The No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks split the final two games of a doubleheader with the LSU Tigers on Saturday to win two out of three on the road and claim the series victory. After Sunday’s game was moved up to incoming bad weather in Baton Rouge, the Razorbacks played their fourth doubleheader in four weeks following last night’s 7-0 victory over the Tigers. With the win on Saturday afternoon, Arkansas won only their second series on the road against LSU in program history.
The Hogs would jump out to a 16-2 lead in game one behind the bats of Christian Franklin and Robert Moore who combined for six hits and eight RBIs, and they would never look back despite some late runs in garbage time by LSU to finish the game 17-10. However in game two, starting pitching let down the Hogs as the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, and Arkansas struggled to get back in the game before falling short in a late rally 5-4.
Despite the loss, Arkansas should still be No. 1 in all the major polls come Monday morning.
The Hogs did not wait to get on the board by jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning. After the bases were loaded, Christian Franklin extended his hot streak following Friday night’s performance by hitting a two-run single to open the scoring. With the next at-bat, Robert Moore hit a bases-clearing triple to double the lead, and Cullen Smith would add one more with a double before the inning was over.
Peyton Pallette, who put in a strong showing last time against South Carolina, got the start for the afternoon matchup. However, he would give up a pair of runs both on wild pitches in the second and third. He would finish after four innings after giving up five hits and two runs with only one strikeout.
LSU could have added more runs early in the game with a fly to shallow center field that appeared like it might land, but Moore would make a Willy Mays-esque catch and followed by a turn to first for an incredible double play to end the third inning.
AJ Labas got the start for LSU and only lasted to the fifth after pitching a complete game in his last outing. With his pitch count continuing to rise, the Hogs would earn three more hits to lead off the inning including a Brady Slavens double to score another run. Franklin then would break the game open on a double of his own to extend the lead to 8-2, and Labas would be done.
The Hogs were just getting started though. Blake Money came in and quickly gave up a two-run homer to Moore who whacked the pitch to the mostly empty right-field bleachers.
Smith would add an RBI, and meanwhile, LSU still had not managed a single out yet. Cayden Wallace would tack on one more as the Tigers finally would get out of the inning but not before the Hogs had gotten their Money’s worth. After seven runs in the fifth, Arkansas led LSU 12-2.
But wait, there’s more! The hits just kept coming as the Hogs refused to take their foot off the gas. Casey Opitz would hit a single for an RBI followed by another by Jalen Battles, and a double by Zach Gregory added a third. Matt Goodheart grounded out to score Battles, and the Hogs were up 16-2.
At this point, the game was effectively over as LSU would add several late runs to try to make the score more respectable. Long-lost Connor Noland would make an appearance in the seventh, but his return would be cut short after getting rocked for six runs on six hits and only 23 pitches. Noland, who had been coming off of an injury, came in for the first time since March 5 and looked like he had not pitched in almost two months. Caleb Bolden instead would finish the game with Arkansas still ahead 16-9.
Both sides would add one more run as Arkansas won 17-10. The Razorbacks had 19 hits. Franklin and Moore each had three hits and four RBIs apiece. Ryan Costeiu got the win as it guaranteed the Hogs’ first series victory in Baton Rouge since 2004.
Without a solid third option at pitcher, Dave Van Horn decided to go with Lael Lockhart for the evening session. Lockhart’s 10th start of the season would also be his shortest. After giving up a single and hitting his next batter with a pitch, Cade Doughty would hit a home run to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning of game two. Following a wild pitch and a walk to the next batter, Van Horn had seen enough, and Lockhart’s day was done after only 17 pitches. Zebulon Vermillion would come in to replace him.
However, Vermillion would only last two innings after Dylan Crews would hit an RBI in the next frame followed by two more hits in the third, and DVH decided to bring in Caden Monke to the game. The Tigers would force another run on a safety squeeze, and the Hogs found themselves down 5-0.
Meanwhile, Arkansas could not carry over any momentum from their previous game as Ma’Khail Hilliard put in several solid innings for LSU. Brady Slavens would finally get things going with a triple in the fourth, and Christian Franklin would knock in his tenth RBI of the series on a sacrifice fly to score him.
The score would remain 5-1 for almost the rest of the game as Arkansas generated only six hits while LSU had seven. However, at least the Hogs’ pitching was stabilized through Monke and Kevin Kopps who was brought in for the final three innings. Between them, they only gave up two hits and zero runs while striking out nine different batters.
The Hogs would make things interesting in the ninth. After Devin Fontenot came in to pitch for LSU, Cayden Wallace would finally get a lead-off hit for the Hogs. Slavens would battle to earn a walk, and Franklin followed with a single to load the bases. Robert Moore would hit a sacrifice fly to score one, and Jalen Battles knocked in two more on a single up the middle. Trailing only 5-4, the crowd at Alex Box got nervous as the Hogs were down to Zach Gregory who was the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, Gregory would strike out on a very questionable call, and LSU avoided the sweep winning 5-4.
Was this a strike? You be the judge.
Of course, it wasn’t, but until the day we have robot umpires, that stands as called.
Hilliard got the win. Lockhart got the loss. Arkansas is now 34-8 overall and 15-6 in the SEC.
Up next, the Hogs take on Georgia in a weekend series at home next Friday.