By Bill Franques, LSU Senior Associate Communications Director
HOOVER, Ala. – A five-run fourth-inning lifted fourth-ranked Arkansas on Thursday to a 5-4 win over fifth-ranked LSU in the SEC Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
LSU, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, is 43-14 on the year and will face No. 10 seed Texas A&M in a tournament elimination game at 3 p.m. CT Friday. The game will be broadcast on affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised on the SEC Network.
Arkansas (41-15) advances to the tournament semifinal round and will face the LSU-Texas A&M winner at Noon CT on Saturday.
Arkansas left-hander Hunter Hollan (8-2) earned the win, working the final 5.1 innings and limiting LSU to two runs on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.
Razorbacks starting pitcher Hagen Smith pitched the first 3.2 innings and allowed two runs on five hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.
Hollan and Smith also combined to defeat LSU in a regular-season meeting on March 24.
“In my opinion, at least who we saw, and we didn’t play everybody, Smith and Hollan are the two best guys we saw all year,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “So that’s twice that they’ve used both of them against us to win.
“I think that speaks a lot about our team offensively that it takes two pitchers like that to hold us down, and credit to them for doing a good job.”
LSU starting pitcher Paul Skenes (10-2) was charged with the loss, as he allowed five runs – only two earned – on four hits in 3.2 innings with two walks and three strikeouts.
LSU grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when first baseman Tre’ Morgan delivered an RBI single against Smith.
The Tigers added a run in the fourth when designated hitter Hayden Travinski – who was 4-for-4 at the plate – scored from third base on a wild pitch by Hollan.
Arkansas, however, struck for five runs in the bottom of the fourth against Skenes to take a 5-2 lead. Third baseman Caleb Cali and second baseman Peyton Holt provided RBI singles to tie the game at 2-2.
Arkansas loaded the bases with two outs later in the inning, and LSU reliever Riley Cooper retired designated hitter Kendall Diggs on a pop-up to shortstop, seemingly ending the inning with the 2-2 score. The home plate umpire, however, ruled that LSU catcher Alex Milazzo interfered with Diggs’ swing, allowing him to reach first base and Cali to score from third base.
Rightfielder Jace Bohrofen followed with a two-out, two-run single to increase the Arkansas advantage to 5-2.
“(Diggs) probably hit his glove, so I’m not saying the umpire is wrong on that,” Johnson said, “but that’s a tough way to give up three runs.”
Cooper was brilliant in relief, allowing LSU to narrow the deficit. He worked 4.1 innings, allowing no runs on two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.
“Riley was phenomenal,” Johnson said. “We’re really pleased with him; I thought he looked fresh and rested. He rose to the occasion against one of the better teams in the country. He did a really good job.”
The Tigers plated a run in the eighth when shortstop Jordan Thompson lined an RBI single to left field.
Centerfielder Dylan Crews blasted a one-out, solo homer in the ninth – his 15th dinger of the season – but Hollan retired the next two LSU hitters to end the game.