Arkansas' Season Ends With Loss To LSU

OMAHA, Neb. — Chase Leavitt fouled a couple two-strike pitches off the net behind home plate in Rosenblatt Stadium, prolonging Arkansas' season for a few minutes.

The Razorbacks didn't pull off the most improbable two-strike, two-out, ninth-inning rally in baseball history and get past LSU on Friday. But the senior outfielder at least reminded the 19,734 in attendance at the College World Series that this Arkansas team thrived because of its guts and persistence.

Leavitt's surprising home run off LSU closer Matty Ott trimmed Friday's final score to 14-5 and evoked smiles and tears from his coaches and teammates.

"It was fun to see (Leavitt) hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, because we've been getting that all year," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "It didn't mean anything, but it meant something to us. That was perfect."

Arkansas became the fifth team eliminated from the CWS one batter later. But the Razorbacks (41-24) refused to sulk in the aftermath of their second blowout loss to LSU in six days.

They basked in the memories of their victories over Cal State Fullerton and Virginia. And they vowed to never forget the 12-inning win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday, even if the experience drained them of energy needed to challenge the talented Tigers.

"I'm just going to give credit to LSU," Van Horn said. "I think we might've been a little bit tired. (Wednesday's game) was a pretty tough game on everybody. But we just didn't hit the ball very well (against LSU). We didn't pitch very well, and we didn't field very well. That usually adds up to a loss.

"But sure, we were a little tired. I'm a little tired, and I don't even play."

Arkansas obviously seemed gassed, and LSU certainly didn't.

The Tigers dominated the Razorbacks in every way Friday after a 2-hour, 30-minute rain delay — having not played since beating the Hogs 9-1 on Monday.

LSU received a superb performance from sophomore right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, who lost on May 2 at Arkansas but rebounded Friday to throw six shutout innings. The Tigers also smacked eight extra-base hits, including four home runs, against the Razorbacks' tapped-out pitching staff.

They strung together two hits with two outs to score on Arkansas starter — and usual closer — Stephen Richards in the first. And their three runs in the third pretty much demoralized the Razorbacks, who quickly could tell that hits would be scarce against Ranaudo. LSU (54-16) added single runs in the fifth and sixth before exploding for five in the seventh and three in the ninth.

"I don't have a lot to say," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "A lot was made and being asked about our long layoff, but we just treated it like a weekend series without any midweek games. We had three good practices, and these guys were chomping at the bit to play someone in another colored uniform."

Arkansas' players were able to keep their accomplishments in perspective, even after the humbling defeat. They shook the Tigers' hands with their heads held high. They jogged off the field after a left-field meeting with Van Horn, who told them he "wouldn't get emotional because he was too proud of them."

They even chuckled at some of Van Horn's comments at their post-game news conference, the pain of the LSU defeat not deep enough to stem their upbeat attitude. After winning twice at the CWS, giving Arkansas its first wins in Omaha since 1989, the Razorbacks simply declined to dwell on falling short of a national championship.

After all, they did advance to college baseball's version of the Final Four.

"It hurt, of course. LSU was just better than us the past couple times we played, though," senior Ben Tschepikow said. "I hope they win it all to represent the SEC. But this has been such a great experience playing here. It can't be any better than this.

"This is the promise land for college baseball players, and this is going to live with me forever."

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