FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas had a series win slip through its fingers Saturday night.
The Razorbacks (25-7, 8-3 SEC) blew a seven-run lead over the final three innings and lost to LSU 10-8 inside a packed Baum Stadium.
Aided by a wild pitch, two errors and two hit batsmen, the Tigers scored five runs in the ninth inning to pull off the comeback.
“I basically told the team that I really like them,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “I think we have a great team and I really like them. Let’s learn from it and move on.”
Here is a snapshot of the loss:
It still wouldn’t have been pretty, but Arkansas would have won the game had it not been for a throwing error by Jax Biggers in the top of the ninth.
LSU had already scored two runs in the inning to make it a one-run game when Kramer Robertson hit a grounder to Biggers. The usually sure-handed defensive shortstop sailed his throw over Chad Spanberger’s head at first.
“I’ll take Jax Biggers over most every shortstop in the entire country,” Van Horn said. “The guy has made one error all year until that throw. He rushed it a little bit in my opinion.”
It was Biggers’ second error in 40 chances this season and allowed the game-tying and go-ahead runs to score for LSU. The Tigers tacked on another run when Carson Shaddy slipped when trying to field a grounder that also could have ended the inning.
The Razorbacks gave themselves a chance in the bottom of the ninth. Evan Lee drew a leadoff walk and Eric Cole hit a double down the right field line to put the potential tying runs in scoring position. After a two-out intentional walk of Spanberger to load the bases, though, Luke Bonfield struck out.
In the second game of Arkansas series against LSU last season in Baton Rouge, the Razorbacks blew a 9-1 lead and lost 10-9 in extra innings.
That game is probably best remember for the “rally opossum” that caused a delay shortly before the Tigers began their comeback.
Flirting with Danger
Van Horn pointed out that Arkansas left 13 runners on base Saturday, including nine in scoring position. The Razorbacks actually stranded the bases loaded in the fourth, fifth and ninth innings.
It was also reminiscent of games each of the last two weekends, when they nearly let victories get away late in the game.
Arkansas gave up five runs in the final two innings before winning its rubber match against Missouri 9-8 and then needed three runs in the ninth inning after blowing a two-run lead in the seventh during its 8-5 rubber match win against Alabama.
“We’ve escaped a couple of these the last couple of weekends,” Van Horn said. “We didn’t escape tonight.”
Cannon Chadwick was the man on the mound all three times, including Saturday against LSU.
“He’s struggled the last couple of weekends,” Van Horn said. “He’s going to have to get it going and we’re going to have a couple of other guys step up in that bullpen I feel like.”
Dominating Poche (Again)
Jared Poche made national headlines earlier this season when he threw a seven-inning no-hitter in his first outing and took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his second game.
Those performances were indicative of his career at LSU, but he has failed to have that kind of success against the Razorbacks.
In four starts against Arkansas, the senior has a 13.15 ERA, 2.92 WHIP and a 1.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Against his 57 appearances against other opponents, he has a 2.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 2.51 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
"For some reason Jared Poche always has trouble with Arkansas," LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. "That's four years in a row he hasn't pitched his best game against them."
Despite those poor numbers, Poche is credited with only one loss to the Razorbacks.
The reason LSU opted to intentionally walk Spanberger is because he was arguably the Razorbacks’ top hitter.
The junior went 3 for 4 with five RBIs and two walks. He is the first Arkansas player with five RBIs against an SEC opponent since Brian Anderson did it against Missouri on May 15, 2014.
Since the Missouri series, he is 18 for 47 (.383) with three home runs and 17 RBIs. That RBI total over 10 games matches his total from last season (33 games) and gives him 27 this season.
“He’s confident,” Van Horn said. “He’s not trying to pull the ball. If it’s in, he can pull it obviously, but he’s using the whole field.”
Stephan Rebounds on Mound
After back-to-back rough starts on the road (eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings), Trevor Stephan bounced back with a nice performance Saturday.
The junior right-hander allowed only two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out seven in seven innings.
It didn’t travel nearly as far as the one he hit Friday night, but Spanberger’s three-run was still impressive. He sent the first pitch of his second at bat over the wall between the scoreboard and batter’s eye in right-centerfield to give Arkansas a 5-1 lead.
Grant Koch hit his team-leading ninth home run to lead off the third inning and extend the Razorbacks’ lead to 6-1.
Greg Deichmann (10) and Jordan Romero (1) each homered for LSU.
Stats to Know
-A huge crowd saw Arkansas blow the late lead against LSU on Saturday. The 11,827 tickets sold were the second-most in Baum Stadium history, while the actual attendance of 10,987 ranks third all-time for a regular-season game.
-Biggers went 3 for 3 with a trio of singles and a walk. It was the third time this season that the nine-hole hitter had three or more hits in a game.
-Luke Bonfield reached on a catcher’s interference in the eighth inning. It was the third time he has done so in seven games. Including another one against Rhode Island, Bonfield has four this season.
Arkansas will try to win a rubber match for the third straight weekend Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be televised on SEC Network+.
History is not on the Razorbacks’ side. Since Van Horn became Arkansas head coach in 2003, the Razorbacks are 0-8 in the third game of the series against LSU when the teams split the first two games.
Fifth-year senior right-hander Josh Alberius (2-3, 3.64 ERA) will try to snap that streak when he takes the mound. He will face freshman right-hander Eric Walker (3-0, 3.03 ERA) for LSU.