Even after two

Despite severe weather that tore through the region, LSU and Arkansas piled on a pair of games late Saturday to start a series that should go a long way in determining the SEC Western Conference.

The No. 4 ranked LSU Tigers (35-13, 15-8 SEC) did not get the weekend started the way that head coach Paul Mainieri had hoped.

First, there was the weather.

Due to heavy rain the opener, which was scheduled for Friday night, was moved to Saturday in the form of a doubleheader.

As the weather conditions continued to push the first pitch back on Saturday, it seemed that the thought of scratching the weekend series was moving its way to the forefront of the conversation.

Yet, come 5 o’clock the skies had cleared.

Eight innings later, Arkansas junior Dallas Keuchel was putting the finishing touches on a marquee performance from the hill.

The southpaw allowed three earned runs on five hits over 8.1 innings of work to earn the 11-4 victory, moving the Razorbacks into first place in the Western Division - at least for the moment.

The loss dropped the Tigers to third place, trailing both Arkansas and Ole Miss by a half game.

LSU got off to a quick start after Blake Dean knocked a two-run home run off Keuchel in the first inning.

Yet, the home team bounced back in the bottom of the second with a home run of their own, a solo shot by Andy Wilkins, his fourteenth on the season.

LSU starter Anthony Ranaudo got into hot water once more in the fourth, facing ten batters as the home team put together a four-run inning.

The right-hander’s departure for Ben Alsup in the seventh saw the Arkansas bats come alive once more, scattering four runs across the frame as they extended the lead to 9-2.

Two more runs would come in the bottom of the eighth, giving the home team the convincing game one victory.

Yet, for the Tigers, salvation was on the way in the form of a veteran arm.

Louis Coleman, who has become one of the conferences premier pitchers, took the hill for LSU in game two.

In typical Coleman-fashion, he did not disappoint.

Despite the first pitch not coming until 8:15 p.m., the senior tossed a two-hit shutout for his ninth win on the year.

The performance, capped off at the plate for LSU with a five-run showing, evened the weekend series.

The evening’s affairs shook the all-too-close race in the West up once more, moving the Tigers a half game in front of the Rebels and Razorbacks for the division lead.

With a familiar face on the mound for the home team, former Tiger T.J. Forrest, the LSU bats came alive early in game two.

Sparked in large part by a Ryan Schimpf triple, LSU forced the Razorbacks to warm up the bullpen just two outs into the game, scoring three runs on Forrest as he struggled to stay afloat early in the contest.

LSU struck again in the fifth frame, seeing Jared Mitchell double to score Micah Gibbs from third, moving the lead to 4-0.

The following frame would bring the game’s final run by way of an Arkansas throwing error, the lone fielding mishap on the evening for the home team.

Forrest lasted 5.1 innings on the night, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in the loss.

Coleman, who walked just one batter over nine innings of work, struck out six en route to earning his ninth win on the year.

It was the first complete-game shutout by a Tiger pitcher since May 1, 2005, when Greg Smith silenced Vanderbilt, 3-0.

After allowing a leadoff single in the second, the right-hander retired 19 straight Razorback hitters.

“Louis was phenomenal tonight; once again, he demonstrated how valuable he is to our program,” Mainieri said. “He came through for us in a big way after we lost the first game.

“He delivered exactly what we needed and hopefully we can carry some momentum into Sunday’s game.”

The two teams will be back in action on Sunday for game three of the series.

Sophomore right-hander Austin Ross (4-5, 4.92 ERA) is LSU’s scheduled starting pitcher, while Arkansas will counter with sophomore right-hander Brett Eibner (4-2, 3.23 ERA).

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