Tigers improve to 7-0 wirth sweep

After two games that seemed closer than they should have been, the LSU Tigers flexed their offensive muscles in Sunday's finale completing the three-game sweep of Arkansas-Little Rock with a 15-9 tilt at Alex Box Stadium.

The Tigers (7-0) are off to their best start since opening the 1997 season with a 19-0 run. LSU went on to win the national championship that season posting a 57-13 record.


Sunday's game, which was doused with a second inning rainshower, was highlighted by monstrous home runs first Nick Stavinoha, a blast that cleared the left field bleachers.


Two batters later, Derek Hebert followed suit going yard to right field with a shot off Alex Box's Intimidator.


No. 2 LSU hits the road next weekend for its first road action. The Tigers will travel west on I-10 to Houston. The Cougars (2-5) dropped two of three games to Pepperdine last weekend. Rainer Noble's team may display a subpar record, but the Cougars losses have come at the hands of Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas A&M and a 7-6, 10-inning loss at Rice.



LSU 15, UALR 9


It was a game that seemed to last weeks.


Actually, the afternoon resembled different days as a cloud-covered rainy Alex Box Stadium turned to sunny skies as LSU trounced Arkansas-Little Rock 15-9 Sunday in the final game of the weekend series.


The game was practically over before it started.


LSU scored six runs in each of the first two innings and with the game barely a half-hour old, the Tigers led 12-0.


And then the rains came.


A 10-minute rain shower sent most of the 3,289 fans running for cover as the heavens opened. During the deluge, the Trojans (4-6) managed a couple of runs to avoid the shutout.


In the wake of the wet stuff, LSU skipper Smoke Laval went to his bench as the Tigers substituted freely. As LSU made its substitutions, UALR began battling back scoring two more runs in the fifth before a three-error eighth inning by the Tigers allowed five Trojan runners to score closing the gap to 13-9.


"It is tough to pitch when you are up a lot," Laval said. "It is also tough to hit because you figure they are going to be trick pitching because they are so far out of it."


While the final seven innings after the early onslaught may have looked like a Tiger team that had lost its focus, Laval used Sunday's contest to shave down his roster who will play an active role this season the rest of the way.


"It was like red tag day, you know, cut down day, like when you get the red tag in your locker," Laval said. "I got out of it what I wanted to."


The game opened with one hard hit after another including Stavinoha and Hebert's second inning blasts.


"The home run felt good," Hebert said. "I didn't think it would get out. The pitch was down and in and I didn't think I got it high enough until I saw it hit the sign."


Stavinoha homered, doubled in going 2-for-3 with five RBIs. Ryan Patterson doubled as did Jordan "Big Country" Mayer, Quinn Stewart and Dustin Weaver.


"It definitely sets the tone early," Stavinoha said of LSU's early offensive success. You always want to get ahead early."


Greg Smith, who is the Tigers regular Sunday starter, got the nod and won his second consecutive start. In five innings pitched, Smith allowed four runs, of which only two were earned, on five hits with six punchouts. Smith threw 90 pitches facing 22 batters.


"I wasn't nearly as nervous as last week," Smith said. "It is like riding a bike. All it takes is getting used to it."


LSU used three pitchers in the game including Smith. Chris Cahill came on in relief of Smith and was hit hard on four hits giving up five runs in 2 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out three but walked five. Eric English closed out the game pitching the final 1 1/3 innings. He did strike out one, but also issued a base on balls.


"It is good to see it get close," Laval said of the game's later stages," It is good to see how they act."


- MD



LSU 11, UALR 8


Arkansas-Little Rock continued to battle No. 2 LSU Saturday tooth and nail.


After a near miss Friday night, a game LSU won 4-2, the Trojans had the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth before junior lefthander Jason Determann came on to retire the side preserving an 11-8 win for the Tigers (6-0).


A game during which the temperatures dropped almost 20 degrees turned out to be an offensive slugfest. The teams combined for 27 hits and 19 runs as LSU remained perfect on the season.


Sophomore lefthander Clay Dirks picked up his second straight win and improved to 2-0 on the season. Although Dirks registered the "w," it did not come without some excitement.


In five innings pitched, Dirks gave up three runs, all earned, on six hits and a pair of walks as well as a Steve Bilokur home run. Bilokur's two-out, two-run homer in the top of the first inning gave Little Rock the early lead.


"I didn't have my good stuff," Dirks said. "I wasn't spotting my fastball in and didn't find my curveball until the second or third inning. But I just kept battling. It was my ‘B' game, but you are not going to have your good stuff every time you go out there."


