For once, the hype surrounding two starting pitchers actually delivered in a game. Aaron Nola and Ryne Stanek proved why they are two of the best pitchers in the SEC and both guys put on one hell of a show.
Nola went seven innings for the Tigers and looked to have minimal rust on him, considering he hadn’t started a game in close to two weeks. He struck out eight, walked one, allowed six hits, and gave up only one run. Nola had excellent command of his fastball and breaking balls all night, and limited Arkansas’ chances on the bases. However, Arkansas was able to run up his pitch count a bit, which is why he was lifted after the seventh inning.
Nola left the game tied at one, and Joey Bourgeois came on in relief. Bourgeois only managed to get one out and gave up two singles before being yanked for Nick Rumbelow. Arkansas’ Tyler Spoon executed a perfect safety squeeze bunt against Rumbelow and put the Razorbacks up 2-1 before the inning was over.
The Razorbacks widened their lead in the 9th against LSU relievers Kurt McCune and Will LaMarche. Arkansas was really aggressive with their base running in the ninth, stealing two bases in the inning. Both runners would later score, and gave the Razorbacks a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
LSU went quietly and quickly in the ninth, and are now headed into the loser’s bracket where they will face Alabama for the second time in the tournament.
Stanek performance tonight was very similar to his first outing against LSU. He was in command for most of the game with a few trouble spots where he managed to pitch himself out of trouble. He went eight innings, struck out four, walked three, and gave up six hits. The one run he surrendered was an unearned run. LSU scored its only run on a fielding error by Arkansas short stop Brett McAfee in the third inning, but Stanek shut the Tigers down the rest of the way.
The Tiger bats could never really get going. LSU fell behind early in the count consistently, and did not swing the bat with much authority tonight. Whenever LSU did manage to get runners on base, it was usually with two outs and they rarely made it into scoring position. LSU had the bases loaded in the fourth inning when Stanek walked the bases loaded, but Stanek came up with a clutch pitch against LSU designated hitter Sean McMullen and worked his way out of the jam.
LSU now faces an uphill battle to win the SEC tournament. If they are going to win this thing, they need to win three games in a row and have a better showing offensively than what we saw tonight.