Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas rallies to take series from LSU
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz heads to the plate Friday, May 10, 2019, on a double by left fielder Christian Franklin during the third inning against LSU at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas rallied from a 3-0 deficit and scored eight runs over its final two innings at the plate to defeat LSU 11-6 on Friday in front of 10,889 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
The No. 4 Razorbacks (39-12, 19-7 SEC) won the best-of-three-game series with their second straight lopsided win. Arkansas will go for the sweep of the No. 17 Tigers on Saturday with a scheduled first pitch at 1 p.m.
Arkansas won a series over LSU for the first time since 2011. The Razorbacks will take a 2 1/2-game lead in the SEC West into Saturday's finale with four conference games remaining.
Heston Kjerstad hit a leadoff home run in the sixth inning to tie the game 3-3, Casey Martin and Dominic Fletcher each had RBI hits in the seventh to give the Razorbacks a 5-3 lead, and Arkansas broke the game open and took an 11-3 lead with a six-run eighth inning.
LSU's top reliever, Zack Hess, took the loss in a two-inning appearance. Hess inherited a 3-1 lead from starter Eric Walker in the fifth inning, but allowed three runs on five hits.
Walker allowed two runs and took a no-decision in 4 1/3 innings. In three career appearances against the Razorbacks, Walker has allowed three runs in 21 innings.
Arkansas reliever Kevin Kopps earned the win with a 12-out performance after starter Patrick Wicklander allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings. Kopps inherited the bases loaded in the fourth inning, but got LSU catcher Saul Garza to hit into a double play to keep the Tigers' lead at 3-1.
Kopps allowed his first hit - a one-out double by Antoine Duplantis - in the top of the eighth inning. Jacob Kostyshock replaced Kopps and struck out two straight batters to keep the Razorbacks' 5-3 lead intact.
Matt Cronin recorded the final three outs in a non-save situation. Elijah Trest loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs, and LSU scored three runs on Zach Smith's three-run triple against Cronin.
LSU led 3-0 after two innings. Daniel Cabrera's two-out RBI single put the Tigers ahead 1-0 in the first inning, and Garza hit a two-run home run with two outs in the second inning.
Wicklander allowed five hits in a no-decision. The Razorbacks are 5-0 in SEC games that Wicklander, a freshman, has started.
The Tigers (30-21, 14-12) lost their fifth consecutive game. LSU has allowed 56 runs over its past four games, including 25 to the Razorbacks.
Arkansas 11, LSU 3 - End 8th Inning
Casey Opitz and Christian Franklin struck out against LSU reliever Will Ripoll to strand two and bring to end Arkansas' six-run inning.
Elijah Trest will throw for the Razorbacks in the ninth.
Arkansas 11, LSU 3 - Bottom 8th Inning
After a hit batter, an injury to the LSU pitcher and a long warmup, Jacob Nesbit singled to score pinch runner Jordan McFarland and give the Razorbacks their sixth run of the inning. There is still only one out.
Arkansas 10, LSU 3 - Bottom 8th Inning
Heston Kjerstad singled to score Dominic Fletcher. The rout is on in Fayetteville.
Arkansas 9, LSU 3 - Bottom 8th Inning
Dominic Fletcher's two-run double has given Arkansas four runs this inning - and eight over the past four innings - and there is still just one out. Heston Kjerstad is coming to the plate.
Arkansas 7, LSU 3 - Bottom 8th Inning
Matt Goodheart's two-run single with one out in the eighth has give Arkansas some breathing room. The Razorbacks have scored seven straight runs after falling behind 3-0.
Arkansas 5, LSU 3 - Bottom 8th Inning
The Razorbacks have loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning on a walk, an error and a hit batsman. The heart of the batting order is due up.
