Ryne Stanek outlasted LSU ace Aaron Nola to help Arkansas pull away in the last two innings for a 4-1 victory in the winner's bracket final Thursday night at the Hoover Met.
The No. 15 Razorbacks advance to the tournament semifinals Saturday at noon. The game will be on ESPNNews. SEC West champ LSU (49-9) and Alabama will meet Friday to see who advances to play Arkansas.
Stanek, 9-2, beat the No. 2 Tigers for the second time this season. He allowed only an unearned run in the third inning when shortstop Bret McAfee misfired on a scoop to second for the third out early in the game. He allowed six hits in eight innings. He lowered his ERA to 1.40 and helped the Hogs lower the team ERA, best in the nation, to 1.85.
Arkansas (37-19) tied it in the fifth when catcher Jean Rameriz singled to center, then scored on a hit-and-run double by Joe Serrano into the gap in left center.
Nola, unbeaten in 10 decisions this season, left after seven innings. The Hogs took the lead in the eighth when Matt Vinson singled, advanced to third on Dominic Ficociello's single and then raced home on Tyler Spoon's squeeze bunt. It was Spoon's third hit in the game and fifth in the tournament. Spoon also made a running catch at the wall late in the game.
The Razorbacks added two more in the ninth with some daring base running and another hit for a bunt by Vinson. Eric Fisher and Serrano delivered hits ahead of Vinson. The Hogs pounded 12 hits against five LSU pitchers.
Colby Suggs worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save of the season, tying the school record.
"I thought the starting pitchers did a tremendous job; they're both outstanding in their records and their ERAs show that," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "It's not something that happened every now and then with those guys, it happens every time they are on the mound. We felt like it was going to be a tight game and it was. I'm proud of our guys battling at the plate against (Aaron) Nola. It was a good team; we got to use a back-up catcher and it was a good team win for us."
Van Horn lauded Stanek's effort.
"I think if you take out the fourth inning where he walked three in a row and threw 20 extra pitches," he said, "I thought he had one of his better outings of the year. He's strong as an ox."
Suggs was strong, too.
"He's been lights out pretty much every time out," Van Horn said. "Again tonight, throwing the ball 95 plus with an upper 80s nasty slider, it was good to see him go out there and get right through that inning. Great job by him; you have to have a closer this day, scores are tight and you have to be able to finish games."
The Tigers were impressed by Stanek, as expected.
"The stage was set for a really good game tonight," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "I don't think anyone was disappointed in the pitcher's duel.
"I thought Aaron pitched his heart out. You have to tip your hat to Stanek. He's really good. He's about ready for the big leagues. He was throwing a lot of off speed pitches when he was behind in counts. That really surprised us. We thought he would challenge us a little bit more. He was the story of the game.
"I thought Aaron was phenomenal but he had to use a few more pitches to get through seven innings. He had a 20 pitch first inning and it was a shutout inning and the difference in the game was me not being able to go the eighth inning with him and they stayed with their guy for that inning. They have power arms. We knew that they did. We knew it would be this kind of game. We just didn't take advantage of the scoring opportunities we had."
Arkansas 4, LSU 1
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