LSU reminded everyone why it is the unanimous No. 1 team in the country with a resounding doubleheader sweep of Arkansas baseball at Alex Box Stadium.
After winning a dramatic 10-inning game Friday night, the Razorbacks ran into a buzzsaw Saturday. They were run-ruled by the Tigers in the first game of the day, losing 12-2 in seven innings, and then lost the rubber match 14-5.
“Disappointed in the way we played today,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “We’ve got to get better, that’s for sure, if we’re going to be competing with teams like LSU.”
Not only was Arkansas’ 15-game winning streak — it’s longest in a single season since 1996 — snapped, but it also suffered a series loss for the first time this season. The Razorbacks doubled their total losses this year, dropping to 20-4 overall, while LSU improved to 21-3. Both teams are 4-2 in SEC play.
Prior to this weekend, Arkansas had taken at least two of three from the Tigers in three straight matchups, dating back to 2019. Despite that recent success, though, Van Horn is now 0-11 all-time in rubber matches against LSU as the Arkansas baseball coach.
Game 1: LSU 12, Arkansas 2 (7 innings)
The Razorbacks actually struck first with a towering two-run home run by Jared Wegner in the first and had a chance to do more damage when the next two batters were hit by a pitch, but Kendall Diggs and Harold Coll each looked at strike three to end the threat.
That set the tone for the rest of the game, as Arkansas was held to season lows in runs (2) and hits (3). Its previous lows came against Eastern Illinois, when it managed only three runs on four hits. That was the last time the Razorbacks lost before Saturday and they were an offensive force during their winning streak, averaging 9 runs and hitting .308 as a team.
It had chance to do more at the plate, but Arkansas squandered them.
The leadoff man reached in three of the next six innings, but never came around to score. LSU starter Ty Floyd was at 76 pitches when he struck out Hudson Polk with the bases loaded in the third, but the Razorbacks couldn’t chase him. He ended up pitching another 3 1/3 scoreless innings on just 32 pitches.
Two runs was never going to be enough against a dangerous LSU lineup and the Tigers needed only a couple of innings to take the lead for good. Gavin Dugas put them up with a two-run shot and Tre’ Morgan immediately followed with a 401-foot blast that nearly left the stadium entirely.
That was plenty, but LSU kept pouring it on and eventually won in walk-off fashion, with Brayden Jobert’s sacrifice fly in the seventh triggering the mercy rule.
Game 2: LSU 14, Arkansas 5
Early on, it seemed like a classic Game 3 shootout heading for a wild finish that the Arkansas vs LSU series is known for. The teams exchanged blows for a few innings, with each of them scoring two runs in the first and third.
Much like the first game, Jared Wegner gave Arkansas a first-inning lead with a home run, only for his teammates to squander an opportunity to do some real damage behind him. This time, it was a two-out solo blast followed by the Razorbacks loading the bases. Caleb Cali drew a bases-loaded walk, but Parker Rowland looked at strike three.
LSU answered with a two-run home run by Dylan Crews, his fourth straight game with a long ball. He and Cade Beloso also had RBI singles in the third after a two-run double by Cali put Arkansas ahead in the top half of the inning.
Things fell apart in the fourth. An error brought in the go-ahead run before Gavin Dugas and Tommy White supplied the knockout blow with two- and three-run home runs. The latter of those was a 438-foot bomb by White, who added a grand slam in the sixth.
Veteran Arms Struggle
After winning the series opener, Arkansas probably felt good about where it stood heading into Saturday because it had Will McEntire on the mound. After struggling his first couple of outings, the right-hander had been much better of late, posting a 2.19 ERA across his previous four starts.
He was no match for LSU’s powerful lineup, though. Pitching into the fifth, McEntire was charged with seven earned runs while striking out only two in 4 1/3 innings, earning his first loss of the year.
Even though he issued just one walk, McEntire’s issue was his command. He didn’t locate like he usually does and the Tigers made him pay by hitting the ball hard. Seven of the nine hits he gave up went for extra bases.
“He didn’t command the ball today,” Van Horn said. “I think he had one inning that was pretty good. Other than that, it was just a fight for him. He was up in the zone. You’ve got wind blowing out about 10 mph, air’s a lot thinner today, ball was flying. They were hitting some balls hard that just backspun. You’ve got to pitch down in the zone, and he didn’t do it.”
On top of that, McEntire had a hard time putting away batters. He actually got ahead 0-2 against eight of the 23 Tigers he faced, but they went 5 for 8 with three doubles and a home run in those at bats. Three of those hits came with the count still 0-2.
That was an issue in the nightcap, as well. Gavin Dugas’ two-run homer off Zack Morris and Tommy White’s grand slam off Dylan Carter were each hit in an 0-2 count.
“There was a lot of 0-2 hits,” Van Horn said. “I mean, if a guy hits an 0-2 pitch, goes down and gets it, give credit to him. But those were just mistakes.”
