15 0
Hilliard, Threadgill (4), Beck (5), Moffitt (8) and Garza; Mathis (5) Campbell, Ramage (7) Burton (9) and Opitz, Plunkett (9).
W-Campbell (9-1). L-Hilliard (0-3)
HR-LSU: Cabrera, 2 (10) (11). HR-Arkansas: Martin (12). Opitz (2). Fletcher (10). Ezell (7). Kenley (10).