Eighth-Inning Push Gives Arkansas Series Opener Over LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. – The No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks hit three solo home runs and dialed up a three-run eighth inning right when they needed it Friday night to help them take the 5-4 series-opening victory from the LSU Tigers in Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (26-20, 10-12 SEC) had the tying run on third and the winning run on first in the bottom of the ninth inning, but junior Jake Reindl struck out the final two batters to close out his fifth save of the year and give the Razorbacks (33-13, 14-8 SEC) their fifth win in a row, fourth in conference play.
“There was a little frustration in the dugout after we left the bases loaded in the sixth inning,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “My comment to the team was, ‘This team can really hit. We haven’t put together our good inning yet.’ In most of our wins, we’re going to put together an inning where we score three or four runs. We were kind of living off the solo home run there for a while, but we finally strung together some hits in a row. This team is resilient. They never felt like they were out of the game because we have some firepower.
Before Reindl’s clutch performance in the ninth, the Hogs put together a three-run eighth to take its third lead of the game. Junior Eric Cole started the rally by hitting his second home run of the game, pulling the team within one. Then, sophomore Evan Lee and senior Jared Gates both came up with clutch two-out RBI singles to push their team ahead for good. Both Lee and Gates were hitless before those at-bats.
With the victory, Arkansas won its first game in Baton Rouge since 2014 and its eighth one-run game of the 2018 season. The win also keeps it atop the SEC Western Division and expands its’ lead over Ole Miss to two games.
For the ninth time this year, the Razorbacks totaled three or more home runs in a game as Cole and junior Grant Koch both went deep in the game. Cole delivered a solo blast to lead off the game in the first inning and then did it again to start the eighth-inning rally to up his season total to a team-leading 12 home runs
Cole finished the game 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. He’s the first Razorback to lead off a game with a home run this year and the seventh to homer twice in the same game this year.
As for Koch, his solo home run in the third inning made it 2-1 Hogs and was his first long ball since March 31 at Ole Miss. The home run was Koch’s only hit of the game, but it was his seventh home run of the year.
Arkansas now has 72 home runs this season, which continues to lead the SEC and is second in the nation.
Freshman Casey Martin also turned in a nice game as he went 2-for-4 at the plate, his 17th multi-hit game of the year.
Junior Blaine Knight gave up four runs over six innings in his 12th start of the year before giving way to the bullpen. It’s only the second time this year that Knight has allowed four or more runs in a game.
Junior Barrett Loseke came into the game at the start of the seventh inning with Arkansas trailing 4-2 and was able to shut down the LSU offense, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced. He ran into trouble in the ninth walking two of the first three batters, which led to Reindl coming out of the bullpen.
The performance continues a scoreless inning streak for Loseke as he has not allowed a run in his last 10.2 innings and struck out 19 during that span.
Reindl shut the door in a big way, striking out Nick Webre and Beau Jordan, for his third save in as many appearances.
The Hogs and Tigers will play game two of the three-game series on Saturday at Alex Box Stadium with first pitch set for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
For more information on Razorback Baseball, follow @RazorbackBSB on Twitter.