UA downs LSU; advances to SEC semifinals
HOOVER, Ala. - Arkansas starting pitcher Ryne Stanek allowed one unearned run and struck out four over eight strong innings, while Tyler Spoon and Matt Vinson each had three hits as No. 15 Arkansas defeated No. 2 LSU, 4-1, on Thursday night at the SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
With the victory, Arkansas improves to 37-19 on the season, while LSU drops to 49-9. The Razorbacks advance to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament and will now play at 12 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, against the winner of tomorrow's game between Alabama and LSU.
"I thought the starting pitchers did a tremendous job; they're both outstanding in their records and their ERAs show that. It's not something that happened every now and then with those guys, it happens every time they are on the mound. We felt like it was going to be a tight game and it was. I'm proud of our guys battling at the plate against (Aaron) Nola. It was a good team win for us."
Stanek was outstanding on the mound, running his winning streak to four straight starts and improving his overall record to 9-2. Stanek has now turned in a quality outing (6.0 or more innings pitched, 3 or fewer earned runs) in seven of his last eight starts and lowered his ERA on the season to 1.40 ERA. The junior right hander worked eight strong innings against the Tigers, allowing just one unearned run on six hits and striking out four. In 11 starts against SEC teams in 2013, Stanek has an 8-1 record with a 0.86 ERA.
"My job is to go out there and throw up zeros," Stanek said. "It doesn't really matter who it is against. It feels good because they have a really good team. I'm out there just doing what I can to try and keep us in the ball game and get us a win."
Colby Suggs came in and slammed the door, picking up his 12th save of the season to tie the UA record for saves in a single season. The right hander struck out one in a perfect inning. Suggs is now tied with Phillip Stidham (1989) and Tim Deitz (1985) for the school record for saves in a single season.
"He's been lights out pretty much every time out," Coach Van Horn said of Suggs. "Again tonight, throwing the ball 95+ with an upper 80's nasty slider. It was good to see him go out there and get right through that inning. Great job by him; you have to have a closer these days, scores are tight and you have to be able to finish games."
The Razorback offense recorded 12 hits in the victory and has now notched 23 hits in two SEC Tournament games. Spoon and Vinson each had three hits and a RBI to lead the offensive attack. Joe Serrano with 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored, while Dominic Ficociello, Eric Fisher, Jacob Mahan and Jean Ramirez each had one hit.
LSU had six hits in the loss. Sean McMullen had a hit and a run scored for the Tigers. Alex Bregman, Mason Katz, Mark Laird, Tyler Moore and Raph Rhymes contributed one hit each.
LSU struck first with a run in the bottom of the third. After the first two batters of the inning were retired, McMullen and Laird hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. Bregman then hit a grounder to Brett McAfee at short, who attempted to throw out Laird at second, but his throw was off line, allowing Laird to reach safely at second and scoring McMullen from second base with the game's first run.
Arkansas tied the game with a run in the top of the fifth. With one out, Ramirez grounded a single up the middle and came around to score from first base on a perfectly executed hit-and-run double by Serrano to the left-center field alley.
The score remained tied at one until the top of the eighth when the Razorbacks plated a run to take the lead. Vinson led off the inning with a single and then advanced to third on a base hit to right by Ficociello. Spoon then laid down a perfect safety squeeze bunt up the first base line, scoring Vinson from third base and allowing Spoon to reach first with an infield single.
Arkansas added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Fisher started the inning with a single to right and was then pinch run for by Jacob Morris. A sacrifice bunt by McAfee advanced Morris to second. After a strikeout by Jake Wise, Morris stole third and then came home on a single by Serrano that hit off the foot of the LSU pitcher and caromed into foul territory by the third base dugout. The Razorbacks weren't done scoring as Serrano quickly stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Vinson then laid down another perfect bunt single up the third base line, scoring Serrano to make the score 4-1.
Suggs entered in the bottom of the ninth and was able to sit the Tigers down in order, striking out McMullen to end the game and give Arkansas the 4-1 win.