Morris was charged with the loss, as he gave up four runs — two earned — on three hits and a walk in his lone inning of work. Carter has been arguably Arkansas’ top bullpen arm, but he fave up six runs — five earned — on four hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings.
Those two guys followed a short start by Cody Adcock. After pitching six shutout innings in his first start last weekend against Auburn, the right-hander was yanked after throwing just 44 pitches in 2 1/3 innings Saturday.
“They were all over him,” Van Horn said. “They were hitting him hard. Just needed to get him out because they were getting ready to hammer us.”
He actually left the game with a 4-3 lead, but was responsible for the runner on second who scored on a hit allowed by Morris. That means he officially gave up four earned runs on three hits.
That quartet of upperclassmen — McEntire, Adcock, Morris and Carter — combined for 9 1/3 innings Saturday and gave up 21 runs, 18 of which were earned, on 19 hits and six walks while striking out just seven.
Dealing with Dylan Crews
One player who could prevent Paul Skenes from going first overall in this summer’s MLB Draft is his teammate, center fielder Dylan Crews.
After hitting .356 with 40 home runs and 114 RBIs over his first two seasons at LSU, Crews has taken his game to another level this year. He entered the weekend second nationally with a .515 batting average and actually improved it against the Razorbacks.
Crews went 8 for 13 over the three games, which bumped him up to .531. Two of those hits were infield singles, but he also hit the ball extremely hard much of the weekend, including hitting a homer in all three games.
In the first game Saturday, he hit a line drive that cleared the left field wall thanks to a 111.3 mph exit velocity. In the nightcap, he didn’t hit the ball quite as hard — it had an exit velocity of “only” 110.3 mph — but it was the most impressive blast of the weekend, as it cleared the camera tower in left-center and had an estimated distance of 446 feet.
No measurements were provided for Crews’ 10th-inning home run Friday night, but it was to straight away center and hit well up the batter’s eye.
Before he grounded out in his final at bat Saturday, he had a 1.000 slugging percentage. Even with that out, though, he has an incredible 1.646 OPS through 24 games.
“Crews is an incredible, incredible player that we were all surprised when he didn’t get signed out of high school,” Dave Van Horn said. “He really doesn’t have a weak part of his game. I mean, he just doesn’t. He can run, he can throw, hit, hit for power. He’s really good.”
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
The Razorbacks return to the friendly confines of Baum-Walker Stadium next week, starting with a midweek game against Omaha on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and the game will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.
Much like Arkansas, the Mavericks won’t play Sunday because they played a doubleheader Saturday. They split those two games, but lost Friday, so they dropped their first Summit League series of the season to North Dakota State. That makes Omaha 7-10 overall.
After that, Arkansas welcomes Alabama to Fayetteville for the a three-game SEC series. Game 1 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT Friday, followed by 2 p.m. start times Saturday and Sunday. The finale will be televised on SEC Network, but the first two games are streaming only.
The Crimson Tide are 18-6 overall, but just 1-4 in SEC play and in danger of getting swept at home by Kentucky. They’ll look to salvage a game against the Wildcats on Sunday.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- In the two games, Arkansas went a combined 3 for 28 (.107) with runners on base, including just 2 for 17 (.118) with runners in scoring position. That resulted in the Razorbacks stranding 17 runners across 16 innings.
- Jared Wegner had a good day at the plate, going 3 for 6 with the two first-inning home runs, three RBIs, a walk and a HBP. That improves his season slash line to .384/.514/.826 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs. In just 24 games, he has already matched his home run total from last year, when he played 49 games at Creighton.
- Thanks to those long balls, the Razorbacks have now homered in 20 straight games. Their 42 total home runs are tracking slightly behind the 2021 team that broke the single-season school record. That team had 46 homers through 24 games.
- Jace Bohrofen had a solid day at the plate, as well, going 2 for 4 with a double and four free passes (3 walks, 1 HBP). That got his batting average back up to .403 and improved his on-base percentage to .551, both of which lead the team.
- For the most part, Arkansas pitchers have handled the new pitch clock well, but sophomore right-hander Austin Ledbetter committed two pitch clock violations in the first game of the day, resulting in a pair of balls called against him.
- One positive on the mound Saturday was the performance of freshman Ben Bybee, who gave up just one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.98. He’s expected to start Tuesday’s midweek game. “He’s been pitching with a little bit of courage, so to speak, and just challenging people, throws that breaking ball,” Van Horn said. “He made a couple of mistakes and got away with them tonight and just seemed like a couple of the guys earlier didn’t.”
- Fellow freshman Christian Foutch made his second career appearance and threw a scoreless eighth inning. His only blemish was a two-out HBP in an 0-2 count. He’s now thrown two scoreless innings for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas vs LSU Postgame Interview
Arkansas vs LSU Box Scores
Game 2 (first game of DH)
Game 3 (nightcap of DH)
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