Arkansas 5, LSU 3 - Middle 8th Inning
Jacob Kostyshock struck out Daniel Cabrera and pinch hitter Cade Beloso to end the top of the eighth. Kostyshock threw nothing but fastballs to both batters, ranging from 94-97 mph. Cabrera flied out for the second out and Beloso swung through a 96 mph on a 3-2 pitch to strand Antoine Duplantis at second base.
If Matt Cronin pitches in the ninth, he will face the Tigers' 5-6-7 hitters.
Arkansas 5, LSU 3 - Top 8th Inning
Kevin Kopps' night is over after Antoine Duplantis hit a one-out double in the eighth. The Razorbacks are turning to Jacob Kostyshock while Matt Cronin continues to throw in the bullpen.
Kostyshock will face Daniel Cabrera, who has 3 RBI in this series, including two solo home runs last night.
Cabrera's hit was LSU's first against Kopps, who recorded 12 outs. He leaves in line for the win.
Arkansas 5, LSU 3 - End 7th Inning
Arkansas stranded two more in the seventh inning when Jacob Nesbit grounded out with runners on first and second base. The Razorbacks have left eight on base tonight.
Kevin Kopps, who has thrown 3 2/3 scoreless innings tonight, will return for the eighth inning, but Matt Cronin is getting loose in the Arkansas bullpen.
Kopps will face LSU's 2-3-4 hitters, Zach Watson, Antoine Duplantis and Daniel Cabrera.
Arkansas 5, LSU 3 - Bottom 7th Inning
Dominic Fletcher singled to score Casey Martin after Martin easily stole second base. The Razorbacks have scored the past five runs and LSU is going back to the bullpen. The Tigers pushed in all their chips with Zack Hess and didn't work out against this great fastball-hitting team from Arkansas.
Martin's steal was the Razorbacks' second tonight and fourth of the series. LSU has allowed 80 successful steals in 92 attempts this season.
Arkansas 4, LSU 3 - Bottom 7th Inning
Trevor Ezell doubled to lead off the seventh and scored on Casey Martin's single to left field on a 3-2 pitch. The Razorbacks have their first lead, and the top of their order has its first hits.
You have to believe Arkansas might start getting Matt Cronin warm soon.
Arkansas 3, LSU 3 - Middle 7th Inning
There is a buzz in the ballpark at the seventh inning stretch after Kevin Kopps sat the Tigers down in order in the top of the inning. He has thrown 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Razorbacks will send Trevor Ezell, Casey Martin and Matt Goodheart to the plate in the bottom of the inning. They are a combined 0-for-9 tonight.
Arkansas 3, LSU 3 - End 6th Inning
The Razorbacks stranded two when Christian Franklin struck out to end the sixth inning. Casey Opitz reached on a two-out hit by pitch. Arkansas has stranded six base runners tonight.
Kevin Kopps will remain on the mound. He has recorded the past eight outs for Arkansas, with only one walk against him.
Arkansas 3, LSU 3 - Bottom 6th Inning
Heston Kjerstad just mashed a one-out home run over the wall in center field to tie the game. LSU's center fielder lost Jack Kenley's fly ball in the lights on the next pitch and the Razorbacks have the go-ahead run at second base.
That was Kjerstad's team-leading 14th home run of the season. That ties his home run total from last season.
LSU 3, Arkansas 2 - End 5th Inning
The Razorbacks put a second run on the board with Casey Martin's fielder's choice RBI. Martin nearly beat the throw on a the weak dribbler to second base, but was out by a half step. Casey Opitz scored from third base and he has both of Arkansas' runs tonight.
