After back to back series losses against Mississippi State and Ole Miss sandwiching a midweek loss to Tulane, LSU took a much needed week off to take finals and lick their wounds for the penultimate homestand against Arkansas.
Once Alex Lange turned in his scantron, he picked the ball up again, assuming his position as the lead starter for LSU's rotation. His streak of two straight complete games was broken, but Lange was still solid Friday night. After giving up a single and a double to start the game, the sophomore righty kept Arkansas off the board until the fifth inning where another double and a single put the Hogs back on the board again. Lange would be pulled in favor of Hunter Newman in the eighth inning, who would give up an unearned run before recording the save.
Lange was also bailed out by a hotly debated de facto triple play with the bases loaded. Carson Shaddy lined to Kramer Robertson, who caught it just before the ball met dirt, turning it home to get the lead runner out before Romero fired it back to third to tag out the advancing runner from second. But because Robertson took the ball in the air and runners did not tag before advancing, LSU appeal and Arkansas was awarded a third out to end the inning.
(At least, that's the way it was ruled. By replay and from multiple player interviews after the game, Robertson caught the ball off of a hop, not on a liner, which is why Robertson threw home immediately, initiating the sequence. The 2nd base ump missed the call, but given home many issues LSU has had with SEC officiating in the last couple of weeks, it was at least nice to get a botch in our favor)
LSU matched Arkansas' first inning outburst that started with Antoine Duplantis reaching on a fielding error. Twonny advanced to third by a single from Jake Fraley and was scored on a Kramer Robertson groundout. LSU would move ahead in the third when Fraley walked, stole second, and moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring on another wild pitch. LSU broke the deadlock in the fifth inning with three runs that started when Beau Jordan lead off with a single through the left side of the infield, advancing to second on yet another wild pitch. After Greg Deichmann walked, Bryce Jordan followed his twin brother and singled through the 6 hole, moving Beau to third. With the bases loaded, Cole Freeman and Duplantis drew walks to score two more before Jake Fraley hit a sac fly to end the inning's scoring.
It wasn't a convincing 5-4 victory, especially considering that LSU may have lost if it wasn't for two bases loaded walks, but a win is a win regardless of how it comes to you.
And it put LSU up a game in the series for one of the weirdest games I've ever seen at Alex Box Stadium.
To make this easier for me and less confusing for you, we're going to break this off into timelines, Pulp Fiction style:
The Left Field Timeline
After showing what we can assume Mainieri saw as a lack of hustle and a bad throwing decision by Beau Jordan that allowed a runner to advance to second during Arkansas' two run first inning, Beau was confronted in the dugout by Mainieri and the two had to be separated, culminating with Beau getting pulled in favor of Brody Wofford in the first inning. Despite an impressive throw to save a (what would be huge) run, Wofford was pulled in the sixth after going zero for three at the plate. Brennan Breaux was placed in his place, and a perfect three for three showing would take his batting average from .050 (POINT OH FIVE OH) all the way .173.
The Kramer Robertson Timeline
In the bottom of the third, Kramer Robertson misjudged a ball thrown from Jake Fraley, and it caught him in the mouth, busting his lip. Kramer already had mouth issues stemming from a bad hop he received three days before opening day, and the mouthpiece he had to wear after that incident likely saved him from losing some teeth. Robertson refused to come out of the game, and eventually turned an 0 for four showing at the plate into a three for seven performance with a double and two singles, including one in the 10th that forced the game winning error that allowed Jake Fraley to score. Robertson has since gotten braces and looks to keep playing as normal. At least he has choices when it comes to potentially choosing a new walkup song.
The Pitching Timeline
Jared Poche' didn't make it out of the second inning, getting a hook in favor of Doug Norman after allowing four runs, all earned. While Norman went for three and two thirds innings, he also gave up five runs in the process. Austin Bain came in to stop the bleeding, and stop the bleeding he did. Bain went two innings, only allowing one hit and striking out three. Riley Smith picked up the rope for Bain, also going two strong on one hit, with two strikeouts to his credit. Russell Reynolds came in to pitch the 10th inning, the fifth scoreless inning for Arkansas.
The Possum Timeline
During the bottom of the seventh inning, while LSU was down nine to four, the playing surface was invaded by a lil baby possum, which nearly bit Ark LF Michael Bernal. After a disastrous start to the game in the first two innings, LSU picked up a run in their half of the second when Greg Deichmann was scored on a bases loaded walk to Fraley. LSU put two more in the fifth when Deichmann singled home Jordan Romero and Cole Freeman scored Chris Reid. The Tigers put up another run in the sixth via a Romero sac fly that scored Jake Fraley. But still, LSU was down five runs in the late frames of the game and the crowd simply wasn't behind the game. But this is baseball, and something as trivial as a possum storming the field was enough to get the crowd back into the game (the Tarp Crew dropping their drags and dancing to Backstreet Boys loosened the jar, though). The #RallyPossum's effect was immediate, as Cole Freeman walked and scored on a throwing error.
