FAYETTEVILLE – After knocking around LSU’s two aces, Arkansas couldn’t solve Eric Walker on Sunday.
The freshman scattered four hits and threw a shutout to help the Tigers clinch the series with a 2-0 win over the Razorbacks (25-8, 8-4 SEC).
“We kind of knew what we were getting into today,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We were getting into a strike thrower that really didn’t throw the ball down the middle of the plate and that’s what he did.
“We just got beat by a good pitcher. Walker stuck it to us.”
Here is a snapshot of the loss:
Arkansas’ best chance to score came in the fourth inning.
Luke Bonfield reached on a single and then moved to third on a two-out single by Dominic Fletcher. However, Carson Shaddy lined out to LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson to end the threat and the Razorbacks had only one runner reach second base the rest of the game.
Robertson was a consistent factor for the Tigers in the field, as he recorded seven outs and made several great plays.
“He made a play last night that saved them a couple of runs and today some of those plays were tough,” Van Horn said. “Sometimes you don’t make (those plays) and open the door, but they never opened that door for us.”
The Razorbacks had a one-out base runner each of the last four innings, but LSU used three double plays to help get out of those situations.
Van Horn Ejected
Two innings prior to that, Arkansas had a two-out rally cut short when Jared Gates struck out looking.
The Razorbacks’ entire dugout, including Van Horn, was unhappy with the 3-2 pitch being called a strike.
They thought it was low and should have been ball four. Instead of runners on first and second for Eric Cole, Shaddy was stranded on second after reaching on a hit by pitch and stealing a base.
Before Van Horn even got out of the dugout, home plate umpire Seth Buckminster ejected him from the game. While Van Horn was arguing with Buckminster, two other Arkansas assistants were having separate discussions with umpires.
“Basically I kept telling him, ‘That pitch was low. That pitch was down,’” Van Horn said. “He never gave me a warning or anything and he just tossed me.
“That’s not the protocol. The protocol is, ‘That’s your warning That’s it, I’ve heard enough.’ And then you have to shut up basically. He never gave me a warning.”
Several players, including Blaine Knight, also voiced their displeasure, but none were ejected.
Van Horn said Buckminster is a new umpire in the SEC who the Razorbacks have had in several games earlier in the season.
“I can’t really say a whole lot, but there’s a lot of attitude there,” Van Horn said.
It was the first time Van Horn has been ejected since March 27, 2015, against Ole Miss, when he was also tossed in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes.
Arkansas called on sophomore right-hander Jake Reindl with the bases loaded and only one out in the fourth inning.
He got the Razorbacks out of the jam unscathed with a strikeout and groundout and proceeded to allow only one base runner over the next three innings.
“That was probably the positive of the game for us today,” Van Horn said. “Jake Reindl came in and really did a nice job of mixing his pitches.”
Reindl’s scoreless innings streak reached 11 1/3 innings – stretching across four appearances – before he gave up a run in the seventh inning. It was unearned, but the result of his own throwing error on a sacrifice bunt.
He bounced back with a perfect ninth inning, lowering his ERA to 1.66 this season. Reindl said that his sinker and slider were working well and the outing gives him confidence heading into the rest of the season.
“I’ll go back and I’ll look at it before I come out and pitch again,” Reindl said. “It’ll be something I look at to move forward, for sure.”
With Cannon Chadwick struggling to the tune of six earned runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings over his last three appearances, Van Horn said Reindl could have a chance to move into the closer role for the Razorbacks.
He could also potentially replace Josh Alberius – who has allowed five earned runs in 9 1/3 innings in his last three SEC starts – as Arkansas’ Sunday starter.
“He’s done that really the last couple of times out, so he’s definitely going to be a guy that either moves to one of the top bullpen spots coming out quicker or maybe he moves into the rotation,” Van Horn said. “We’ll just look at it.”
Stats to Know
-Another big crowd was on hand for Sunday’s Arkansas-LSU game. The actual attendance of 7,137 brought the weekend total to 27,412.
-Coupled with Auburn’s loss to Texas A&M and Mississippi State’s win over Kentucky, the Razorbacks are now in a three-way tie atop the SEC West. Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State are 8-4 in conference play, with LSU a game back at 7-5.
-Van Horn has still won only two series against LSU in 15 tries. Those came in the form of sweeps in 2004 and 2011. Sunday’s loss drops him to 0-9 all-time in rubber games against the Tigers.
-LSU’s first two starters – Alex Lange and Jared Poche – are considered two of the top pitchers in the conference, but struggled against Arkansas. Combined, they went 7 2/3 innings and allowed nine earned runs on 15 hits and seven walks while striking out nine. Walker, the less-heralded freshman, went a full nine innings and allowed only four hits and two walks.
-In each of the first two games of the series, the Razorbacks left 13 runners on base. Instead of wasting chances Sunday, they had very limited opportunities. “We didn’t have the leadoff man on the whole game,” Van Horn said. “Not one time in nine innings did we get the leadoff man on and that’s probably why we got beat.” During the three-game series, Arkansas stranded 31 runners on base.
Arkansas hits the road for a single midweek game at Missouri State on Tuesday.
The Bears (21-10) won both midweek games between the schools last season, including a 14-6 blowout in Springfield, Mo., but the Razorbacks won two out of three in the 2015 super regional at Baum Stadium to clinch a spot in the College World Series.
“For the last three years, it’s been a heck of a series,” Shaddy said. “Back from 2015 when we saw them in the super regional, that whole series just kind of laid the foundation for this rivalry.
“It’s going to be a fun week. I can’t wait to go out and play them.”
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. and the game will be streamed on ESPN3, meaning it can be watched online or on the WatchESPN app.