Homer Kills Arkansas' Momentum

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's Michael Hollander used as much body English as his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame would allow to keep his ninth inning walk-off homer inside the left-field foul pole. It served as Arkansas' momentum killer during Friday's 7-6 loss against the Tigers in front of 2,844 in Alex Box Stadium.

With a 1-0 count, Hollander pulled a Devin Collis fastball for a solo shot that hugged just inside the left field foul pole. Off the bat, Hollander wasn't sure, so he leaned his body toward fair territory as it approach the wall.

"I knew it was going out, I just though it was going foul," Hollander said. "It's an incredible feeling. I've never hit a walk-off home run, but I've always imagined doing it.

"But we needed it. They definitely had the momentum."

It helped LSU (28-16, 7-12 in Southeastern Conference play) snap a four-game SEC losing skid while handing Arkansas (30-13, 10-9) its first series-opening loss in three games.

"It's a good win," said LSU coach Ray "Smoke" Laval. "(Hollander) just ran into one. He was looking for something that he could drive and I think he was just trying to stand tall and really look for a double. He hit it well."

The teams hook up for Game 2 of the three-game series at 2 p.m. today.

"(Collis) just made a mistake and they made him pay," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "But I thought we did a good job of battling back. It's a tough loss, but let's move on. We're going to play again (today), so we can't get too upset about it."

Trailing 6-4 heading into the eighth inning, Arkansas began to seize momentum. James Ewing, in the starting lineup for the first time after missing 22 games with a fractured foot, led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Brian Walker bunted him over to third, setting up Danny Hamblin's RBI single to short right center that cut the lead to 6-5.

With runners at first and third and one out in the eighth, Collis (5-1) got Will Harris to ground into an inning-ending double play and seemingly keep the momentum in the Razorbacks' corner.

Tigers reliever Jonathan Wilhite got Walker to fly out to right before hitting Matt Willard with a pitch. That brought up Craig Gentry, pinch hitting for Stephen Robison after missing last weekend's series with a knee infection, and he sliced a single into short right field.

Ewing then drove in the tying run when he lined a single through the left side of the infield to score Willard from second. But that's all Arkansas would get in the inning, setting up Hollander's game-winning blast.

It's the second loss in a row that an Arkansas opponent hit a walk-off, game-wining homer in the bottom of the ninth after Mississippi State's Brian LaNinfa did it last Saturday.

"I felt like if we could get out of the bottom of the ninth, we had a really good chance to win the game," Van Horn said. "It just didn't happen. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Arkansas struck first when Jake Dugger drove a solo homer off LSU's National Championship billboard over the left field wall. It was Dugger's ninth homer, the most in his three seasons with the Razorbacks.

LSU answered when a pair of walks by Arkansas starter Nick Schmidt led to a two-run homer by J.T. Wise in the bottom of the first.

After contact, Wise didn't take any steps and stared down the long drive over the left field wall before flipping his bat away and jogging slowly around the bases.

That appeared to fire up Schmidt, who settled in to retire the next 10 batters in order. In one stretch, he struck out five of six batters. It allowed Arkansas to regain a 4-2 lead when Willard hit a two-run homer down the left-field line in the fifth and Blake Parker stole home on a missed suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the seventh.

Schmidt took a two-hitter into the bottom of seventh, but that's when he started to lose control again. A pair of walks and a bloop single loaded the bases with one out and a full-count single to left by pinch hitter Robert Lara cut the UA lead to 4-3 and ended Schmidt's outing.

Three more runs would score in the inning that included four runs on three hits and three walks. Hogs reliever Daryl Maday walked the only batter he faced to push the tying run across and a bloop single and a fielder's choice off Collis gave LSU a 6-4 lead.

Schmidt was credited with a career-high five earned runs and tied his career high with five walks.

"The first inning he threw too many pitches," Van Horn said. "He had some really solid innings and then got a little tired in the seventh. I thought he did a nice job, but those two walks in the seventh came back to hurt him."

LSU starter Clay Dirks allowed five runs on nine hits in 7 2/3 innings before being relieved by Wilhite, who allowed one run on two hits to pick up his first win of the season.


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