Down four with six outs left, LSU went silent in the eighth before fighting back to draw level at the death. The LSU ninth inning started with Antoine Duplantis reaching on yet another Arkansas error and continued with Jake Fraley benefiting from another Arkansas mistake. With two on and no out, Robertson, The Crimson Lip himself, singled to load the bases. This was not exactly inspiring since LSU would finish the game with 19 runners left on base and that looked more likely when Jordan Romero struck out looking. But Chris Reid would single and score one with a ball hit to third to close the gap to three and Brennan Breaux, the pinch hitter, would drop a double to left center that would score Fraley and Robertson. After a Bryce Jordan intentional walk that left him with runners on the corners and one out, Deichmann smartly got under a ball and hit a sac fly that scored Reid to tie the game at nine all. Cole Freeman failed to extend the inning, and LSU gladly took the game into extras where Russell "Rock" Reynolds held Arkansas off the board. The home half of the 10th inning started with Twonny grounding out to third, but promptly following that Jake Fraley laced a double to left center.
In the end, it could have been nobody other than Kramer Robertson at the plate to end the game. Kramer hit a slow grounder to second base, and by all account the out should have been recorded. But an injured Robertson hauled up the line and beat the throw at first. Then the first baseman Clark Eagen rushed a throw to third base that went wide and ended up with a sliding Fraley getting tangled with third sacker Cody Scroggins, who could not make the catch. Fraley had enough time to remove himself from Scroggins and advance home without a throw, walking off a game that lasted just over five hours and ended up being one of the weirdest games I have ever witnessed at Alex Box Stadium.
Before the rally started, I promised fellow Tarp Crewer Kelsey Phillips that if LSU completed the comeback, I would accompany her my native land of Livingston Parish to pick up a stuffed possum to deliver to the team. Despite Bass Pro opening at 10 and call time being 11:30 for the 1:00 game, we made it back with plenty of time to spare and presented the team with the possum:
And Daniel, as he came to be known, took well to the team as the team took well to him.
LSU opened their account on Sunday in the second when Romero wore a pitch and Beau Jordan (oh yeah, he was back in the lineup as a DH like nothing ever happened) singled with both advancing on a wild pitch before the man with the hot hand Brennan Breaux brought them both home with a single up the middle. LSU would drop a four in the fifth when Freeman singled and stole second before advancing on a Duplantis groundout, scoring on a wild pitch. Fraley would walk and Robertson would single him to third, setting the stage for Jordan Romero to wipe the bases clean with a three run jack to left field. LSU would put one up in the eighth just for good measure, a Fraley laser that would score Deichmann, who reached the same way. Arkansas would break the shutout in the ninth, but that's all they could do before catching the series sweep out of Baton Rouge.
John Valek III was pulled from the Sunday spot, and on the surface it's easy to say it's because of his bad outings the last two weeks. But I'd like you to find me a Sunday starter who didn't struggle against the likes of Mississippi State and Ole Miss. I think that Paul was smartly listing the Sunday start as TBA because he was looking forward to maximizing LSU's RPI standing as much as possible. I think if LSU would have lost Saturday that we would have seen Valek on the bump Sunday. But LSU won and locked up the series, so Mainieri was able to place some eggs in the Notre Dame basket, which it has been confirmed that Valek will be the game one starter on the road in South Bend this week.
And that's not to minimize the praise on Caleb Gilbert, the freshman was truly impressive in his first career start, giving up only five hits in the same amount of innings and not letting a red shirt cross home plate. His strikeout numbers were low (two) but so were his walks (one). Parker Bugg relieved him and picked up where he left off, throwing three innings with just a single hit allowed, fanning three. Jesse Stallings came on to pitch the ninth, where he could not complete the shutout and allowed two hits in the inning.
LSU is on the road all week, beginning with their visit to Mainieri's old stomping grounds, South Bend for their series with Notre Dame on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games will start at 5:00 and be shown exclusively online at ESPN3. After that they travel back south to Knoxville for their penultimate SEC series with Tennessee, a series with a rather weird set of start times. Another 5:00 start on Friday which will be a SECN+ game before a nooner on Saturday shown on your televisions sets via SEC Network, before Sunday's 1:00 finale back on the streaming services of SECN+.
Game 1 - LSU 5, Arkansas 4
Game 2 - LSU 10, Arkansas 9
Game 3 - LSU 7, Arkansas 1