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LSU 14 - Arkansas 5: Tigers to Face Longhorns For The Title

The game went pretty much as expected.  The Tigers were able to hit Arkansas's pitching staff, which had a hard time putting together 9 quality innings with so many good pitchers worn down from prior use.  Anthony Ranaudo had a great bounce-back performance and cruised through 6 scoreless innings.  When LSU put up 5 runs in the 7th inning to run the score to 11-0 in favor of LSU, Ranaudo got to take the rest of the night off and the bullpen finished out the game.

The scoring started early as LSU strung together a run with 2 two-out hits in the first inning off of the Razorback closer Stephen Richards.  The Razorbacks and Tigers recorded consecutive scoreless frames until the top of the 3rd when Richards, not accustomed to multiple-inning appearances, loaded the bases by giving up a single to Nola, a walk to Lemahieu, and a single to Ryan Schimpf.  The Tigers scratched out 3 runs after Richards was lifted for Bolsinger, when Blake Dean reached on an error, Mahtook hit a sac fly, and Schimpf scored on a wild pitch, giving the Tigers a 4-0 advantage.

LSU continued to build its lead as Ranaudo did not allow an Arkansas runner to advance past 2nd base until the 5th inning, when the Razorbacks got a runner on third with two outs before inducing a lazy popup to short to end the threat.  That would be the most serious threat Arkansas would mount until Ranaudo left the game after the 6th inning having pitched only 77 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Tigers scored another run in the 5th on a Blake Dean solo home run, another run in the 6th on a Jared Mitchell solo home run, and then 5 runs in the top of the 7th, starting with a majestic home run to right by Ryan Schimpf.  After Schimpf's home run, the Tigers then broke the game wide open when Blake Dean and Micah Gibbs reached on a walk and an error, respectively, followed by an RBI single by Mahtook, an RBI double by Ochinko, a walk to Mitchell, and a double by pinch hitter Tyler Hanover to run the score to 11-0.

Paul Mainieri wisely decided at this point to not use his ace pitcher any further, and he turned to Austin Ross to pitch the 7th, and started emptying the bench.  Hanover entered the game at 3rd base and Nick Pontiff went into right field.

I wish I could say that the bullpen was outstanding, but it wasn't.  Ross threw strikes, but gave up a single and a home run in the 7th to make the score 11-2 in favor of the Tigers.  Ryan Byrd, whose appearance I clamored for, saw his first action since the SEC Tournament in pitching a 1-2-3 eighth inning.  After LSU scored 3 more runs in the top of the 9th on a single by Pontiff, a homer by Hanover (who was 2 for 2 with 3 RBI off the bench, by the way), and hits by Lemahieu, Buzzy Haydel, and Chad Jones, Matty Ott came in to pitch the 9th inning.  At this point, it appears that only Micah Gibbs and Mikie Mahtook were still in the game and playing the same position they were playing when the game started.

Ott had a rough outing of the pen, giving a home run following a single and a walk.  He was lifted in favor of Paul Bertuccini who got the final out of the game.

It was an easy win for the Tigers, and we didn't have to use up anyone out of our bullpen, as no one faced more than 7 batters.  The win pushed us into the championship series.  Later in the night, the Texas Longhorns would advance as well by beating Arizona State in a tight game in which the tying and winning runs were scored in the bottom of the 9th inning.  This set up the final matchup, and we will have previews of this in the next couple days.