Hogs down LSU advance to Saturday

By Otis Kirk 

Arkansas used a catcher’s interference call to score five runs in the bottom of the fifth and then held on to take a 5-4 win over LSU Thursday in the SEC Tournament at Hoover, Ala. 

With the game tied at 2 it appeared that Kendall Diggs had popped up to center field to end the fifth inning. But the umpire correctly ruled catcher’s interference on the play and Caleb Cali scored from third base. The bases remained loaded and Arkansas now leading 3-2. However, Jace Bohrofen singled to right field plating both Peyton Holt and Parker Rowland. 

Dave Van Horn knew it was the correct call and talked about it afterward.

“Catcher’s interference,” Van Horn said. “He hit his glove when he swung. The amazing was he hit his glove. We heard it. We saw it. And the ball still made it to the outfield. If he hadn’t hit his glove, he might have hit it over his head, the way we look at it. Other people look at it a different way.

“But he definitely hit his glove. I don’t know that big board replay showed, you could really see, but we knew immediately that he hit his glove.”

LSU coach Jay Johnson also described what happened on the play.

“Yeah, I mean, I tip my hat to their hitters because they did something nobody has done all year, and they were able to get to the right part of the ball and hit some balls hard through the infield and created three or four good at-bats in a row,” Johnson said. “And in spite of all that, we get the catcher’s interference call. If that doesn’t happen, we’re out of that winning and it’s 2-2. Bohrofen is one of the best players in the country, and you give him a chance with a two-out RBI, and he came through.

“I tip my hat to their team. The top of the lineup is as talented as anybody in the country.”

Johnson was then asked to elaborate on the call.

“That Diggs’s bat hit (Alex) Milazzo’s mitt, and if it hit his mitt, then it’s catcher’s interference,” Johnson said. 

Prior to the call, Arkansas had tied the game at 2 when Jared Wegner was hit by a Paul Skenes pitch. Brady Slavens and Cali then singled. Cali’s single played Wegner. Peyton Holt then followed with a single to allow Slavens to score. 

LSU got on the scoreboard with a run in the top of the first. Hagen Smith fanned the first two hitters he faced. However, Tommy White, Hayden Travinski and Tre’ Morgan followed with three singles in a row. White scored on Morgan’s single.

In the top of the fourth, LSU opened the inning with singles from Travinski and Morgan. After Smith struck out the next two hitters, he walked Gavin Dugas to load the bases. Van Horn went to the bullpen to bring in Hunter Hollan. The lefty had a wild pitch that allowed Travinski to score. However, Hollan then settled down and retired Milazzo with a strikeout. LSU then led 2-0. 

Smith and Hollan combined to strike out 17 LSU hitters which was the most against the Tigers in any game this season. Johnson heaped praise on both Hollan and Smith.

“They have four pitches that they can execute, and it’s like that’s what you have to have, the pile-up strikeouts against us, and they executed very, very well,” Johnson said. “A lot of respect in the same way I talk about the top of their lineup, I have the same respect for those two guys on the mound. They’re two of the best left-handed pitchers in college baseball.”

Van Horn praised Holt, Cali and the offense some, but he too pointed out the job done by Smith and Hollan.

“Obviously a really good win for our team,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got to give LSU’s pitching credit. They did a really good job with us for most of the ballgame, as they held us to that one inning, but we put together a big inning and got a couple — at least one really big hit, catcher’s interference in there, and just able to capitalize on a couple of things.

“But on our side of the ball, we played great defense. I thought that Peyton Holt made a super smart heads-up play on the double play ball. He knew he couldn’t get that double play at first, ball was hit in the hole a little bit, and he spun and made a perfect throw, heads-up play by Cali being there at the bag waiting, and I think that really slowed them down.

“But to me, the story was our two pitchers. I thought they did a great job. Between the two of them, we didn’t have to field a lot of balls. I think we struck out 17, 18 guys, somewhere in there, and we fielded all the other ones. Just a really good team win, and get an opportunity to rest a little bit tomorrow.”

Trailing 5-2, LSU wouldn’t go down without a fight. White singled in the top of the eighth and then scored on a single by Jordan Thompson. White had advanced to second when Hollan walked Travinski. 

Trailing 5-3 in the top of the ninth, the Tigers got a solo home run with one out from SEC Player of the Year Dylan Crews. However, Hollan struck out pinch hitter Paxton Kling and then got White to ground out ending the game. 

Holt made one of the best defensive plays of the season in the top of the sixth. Travinski and Morgan opened the inning with singles. Thompson then hit a grounder to second where Holt stepped on second to force Morgan. Instead of going to first he instead threw to Cali at third where Travinski had taken too wide of a turn. Cali applied the tag for the 4-5 double play.

“You know, we’ve never actually worked on that play,” Holt said. “It’s just one of those things you keep in your back pocket, especially as a second baseman, like you know you’re not going to get the guy at first. And it was just something that I knew that I could do, and I did it, and it worked out. It was really big for us.”

LSU finished the game with 11 hits to only six for the Razorbacks. Skenes (10-2), the SEC Pitcher of the Year, took the loss. Hollan (8-2) got the win. He worked 5.1 innings. Hollan allowed six hits, two runs, one walk and fanned eight hitters. Smith worked 3.2 innings, allowed five hits, two runs, one walk and struck out nine. 

Arkansas (41-15) now advances to Saturday’s noon game on the SEC Network. They will face the winner of LSU and Texas A&M who play Friday at 3 p.m. The tournament becomes single elimination on Saturday. The Razorbacks defeated the Aggies 6-5 in 11 innings on Wednesday. The Aggies defeated South Carolina 5-0 earlier on Thursday. 

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