FAYETTEVILLE – Connor Noland lost a no-hitter and a 2-0 lead during LSU’s 3-run sixth inning, but Arkansas bounced back to win Thursday night’s opener 5-4 of a 3-game SEC West series before 10,270 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Razorbacks relievers Evan Taylor, the winner as the pitcher of record during Arkansas’ 3-run seventh, and Brady Tygart, with a 2-inning save and netting a pivotal inning ending doubleplay fashioned by second baseman Robert Moore following an unearned LSU run in the eighth, finished what Noland started.
Thursday’s victory jumped nationally sixth-ranked by D-1 Baseball Arkansas to 26-7 overall and enhanced its best in the SEC West to 9-4.
LSU, 23-10 overall and ranked 15th by D-1 Baseball after sweeping three last week from reigning national champion Mississippi State, dropped to a 7-6 third-place SEC West tie with Auburn and Texas A&M behind second-place Alabama, 7-5.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks and new LSU Coach Jay Johnson’s Tigers, continue their series at 6 p.m. Friday televised by the SEC Network and conclude at 2 p.m. Saturday at Baum-Walker.
“I thought Connor pitched really well,” Van Horn said.
Especially with the no-hitter going and striking out two in the sixth after hitting the leadoff batter with a pitch.
Three consecutive singles by Jacob Berry, Cade Doughty and and Josh Pearson quickly erased the 2-0 to down 3-2 with Noland retiring Jordan Thompson on a line drive for Noland’s final out.
“Connor, that inning happened so quickly we didn’t really have a chance to get anybody loose,” Van Horn said. “Hindsight’s 20-20. Maybe we needed a lefty (Taylor) hot there for a hitter.
But good job by our guys fighting back. It’s a good win for our team. A big-time effort, I thought by Evan Taylor and Brady Tygart to come in and give us some quality innings there at the end.”
Greenbrier’s Cayden Wallace, at 2 for 5 the lone Hog with two hits Thursday and tormenting the Tigers with his speed, beat out an infield hit to third base leading off the first compounded by taking second because LSU third baseman Berry errantly rushed the throw. Chris Lanzilli singled Wallace home from second for an unearned run off LSU starter Mak’hail Hilliard.
Hilliard walked four Razorbacks in the third, the last walk with two-out to Braydon Wallace netting a bases-loaded run. Moore rocketed what would have been an extra-bases producing line drive but for it streaming directly into second baseman Doughty’s glove.
“You’re thinking at the time the way Connor’s going, ‘Boy, if we get a hit right there and double this lead to 4-0, we’re in pretty good shape,” Van Horn said.
The Hogs and the Tigers saw a turning point with Moore’s smash caught.
“Sure enough, you just kind of knew in our dugout that they were going to make a run,” Van Horn said. “That’s exactly what they did.”
The bullpen is LSU’s pitching strength. Johnson employed five relievers, not because of ineffectiveness but for matchups, after having Hilliard call it a night after five.
The losing LSU reliever, Riley Cooper, accompanied Johnson from the University of Arizona after Johnson was hired to replace retired longtime former LSU national champion coach Paul Mainieri.
Arkansas third baseman Wallace singled off Cooper leading off the seventh. Lefty Cooper struck out Brady Slavens and got Lanzilli to fly to right before Michael Turner’s single off advanced Wallace to second.
Running all the way with two outs, Wallace stunned the Tigers scoring the tying run from second on Braydon Webb’s single to short off just inserted right-handed reliever Devin Fontenot.
“It was definitely going to be an infield hit, and Wallace just kept running,” Van Horn said. “Hits were hard to come by and sometimes you just have to take a chance. The shortstop (Jordan Thompson) threw the ball that obviously was a little off line and we tied it up.”
Eric Reyzelman, another right-hander, relieved and wild-pitched the runners to second and third.
Moore smashed another shot near second baseman Doughty. This one bounced skipping through to bring both home.
“Like here we go again, he’s going to square one up and it’s going right at somebody,” Van Horn said. “It hit the ground and took off to the right and got by him.”
Moore had already turned in one defensive gem before the eighth when a leadoff catcher’s interference, always scored an error, exited Taylor for freshman Tygart.
Crews and Berry both bloop singled. Berry’s netted a RBI. Doughty grounded out to Tygart advancing the runners. Pearson walked, setting up Moore turning a 4, 4-3 doubleplay.
“To get that doubleplay was huge,” Van Horn said. “We had Robert up the middle, and obviously he fielded it and knew exactly what to do —run to the bag and flip it to first. And we got into the bottom of the eighth with a one-run lead.”
Tygart got a strike out and fly out to start the ninth, and with two strikes threw two borderline near-strikes to Josh Stevenson who then singled.
The unflappable freshman did not deem himself unlucky.
“Next guy’s unlucky because he’s going to be the last out,” Tygart said.
That next guy, Tre’ Morgan, flied out.