The Tigers tied the score in the home half of the first, bolstered by a solo home run by catcher Matt Liuzza. LSU went ahead with a run in the third, but UALR wouldn't go away re-tying the score 3-3 in the top of the fourth.


"Dirks didn't have his ‘A' game," said LSU coach Smoke Laval. "Take out a walk and the home run and he keeps us in there for five innings without his good stuff."


A four-run fourth inning and a two-spot in the fifth gave the Tigers a comfortable 9-3 lead. However, Little Rock clawed back with a trio of runs in the top of the sixth highlighted by Eric Bowman home run.


Laval then went to his bullpen and used three other hurlers the rest of the way. Chase Dardar surrendered four earned runs on five hits in just an inning of worked. He faced two batters in the seventh before giving way to Justin Meier. Meier worked 2 2/3 innings before Laval pushed the panic button in the ninth and called for Determann. However, Meier allowed one earned run on two hits with three strikeouts.


"Meier looked pretty good," Laval said. "He gave up two hits, but both were good pitches."


Offensively, Ryan Patterson led the way going 3-for-5 with a double and a pair of singles along with two RBIs. Nick Stavinoha logged three singles and three RBIs and Clay Harris doubled and singled going 2-for-5. Michael Hollander, who snagged a hot shot up the middle for a double play, no doubt the defensive highlight of the game, went 1-for-4 with a single and three RBIs.


"The impressive thing was our outs were hard outs," Laval said. "We didn't have that in the last two games. It seemed like we had a go-zillion flyouts."


UALR committed three errors in the game, which inevitably cost the Trojans the game. LSU, on the other hand, was perfect in the field.


"Hollander made a game-saving play," Laval said of Hollander's electrifying double play in the seventh. "That was nice to see that we can get ourselves out of a jam. I guess, though, we played pretty well defensively."


Despite rather chilly temperatures, a crowd of 4,670 turned out to see Saturday's game.


- MD





Senior Lane Mestepey notched his second win of the season, while a pair of unearned runs proved to be the difference as second-ranked LSU held on for a 4-2 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in a pitcher's duel at Alex Box Stadium on Friday night.


Mestepey (2-0) worked 6.2 innings allowing one run on four hits and striking out five. The southpaw walked one, surrendering his first free pass of the season in 13.2 innings pitched.


Equally brilliant was Trojan starter Bennett Cromer (1-1) who went the distance in his second outing of the season. Cromer allowed four runs (two earned), walked three and struck out six in eight innings. The projected Major League prospect fired 121 pitches, including 76 for strikes.


Left fielder Ryan Patterson broke out of an early season slump, posting a 2-for-3 night to propel his average to .333 on the season. Designated hitter Blake Gill and first baseman Will Harris added a pair of hits to LSU's final tally of eight.


For the third time this season, the Tigers used an impressive first inning to jump out to a quick 3-0 lead. Bruce Sprowl drew a leadoff walk and came into score the game's first run on Gill's RBI groundout. Patterson lined a double down the left field line and later touched home after Cromer dropped a throw from third baseman Steve Bilokur in a run-down opportunity.


"I tried to stay in it (the run down) as long as I could," said Patterson. "I saw a break, he dropped it and I scored just like a normal play in the books."


Will Harris, who continues to be the Tigers' hottest hitter through the first five games, closed out the three-run first with an RBI single.


After allowing three hits in the first, Cromer settled down and set into grove. He did not allow a hit over the next 4.2 innings, until Gill lined a one-out single into left to extend his hitting streak to 19 games.


Mestepey cruised into the sixth inning when UALR managed their first threat of the game. Back-to-back singles by designated hitter Ben McMurry and shortstop Derek Eilers started the side. The Trojans first run crossed the plate three batters later on Bilokur's sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 3-1.


After recording the first two outs of the seventh, Edgar Ramirez came on in his second relief appearance of the season. Ramirez, a transfer from Florida International, closed out the seventh but issued a run in the eighth courtesy of Chad McKellar's sac-fly.


Ramirez set down the first two batters of the ninth, but the righty fell into trouble again and committed a throwing error to allow Mitchell Webb to reach second after an infield single. Josh Ward's walk brought the go-ahead run to the plate.


Closer Jordan Faircloth came on and forced the final out on pinch-hitter Matt Garlington's grounder to capture his second save of the season.


- Bill Martin, LSU Sports Information

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