Trevor Ezell was stranded at second base when Matt Goodheart struck out swinging at a 2-2 fastball high in the zone. Arkansas' top three hitters are a combined 0-for-9 tonight.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - Bottom 5th Inning
LSU is pushing in all the chips and going to Zack Hess with one out in the fifth inning. The Razorbacks have runners on first and third after a Casey Opitz single, Christian Franklin walk and Trevor Ezell fielder's choice groundout. Hess was LSU's Friday starter for the early part of the season. He throws hard, but that may play into Arkansas' hands in this part of the order, beginning with Casey Martin.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - Middle 5th Inning
Kevin Kopps is keeping the Razorbacks in the game. He worked around a leadoff walk in the first inning, then retired the Tigers' 2-3-4 hitters in order on a strikeout and two soft-hit balls to the infield. The Tigers have stranded four base runners.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - End 4th Inning
Arkansas couldn't do anything with a leadoff walk by Dominic Fletcher and continues to make weak contact against LSU starter Eric Walker. Walker's pitch count is 56 through for innings.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - Middle 4th Inning
Kevin Kopps needed three pitches to get out of the jam. Saul Garza hit into a 6-4-3 double play and the Tigers stranded their second and third base runners of the game.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - Top 4th Inning
The Razorbacks are in a tight spot. Patrick Wicklander loaded the bases with two four-pitch walks and a single, and Kevin Kopps inherits the jam with one out in the top of the fourth. LSU catcher Saul Garza is coming to the plate. He is the nine-hole hitter and batting .230, but he had a two-run homer in the second inning.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - End 3rd Inning
The Hogs' promising third inning ended in disappointment after the top three batters in the lineup all made poor-to-average contact and stranded Christian Franklin at second base.
LSU 3, Arkansas 1 - Bottom 3rd Inning
Arkansas has something brewing in the third inning. Casey Opitz reached with a leadoff single and scored in the next at-bat, a double to the wall in right-center field by Christian Franklin. Those were the Razorbacks' first two hits against Eric Walker.
LSU 3, Arkansas 0 - End 2nd Inning
Arkansas' at-bats haven't looked too good against Eric Walker so far. Heston Kjerstad drew a one-out walk and stole second base, but he was stranded there when Jacob Nesbit swung through a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
Dominic Fletcher also struck out to lead off the inning, in three pitches.
LSU 3, Arkansas 0 - Top 2nd Inning
The Tigers are killing Arkansas with two-out hits. No. 2 catcher Saul Garza, who is starting tonight, launchd a two-run homer with two outs against Patrick Wicklander, and the Tigers are ahead 3-0.
Garza's homer was a no-doubter to right field, riding the wind over the top of the opposing bullpen. LSU has three home runs so far in this series.
LSU 1, Arkansas 0 - End 1st Inning
Eric Walker worked fast and efficient in a quick bottom of the first inning. Arkansas made contact against the right hander in each at-bat, but all were easy outs.
Remember that entering tonight, Walker has pitched 16 2/3 innings against Arkansas and allowed only one run.
LSU 1, Arkansas 0 - Middle 1st Inning
Like last night, LSU has struck first in the first inning. Daniel Cabrera's two-out double scored Zach Watson from first base. It appeared Heston Kjerstad could have possibly thrown out Watson at the plate, but Kjerstad instead threw toward second, where he didn't have a chance at a force.
Watson reached with a leadoff single to shallow right field. A replay review upheld Watson's safe call at first base, but it appeared that he might have been out. That was the difference in a run scoring and a 1-2-3 inning for Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander.
It is a gorgeous night in Fayetteville. It is sunny and the temperatures are in the mid 60s. It will obviously cool throughout the night, but it should be a lot nicer weather-wise than the first game last night.
The crowd tonight is expected to be huge and might approach an attendance record at the 24-year-old Baum-Walker Stadium.
The pitching matchup tonight is between Arkansas freshman left hander Patrick Wicklander (5-1, 3.91 ERA) and LSU redshirt sophomore right hander Eric Walker (4-4, 5.30 ERA).
Wicklander has been very good for the Razorbacks since he was inserted into the starting rotation at Auburn last month. The Razorbacks have won every game and every series in which he has started.
Walker shut down Arkansas twice two years ago, including in Fayetteville. But he is coming off Tommy John surgery and has not been the same pitcher this season.
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