Nate Allen on Arkansas vs. LSU
Contributed by Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – At LSU’s expense, the Arkansas Razorbacks Thursday night turned their Baum-Walker Stadium into “Home Run Hogs Haven.”
By the fourth inning of their 14-4 SEC West trouncing of the Tigers, the Razorbacks tied their season-high hitting five home runs in game and led 12-2 on a chilly 48-degree night before 7,283.
Casey Martin, his season’s 12th, Casey Opitz, his second, Dominic Fletcher his 10th, Bryant’s Trevor Ezell, his seventh, and the longest at 420, and Jack Kenley, his 10th, and a grand slam to boot, hit those homers for Thursday’s Home Run Hogs whose errorless defense also benefitted Arkansas winning starting pitcher Isaiah Campbell.
Campbell weathered LSU runs in the first and second to shut out the Tigers the last four of his six innings.
“Just played a pretty solid ball game all the way around for the most part,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “Martin tied it up with a home run there in the first. Second inning we’re down 2-1 and two quick outs, and then Nesbit got a base hit then Opitz hit the first pitch off the back wall and all of a sudden, we’re up a run. Isaiah settled in after that and started throwing the ball over the plate a little more and getting ahead of the hitters.”
Van Horn’s nationally No. 4 Razorbacks 38-12 overall and best in the SEC West at 18-7, still must win at least one of these next two games with LSU at 6:30 tonight and on ESPN2, 1 p.m. Saturday to win at least 2 of 3 since 2011 of their annual 3-game SEC West series with the Tiger of Baton Rouge, La. Coach Paul Mainieri’s nationally No. 17 Tigers take 30-20 overall and 14-11 SEC records into tonight’s game.
Martin’s solo home run, in the first and Opitz’s 2-run home run after Jacob Nesbit’s 2-run single in the second off losing LSU starter Ma’Khail Hilliard boosted Arkansas to a 3-2 lead.
Defensive gem catcher Optiz has had some clutch hits belying his only .246 pregame batting average but him hitting just his second home run of the season for the 3-2 lead must have felt like an omen to these Hogs.
“He was looking fastball and he got it and it was a no-doubter when it left the bat,” Van Horn said. “Hilliard was having a good inning then bang! Two pitches we’ve got two runs and a 3-2 lead.”
In their postgame presser together, Martin and Ezell were asked about Opitz’s surprise:
“Yeah, I called that,” Martin said. “I think he (pointing to Ezell) was my witness.”
“He did call it,” Ezell confirmed, laughing.
The wind played a part in some of Arkansas’ five home runs, but Daniel Cabrera launched the only two for LSU, one solo homer off Campbell, and one solo homer off reliever Kole Ramage.
“Just seeing so many balls fly out early like that, you could tell it was going to be a really offensive game,” Kenley said. “So, I think Isaiah did a fantastic job. Had he not, we would have seen a lot of runs going up on the board.”
The Razorbacks enhanced that 3-2 lead to 12-2 batting nine times off Hilliard in a 3-run third and batting 11 times in the 6- run fourth off LSU reliever Riggs Threadgill.
Fletcher his 2-run home run in the third after Matt Goodheart’s RBI from an infield outscoring Ezell. Ezell led off with a walk and advanced on a stolen base and Martin’s infield single.
Hilliard left the bases loaded finishing his final inning.
Ezell led off again greeting Threadgill in the fourth. For openers, Ezell hit his monster shot over the right-field bullpen and closed the fourth-inning scoring with a sacrifice fly.
In between, Kenley hit his just fair grand slam to right.
“I couldn’t really tell if it wrapped around the foul pole or not,” Kenley said. “So … I’m just thankful it got out.”
The barrage created an easy night for Campbell, 9-1.
Campbell struggled early yielding Justin Smith’s game-opening single followed by Antoine DuPlantis’ 1-out RBI double for a 1-0 LSU lead.
From the third through being allowed to call it a night up 13-2 after six, Campbell allowed but one more hit, a 1-out third-inning single, and his lone walk against four strikeouts.
With Arkansas scoring one off reliever Matthew Beck’s wild pitch in the sixth, Campbell bequeathed a 13-2 lead to Kole Ramage in the seventh.
The Tigers scored two off reliever Ramage including Cabrera’s second solo home run of the night.
Martin, 4 for 5, scored from first on Fletcher’s hit to center in the seventh.
Ramage pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.
Freshman Jacob Burton pitched a scoreless ninth.
Thursday night linescore
LSU……….110 000 20 0 – 4 7 0
Arkansas…123 601 10x – 14 15 0
Hilliard, Threadgill (4), Beck (5), Moffitt (8) and Garza; Mathis (5) Campbell, Ramage (7) Burton (9) and Opitz, Plunkett (9).
W-Campbell (9-1). L-Hilliard (0-3)
HR-LSU: Cabrera, 2 (10) (11). HR-Arkansas: Martin (12). Opitz (2). Fletcher (10). Ezell (7). Kenley (10).