The LSU Tigers displayed offense, defense, and pitching en route to a 9-1 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks, putting the Tigers in really good position to advance to the championship series later in the week, needing only one win in two games against either Arkansas or Virginia.
Louis Coleman was not great early, but after getting out of a couple of jams in the early innings, he settled down and powered his way through the middle three innings while waiting for LSU's bats to blow it open. It did not take long.
LSU busted out quickly with a hit by Lemahieu followed by a 14-pitch walk to Ryan Schimpf, which may have been the key at-bat of the game, or at least the key at-bat of the early innings. After inducing outs from Blake Dean and Micah Gibbs, Mikie Mahtook lined a 3-run home run over the left field fence to give the Tigers an immediate 3-0 lead. We weren't done in the inning as Jared Mitchell followed with a double, but was left stranded.
Louis Coleman was not his usual self in the first few innings. He struggled with his control, giving up a walk in the 2nd inning and a walk in the 3rd. Arkansas scored a run in the first inning on a one-out double, a single, and a sacrifice fly. Arkansas left a runner on in the 1st, two runners on in the 2nd, and left the bases loaded in the 3rd. Coleman's pitch count was getting high and it did not look like he would make it very long in the game, though he had successfully pitched his way out of the jams, giving up only 1 run through three innings.
Meanwhile, Arkansas's starter Brett Eibner, who I thought probably never should have been pitching at all, did not make it through the second inning, as a 2-out double followed by an RBI single and then a walk force Arkansas into the bullpen early. Right handed pitcher TJ Forrest settled the game down for a while, getting through the rest of the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th without allowing another run to the Tigers.
The 6th inning was where the Tigers blew the game wide open. After Derek Helenihi flied out to open the inning, light-hitting Austin Nola deposited the ball over the left field fence on a very hard hit line drive that suggests to me that Nola has the potential to be a real hitter going forward. Schimpf walked and Blake Dean continued the scoring with LSU's third home run of the night to give the Tigers a 7-1 lead. After Mahtook and Gibbs reached, Jared Mitchell hit a clean single that scored Gibbs and drew an errant throw that allowed Mahtook to score and Mitchell to advance to 3rd base. The inning ended with Mitchell on third and LSU with 9 runs on the game.
Getting out of the bases loaded jam in the 3rd inning seemed to energize Coleman, who dominated the next three innings, allowing only two baserunners in the middle innings, recording 2 strikeouts without a walk, and allowing no runner past 2nd base. With LSU leading 9-1 after 6 and Coleman having pitched over 100 pitches, he was lifted and Daniel Bradshaw came in to start the 7th.
The rest of the game was pretty uneventful, as the Tiger hitters didn't bust through again, and the Arkansas hitters seemed to not be giving much effort from that point forward. Bradshaw pitched two scoreless innings and then Nolan Cain finished off the game. After failing to score with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning, Arkansas did not get another runner past 2nd base the rest of the night.
Jared Mitchell, who one might perceive gets criticized here, had a great night, going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and a single that resulted in 2 runs scored. I don't actually criticize Mitchell, and I don't think anyone else does either. I just criticize the decision to play Mitchell against left handed pitchers when he so obviously cannot hit them right now. He still crushes righties, and he proved it again tonight. Lemahieu also had 3 hits and set the table for Schimpf, Dean, Gibbs, and Mahtook. Austin Nola had his home run and another base hit. Lemahieu and Nola also played very well in the field, each getting us an out that ordinary fielders may not have been able to get.
On Friday, we will play the winner of Wednesday's Virginia vs. Arkansas matchup, as Virginia eliminated Cal State Fullerton earlier in the day. If we win that game, we advance to the championship series. If we lose it, we play again the following day. Later in the week, we will discuss the issue of how Paul Mainieri should plan the pitching for the Friday and Saturday games. There are options.