LSU clinches series in walk-off fashion

No. 8 LSU clinched the series against Arkansas in walk-off fashion on Saturday. Mark Laird delivered the game-winning single in the ninth inning to seal the 5-4 victory, the Tigers' seventh straight.

Mark Laird couldn't have been happier to receive a shaving cream pie to the face.

The sophomore outfielder delivered a walk-off single Saturday to give No. 8 LSU a 5-4 victory against Arkansas at Alex Box Stadium. The win marks the Tigers' seventh straight and clinches the series, giving LSU wins in seven of the last eight regular season series between these two programs.

Laird's teammates celebrated by smashing that cream pie into his face while he was conducting a postgame interview with the ESPN broadcast crew.

"It is the first shaving cream pie I've gotten at LSU," Laird said. "And I hope there are more of them."

After trailing 4-0 after four innings, Arkansas managed to climb back and tie it after the seventh. That set the stage for the ninth-inning fireworks.

Chris Chinea walked on five pitches to start the inning, and Jake Fraley replaced him on the base paths. A sacrifice bunt by Andrew Stevenson moved the game-winning run into scoring position, and after a pop out in foul territory by Kramer Robertson, Arkansas walked Sean McMullen intentionally to get to Laird with two outs.

"When I saw them walk the guy in front of me, it got to me a little bit," Laird said. "I just wanted to end the game there."

Laird had his work cut out for him facing Arkansas closer Michael Gunn, who hadn't allowed an earned run in 18 innings this season. Laird worked the count full and delivered the walk-off single to left field on a high fastball.

"Those walk-off wins are amazing what they do for team chemistry and enthusiasm," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "I'm glad we were able to pull one out there in the end."

Arkansas seemed to have the momentum pointing their way through those last few innings though. Facing a four-run deficit, the Razorbacks finally broke through with two runs in the fifth off LSU starter Jared Poché.

Arkansas 1B Eric Fisher opened the scoring with a solo homer, his second of the series. A hit-by-pitch, single and two sacrifices brought in the other run of the inning.

The Razorbacks added one more off Poché in the sixth, courtesy of two singles and two more sacrifices. Poché exited after that third run came in, lasting 5 2/3 innings with three strikeouts on six hits in the no decision.

"It was OK, wasn't my best, wasn't my worst," Poché said of his outing. "I couldn't locate my fastball like I normally can, but I came out winning and gave the team a good chance to win."

That left it up to the LSU bullpen to cling on to a small lead. Brady Domangue replaced Poché with two outs and a runner on third, but induced a lineout to short to end the inning.

The LSU defense contributed to Arkansas' game-tying run in the seventh. RF Andrew Benintendi delivered a one-out single up the middle, and then Chinea was called for a catcher's interference — his second in consecutive weekends — to put two on with one out.

Both runners attempted to steal in the next at-bat, and Chinea's throw to third sailed over Christian Ibarra to bring in the game-tying run.

"I was hard on myself," Chinea said. "I knew I was going to come up the plate again. I drew that walk, then Mark got the game-winning hit. I just went up to him and said, ‘Thank you.'"

That brought in Alden Cartwright, who recorded two consecutive outs to strand the go-ahead run on third. Kurt McCune worked around a two-out double in the eighth to preserve the tie, and he came out after an error and sacrifice bunt put the go-ahead run in scoring position in the ninth.

Joe Broussard stranded the go-ahead run on third in the ninth
That led to Joe Broussard, who induced a groundout to second that moved the runner to third with two outs. He intentionally walked the next batter and struck out DH Clark Eagan to end the inning, with the tie intact.

"It was a great team win," Broussard said. "Everyone played their role, did exactly what they had to do. It all just escalated into a win."

Most of LSU's offense came early as the Tigers jumped out to a four-run lead, much like they did in Friday's series opener. Christian Ibarra kicked off the scoring with a solo homer in the second, his third of the season.

LSU tacked on another run in that inning, courtesy of a Chinea double to right-center field.

The Tigers added two more in the fourth with a two-out rally. Chinea singled, and Stevenson walked behind him. Kramer Robertson delivered the two-run double to deep left-center field, making it 4-0 after four innings.

"It certainly was an exciting day at The Box today," Mainieri said. "It wasn't necessarily the best game we've played, but at the end of the day, we overcame it all."

LSU will try to cap off the series with another win Sunday, with hopes of notching consecutive sweeps in SEC series for the first time this season. Kyle Bouman will get the start in the finale, as he's returned to health after spraining his ankle earlier this season.

First pitch for Sunday's game is set for 1 p.m.


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