It was a tall order entering the weekend to ask LSU, coming off one of the worst two week stretches in recent memory, to find their confidence and compete against Top-5 ranked and SEC-West-leading Arkansas. Thanks to the Hogs mistakes on Saturday and pitching performances well above expectation on Sunday, the Tigers were able to piece together a series win.
Sunday started slowly, with both teams breezing through a few ground balls and pop outs in the first three innings. In the fourth, back-to-back doubles by Zach Watson and Hunter Feduccia gave LSU a 1-0 lead. Arkansas came back in the top of the next inning and tied it up on a solo shot off the foul pole in right by Hester Kjerstad, who himself was coming back from a five-strikeout performance on Saturday. LSU then built a nice lead in the bottom of the 5th. After a lead off strikeout, LSU began to tee off on Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell, going single, double, RBI single, RBI double, before the Hogs made a call for relief. With two on and one out, the scoring continued with a sac fly RBI from Daniel Cabrera and a Zach Watson RBI single, giving the Tigers a 5-1 lead. They would add more insurance in the 6th with an RBI single from Hal Hughes, scoring Brandt Broussard from 2nd base.
Freshman rightie AJ Labas had given LSU a good outing, going six complete with three strikeouts and four hits allowed, the home run in the fifth being the only extra base hit he gave up. Coming off a complete game shutout two weeks ago against Lamar, Labas was pulled after only 77 pitches. He had made it twice through the Arkansas lineup, but on the third trip the Razorbacks were starting to make good contact. Nick Bush entered for the seventh and it immediately felt like the wrong move. A lead off walk and a double put 2 in scoring position with no outs for Kjerstad, who sent a single into center field on a hit and run that scored 2. Grant Koch followed that with a ground ball to third base that Broussard threw wide.
Bush was pulled for Matt Beck, who got a strikeout and induced a pop up to short left that kept the lead runner at 3rd from scoring. Unfortunately, another defensive mistake allowed Arkansas to erase even more of the deficit. A ground ball misplayed by Austin Bain rolled all the way past the bullpen in right, turning a ground ball out that should have ended the inning into two more unearned runs. Beck got a pop out to end the inning, but the Hogs had cut the LSU lead to 6-5.
In the bottom of the seventh, Bain got a lead off double and was brought in to score by Watson for more insurance. LSU could have made more of the inning, but a big baserunning mistake by Watson on a dropped pop up snuffed out the small rally. With a 7-5 lead, Beck was able to hold off Arkansas in the eighth and ninth innings, earning his first save of the season. AJ Labas moved to 6-1 on the year with the 7-5 win.
With LSU’s 2-1 series win over the West division leaders, the Tigers keep what’s left of their postseason hopes alive and crazily are still only three games back of the division lead. There wont be much of an RPI boost with winning a home series, but taking a weekend from the #4 team in the nation will be worth a huge confidence boost after an awful two week road trip. LSU is back in action Wednesday against McNeese State.