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LSU 4 - Arkansas 3: LSU Takes the Series

Kudos on a very well-played game by both teams.  LSU's Austin Ross, who has struggled at times this season, pitched very well for 6 innings, giving way to the bullpen, who shut down Arkansas to preserve a very precarious 1-run lead.

Ross wasn't dominant like Louis Coleman had been the previous night.  He gave up hits.  Quite a few actually.  In six innings of work, Ross only had one inning without a baserunner.  He gave up 10 hits in 6 innings, but still only gave up 3 runs. 

His first trouble spot was the 3rd inning, when he gave up 2 hits and a walk, but escaped without a run allowed, in part thanks to a Razorback runner getting caught trying to steal a base.  It was a bad day to steal bases, as the wet infield made for a slow running surface.  The Tigers normally run in the craziest situations, but even we decided to take it easy on the bases today.  

LSU broke through in the 3rd inning when Mitchell singled and then advanced to 2nd on a grounder before Dean laced a liner off the wall that scored Mitchell from second.  We added the rest of our runs in the 4th, when Hanover, Gibbs, and Nola strung together 3 hits to generate a run and chase the Arkansas starting pitcher, and Mitchell drove the other two home with a single.

After LSU built the 4-0 lead with their 3-run 4th, Arkansas started to climb back in it.  Ross gave up a solo home run to Zach Cox in the Razorback half of the 4th, then gave up a 2-run home run to Andy Wilkins in the 5th.  The game sat at 4-0 and that is where it stayed.  Ross's best inning was the 6th when he retired the side in only 7 pitches.  

Ross started the 7th inning, but gave up a single to the leadoff hitter, bringing up a string of 4 straight left-handed power hitters, including each of the two gentlemen who had homered earlier in the game.  Manieri made the move to the bullpen to bring in our new left-handed specialist, safety Chad Jones.  The converted outfielder seems to have found a home as a relief pitcher as he recorded three outs against the left-handed phalanx, giving up only a walk.

Paul Manieri comes to a fair bit of criticism on this web site, as I think his bunting strategy is completely irrational, and Poseur is a not a fan of the move to add Austin Nola to the lineup.  I'm reserving judgment on the Nola thing, but it's hard to ignore that he went 1 for 10 this weekend.  With all the criticism, let's give him credit for coming up with the idea to move Chad Jones from the outfield to the bullpen.  Jones has so far been only a specialist, facing only left-handed hitters, but has gotten 5 big outs in close games, and has given up only 1 hit and 1 walk.  He was much more effective in his role this weekend than, say, Ben Alsup was.  To "find" this kind of arm on the shelf is pretty impressive, and may be the wave of the future with the shortened rosters in college baseball.  Every team may need to have the kind of versatile player who can not only play a position and bat, but also pitch.

It remains to be seen if Jones can keep being this effective when teams start getting a scouting report on him, or if he is ever asked to pitch to righties.  For right now, he's not just pitching to scrubs.  He's pitched to the heart of Arkansas's order today, and did the same last weekend, having success each time.

With Chad Jones having successfully done his job, Matty Ott was given the task of getting a 6-out save.  Ott was dominant in the 8th, not allowing a single Razorback to hit the ball into fair play, getting a 3-up-3-down inning on strikeouts.  In the 9th, Ott got the first two batters out, needing a nice play by Hanover at 3rd to get the second out.  He then gave up a clean single to bring up Andy Wilkins, Arkansas's best power hitter, as the potential winning run at the plate.  Wilkins grounded out weakly ending the game.

For their part, the Arkansas pitchers had a whale of a game too.  Brett Eibner started the game for the Razorbacks, after playing the first two games of the series in center field.  He did not quite last 4 innings and he was credited with the loss, but he gave his team a chance.  When Eibner was pulled, Arkansas went with Mike Bolsinger who shut LSU down, except for the single to Mitchell that drove in the two runners left by Eibner.  After that, Bolsinger went 4 innings, giving up only 3 more hits and no more runs.  With the game still very close in the 9th, Arkansas brought in their closer who pitched a quiet ninth.

It was an entertaining game from my perspective, and a big win for the Tigers.  Good job Jared Mitchell, scoring one run and hitting in two others to be the offensive star of the night.  The win pushed us into a 3-way tie for the SEC lead with Ole Miss and Florida.  We gave ourselves a little distance against the former SEC West leader, Arkansas, by winning the series, but while we were winning a split series, Ole Miss and Florida were busy sweeping their weekend opponents and jumped into a tie with us.  We get Florida next weekend, so there's our chance to put distance on them.  This win was probably essential to our chances of getting a national seed, and with it the home series in the super-regional (should we get that far).  Two more weekends left in the regular season.