SEC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT LSU 2, NO. 7 ARKANSAS 1:

That same feeling: Hogs again fail to decipher Tigers jinx

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, May 27, 2018
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell (55) looks down while LSU hitter Zach Watson rounds first base after Watson hit a home run during an SEC Tournament game Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Hoover, Ala.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell (55) looks down while LSU hitter Zach Watson rounds first base after Watson hit a home run during an SEC Tournament game Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. -- The No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks seemingly clinched a top eight seed for next week's NCAA Tournament during their long stay at the SEC Tournament, but they could not solve their postseason riddle that is LSU or bring home their first tourney title.

LSU right-hander Zack Hess (7-5) dominated the Razorbacks with a one-hitter through seven innings and Nick Bush finished up a 2-1 victory for the Tigers in an SEC Tournament semifinal Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

The Razorbacks (39-18) will await their national seed selection, which will be announced Monday night, while LSU (37-24) advanced to today's final against Ole Miss in pursuit of its 13th tournament title.

After the Razorbacks pounded out 31 hits and 21 runs in victories over No. 24 South Carolina and No. 3 Florida to reach the semifinals, they scrounged up three hits against the Tigers and scored only on Jared Gates' home run in the third inning.

Conversely, LSU's only runs came on leadoff hitter Zach Watson's two-run home run in the sixth off a tiring Isaiah Campbell (4-6) in the Tigers' only good offensive inning.

"They hit a two-run homer and we hit a solo," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We just couldn't put together an inning on Hess. He just kept getting us out quick and kept his pitch count down. That let him get late into the game."

The Tigers have won six consecutive postseason games against the Razorbacks since a 4-1 Arkansas victory at Hoover in 2013, including a 4-2 victory in last year's SEC Tournament final.

"I don't know what it is," Van Horn said. "It's frustrating, obviously. They're a good team. They've played in a lot of games that are important.

"They didn't make any mistakes today. Neither did we, except for maybe one pitch. They made a mistake with one pitch. They get to play for the championship tomorrow."

LSU Coach Paul Mainieri, whose team closed out an 11-0 elimination game against defending national champion Florida on Saturday morning, spoke to the RPI rankings of the schools his team has beaten this season.

"It was a thrilling victory for us today," Mainieri said. "Actually two. It's not often you beat the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the country in the same day."

Hess, who had been banged around in his previous two starts against Alabama and Auburn, changed his approach to face the Hogs.

"We changed things up and made my changeup more of a factor," Hess said. "It really helped play my fastball and my slider up and keep Arkansas off balance today."

Arkansas had one significant scoring chance in the eighth inning against Nick Bush after Hess finished with 97 pitches through seven.

Gates hit a one-out single and pinch runner Hunter Wilson moved up to second on a Jax Biggers single. Eric Cole cracked a deep fly ball to left field, but Daniel Cabrera made the catch on the wet warning track. Carson Shaddy followed with a smash over the pitcher's mound. But LSU second baseman Brandt Broussard was positioned right there and made the force out at second base.

"I never felt like we were out of the game," Van Horn said. "I thought we were one swing away from winning it.

"Give them credit. They played Shaddy up the middle in the eighth and I still haven't figured out why. He never hits the ball up the middle. ... He smoked one past the pitcher and I thought it was a base hit and the second baseman's standing there. Great job by them on that positioning."

Bush retired the side in order in the ninth inning to notch his second save.

Hess and Campbell stayed in the game after a rain delay of 1 hour and 26 minutes before Arkansas batted in the bottom of the third, and both stayed sharp.

"Hess was really locating all his pitches," Gates said. "His fastball, his changeup and his slider. He was just getting ahead and doing a good job of locating his secondary pitches. So he was keeping us off-balance all night.

"On my home run, I got in a plus count, I think it was 2-0, and I was just on a fastball and he threw me one middle-in and I happened to put a good swing on it."

Campbell said his outing, despite taking the loss, should set him up well for the rest of the postseason.

"I was commanding the fastball to both sides of the plate," Campbell said. "I was getting ahead of hitters for the most part.

"My changeup was cutting and my two- seamer was doing a lot of things. That's something big for me. Had both my curveball and cutter working today, so I was pleased with how my pitches were working today."

Arkansas broke on top shortly after resuming from the rain delay when Gates rode a Hess pitch over the right-field wall with one out in the bottom of the third inning. Gates' fourth home run of the season was his first since March 25 at Florida.

Campbell made the lead stand up until the top of the sixth. Broussard, LSU's No. 9 hitter, opened the inning with an infield single that pulled Biggers, the shortstop, deep into the hole. Watson got a hitter's count at 3-1 and pulled a Campbell fastball well over the wall in left field to put the Tigers on top 2-1.

"The only thing I had in my head is, 'I'm going to get a home run, I'm going to get a home run.' " Watson said. "He laid a fastball in there, and I got to it."

Campbell had a similar outing in his previous start against LSU on May 6. The 6-4 right-hander kept the Tigers off the board through the first three innings before the first four LSU batters reached against him in the fifth.

LSU hung a 7-5 loss on him that day in Baton Rouge, with Campbell allowing 5 earned runs on 8 hits, with no walks and 3 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

MISSISSIPPI 2, TEXAS A&M 1

HOOVER, Ala. — Jordan Fowler and Will Ethridge combined on an eight-hitter to lead Mississippi to a 2-1 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

The Rebels (45-15) are seeking their third tournament title and first since 2006.

Fowler (7-0) pitched six scoreless innings for the Rebels to outduel Mitchell Kilkenny (8-4). Ethridge allowed an unearned run over the final three innings. Ole Miss scored twice in the fourth inning, getting a run-producing groundout from Cole Zabowski and an RBI single from Will Golsan.

The Aggies (39-20) got a run in the eighth when four consecutive batters reached with two outs, kept alive by a fielding error. Logan Foster, who also tripled, singled home a run.

Ethridge struck out Allonte Wingate to leave the bases loaded. He induced three consecutive groundouts in the ninth.

Sports on 05/27/2018

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