Solo homers by right fielder Mikie Mahtook and left fielder Trey Watkins along with an outstanding performance by starting pitcher Chris Matulis propelled No. 3 LSU to a 5-1 victory over No. 13 Arkansas in an SEC series finale Sunday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium.
With the win, the Tigers (16-3, 2-1) captured their sixth straight regular-season series victory over Arkansas (13-5, 1-2). LSU is 15-5 against the Razorbacks in that span.
LSU also won an SEC regular-season series for the 14th time in its last 15 conference weekends, dating back to April 2008.
“I thought this was a very significant win for our team,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “To come back and win this series against an excellent Arkansas team says a lot about the character of our players. They were challenged this weekend, and they responded in a very positive manner.”
The first three innings featured a pitching duel between Arkansas right-hander Brett Eibner and Matulis. Both pitchers had allowed no runs and two hits through three innings, and both pitchers escaped bases-loaded jams in the first inning.
Matulis (3-0) earned the victory in his first-career start in the SEC after allowing only one run on five hits through 5.1 innings with a career-high six strikeouts. Eibner (2-2) was charged with the loss after allowing three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts.
“Chris Matulis was outstanding today, and I’m very proud of the way he’s pitched this season,” Mainieri said. “I told him before the season that nothing would be handed to him, that he would have to earn everything he got. He earned the opportunity to start today, and he did a tremendous job.
Second baseman Tyler Hanover recorded his second multi-hit game of the series, as he finished 2-for-3 Sunday with a double. Centerfielder Leon Landry and third baseman Wet Delatte also contributed a pair of hits apiece in Sunday’s victory.
The Tigers got on the board in the fourth inning when Mahtook was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on an RBI single by designated hitter Matt Gaudet to give LSU a 1-0 lead.
LSU increased its lead to 2-0 in the fifth when Mahtook laced a solo homer to right-center field. The homer was Mahtook’s third of the season.
Eibner helped his own cause in the top of the sixth when he launched a solo homer off Matulis to cut the Arkansas deficit to 2-1. The homer was Eibner’s fifth of the season and third of this weekend’s series. He belted two dingers in Arkansas’ 6-3 win Friday night.
Senior right-hander Paul Bertuccini entered the game for Matulis with one out in the sixth and got the Tigers out of the inning, retiring the next two batters with a runner on third base.
In the bottom of the frame, Watkins ripped a solo homer of Eibner over the wall in right field to extend the LSU lead to 3-1. The homer was Watkins’ second of the season.
The Tigers extended their lead to 5-1 in the seventh on RBI singles by Landry and shortstop Austin Nola. Landry’s single through the right side plated catcher Micah Gibbs, who singled to start the inning. Landry came around to score on Nola’s single up the middle.
Freshman left-hander Jordan Rittiner earned his first-career save Sunday as he fired three shutout innings and allowed only two hits with a pair of strikeouts.
LSU will be back in action Wednesday night when the Tigers play host to UL-Lafayette at 6:30 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.