Heading into the series against Arkansas, LSU was in a nosedive. The Tigers had lost five of the last seven, not counting the midweek win against Grambling whose RPI ranks 282nd out of 299 teams.
Despite Alex Lange weaving out of danger time and time again, that run was stretched to six out of eight after the Hogs chased Alex Lange with 104 pitches just after four innings. Arkansas touched up Lange for three runs, but feasted on the LSU bullpen with six more runs. By the time LSU began scoring runs in the seventh and eighth, it was too little too late.
Saturday’s night looked like much of the same. Arkansas got to Jared Poche’ early and often, running him off after 3.1 innings with seven runs in the Hog’s favor. Austin Bain would allow one more run but after that the bullpen, mainly Todd Peterson, put their foot in the sand and started pushing back.
Meanwhile, once again the LSU offense got rolling late and after scoring in the second inning returned to the scoreboard in the seventh inning. They only scored once, but that rolled over to their eighth where LSU scored three to make it a 8-5 ballgame and a save situation off the back of a double from Nick Coomes, a wild pitch, a fielder’s choice from Freeman, and a home run from Greg Deichmann that cleared a mountain somewhere in the Ozarks.
And in the ninth, it happened again.
LSU took advantage of a bases loaded hit by pitch, wild pitch, error, and infield single that should have been an error. LSU scored five runs in one inning almost completely via Arkansas mistakes. For the second straight year, Arkansas let LSU off the mat and allowed them to even the series.
And for the second straight year, LSU went on to win the series on Sunday.
Eric Walker shined brightly in the Sunday afternoon sun, throwing the first complete game of his college career while allowing just four hits and striking out four while walking two and dialing up a double lay nearly every time he needed one. It was a start that LSU fans are not used to seeing on Sundays and while LSU could only muster two runs off of a Nick Coomes double in the second and a Deichmann single in the eighth, it was all the cover Walker would need. Walker had the assistance of Kramer Robertson’s glove at short, as the LSU senior was simply playing out of mind all game and probably robbed Arkansas of three or four hits over the course of the game.
LSU won the series, but without really turning in one single “complete” game where the offense, defense, and pitching all came together.
The weekend may be reminiscent of last year’s game that birthed the Rally Possum out of left field, as a skidding LSU team came back on Saturday against Arkansas in improbably fashion and eventually took the series, but for me I associate this weekend with another series from 2016.
Mostly because the Arkansas series came later in the season and gave LSU a springboard into the postseason, but this series against Arkansas reminds me of last year’s against Auburn.
Game one against Auburn was rained out and doubleheader Saturday was played. LSU dropped game one 8-5, with three of their runs coming before the death. Alex Lange went longer than he did against Arkansas, but he gave up seven runs to the orange and blue Tigers.
LSU kept the offensive groove riding for the nightcap of the double header and scored early to go ahead and held the lead for a 8-6 win to force a rubber match Sunday, which they won 10-5. John Valek III was shaky, but the offense exploded for double digit runs.
Ok, that last graf presents some difference from this weekend. But LSU was at virtually the same point in the season then as they are now. In fact, LSU went to the plains losing five of the last seven into the first weekend of April.
If you’ll remember, LSU came out of the Auburn series with a series win against Vanderbilt and a convincing sweep against Missouri before things came crashing back down to Earth against Mississippi State. And then came Arkansas.
Looking ahead to this season, LSU has Ole Miss and Kentucky (albeit a better Kentucky team than Mizzou was last year). Very similar indeed.
Only time will tell if this past weekend was a tipping point in LSU’s season or just a curve in the long and winding road that is the 30-game SEC slate. We’ll have a better handle on the situation on Wednesday morning after LSU’s game against “Louisiana” in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.
That game will be played in New Orleans at Zephyr Field/The Shrine On Airline/Baby Cakes Stadium/Whatever it’s called now at 7:00 and will be broadcast on CST.