SEC BASEBALL:

9th-inning single a winner for LSU

By: SCOTT HOTARD SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Sunday, April 13, 2014
Michael Bernal fields a groundball during Arkansas' game against LSU on April 12, 2014 at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. LSU won 5-4.
Photo by Chris Daigle
Michael Bernal fields a groundball during Arkansas' game against LSU on April 12, 2014 at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. LSU won 5-4.

BATON ROUGE - Arkansas left-hander Michael Gunn hadn’t allowed an earned run in 17-plus innings this season, and the junior reliever was one pitch away from keeping that line intact against LSU’s Mark Laird on Saturday afternoon.

Instead, Laird lined Gunn’s full-count fastball into left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, scoring pinch-runner Jake Fraley from second for a dramatic 5-4 victory in front of 5,431 at Alex Box Stadium.

Players rushed out of the home dugout and onto the infield as No. 16 LSU (27-8-1, 5-1 SEC) earned its seventh consecutive victory.

Sunday's Ticket

ARKANSAS AT LSU

WHEN 1 p.m. Central

WHERE Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge

RECORDS Arkansas 21-15, 6-8 SEC. LSU 27-8-1, 8-5-1 SEC

TV Cox Sports Television (Channel 119 in Northwest Arkansas)

PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: Chris Oliver (RHP, 3-3, 1.99 ERA). LSU: TBA

SHORT HOPS Arkansas starter Jalen Beek gave up four runs, three earned, Saturday. It marked the most runs he has allowed in nine starts this season for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas (21-15, 6-8) will turn to right-hander Chris Oliver today as it tries to avoid a three-game sweep.

“We were on a roll coming back,” first baseman Eric Fisher said. “Just kind of getting it taken away was tough.”

Arkansas fell into an early four-run hole for the second day in a row, but this time it battled all the way back to tie it 4-4 in the late innings. The Razorbacks faced the same 4-0 deficit in Friday’s opener, then scored three of the final four runs before LSU closed out its 5-3 victory.

Fisher sparked the offense Saturday with his second home run of the series as Arkansas scored four unanswered runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. But the Razorbacks left 10 runners stranded, including one in the eighth inning and two in the ninth.

“We again dug ourselves a big hole, down 4-0 on the road,” Coach Dave Van Horn said. “We just kept chipping away and chipping away. We finally tied that thing up. We just never had that big hit to put them away or get the lead.”

Trailing by two runs in the sixth, Arkansas nearly put together its big inning when Fisher, who finished 2 for 3 with the home run, a double and two RBI, came to bat with two on and one out and connected on a long fly ball that chased Laird to the wall in right.

The result was a sacrifice fly that scored Clark Eagan - not the game-changing home run Arkansas needed.

A throwing error by LSU catcher Chris Chinea allowed Andrew Benintendi to come home in the seventh, and the score stayed 4-4 until Van Horn made the first call to his bullpen in two games.

Taking over for starter Jalen Beeks to start the ninth, Gunn promptly walked Chinea, who was replaced by Fraley on the bases. Andrew Stevenson advanced Fraley on a sacrifice bunt. After a pop-out by Kramer Robertson, Van Horn put LSU leadoff man Sean McMullen on with an intentional walk.

That set the stage for Laird.

“He’s done a great job all year or we wouldn’t have put him in that situation,” Van Horn said of Gunn. “He’s experienced there. The key is, if you walk the leadoff man in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, you’re in big trouble. That’s going to come back and get you.”

Sports, Pages 30 on 04/13/2014

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