BATON ROUGE -- A walk-off home run by Matt Gaudet in the bottom of the 11th inning propelled LSU to victory over Arkansas, 8-7, Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
“What a great ballgame,” exclaimed LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “I thought both teams played really hard and wanted to win. Our kids responded to their runs, which I thought was outstanding. I knew Arkansas wouldn’t quit when we were up. They are a tough team.”
The Tigers found themselves down after facing only four batters in the top of the first. After retiring the first two batters with relative ease, Blake Martin (1-1) gave up a single to Andy Wilkins. His hit was critical, seeing that it was followed by a two-run homer to left center field by Coon, his second of the season.
Things turned around quickly for LSU. Ryan Schimpf led off the bottom of the first with a single. Michael Hollander, the next Tiger batter, thought he had been hit on the foot by a Cliff Springston pitch. Arkansas probably wished that they would have given Hollander his base. Instead, he nailed a shot into the left field corner for a double. Schimpf was then brought home by Blake Dean on the very next pitch.
The Tigers offensive explosion didn’t end there, however. Gaudet drilled a pitch to the right center field wall, bringing home Hollander and Dean. Gaudet advanced to third on an infield chopper by Derek Helenihi. Sean Ochinko knocked in Helenihi for only his fifth run of the season on a single to right field, giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
It was the third time this season that the Tigers scored four runs in the first inning. Springston, Arkansas’ starting pitcher, gave up more runs in the first inning (4) than he had in 24.1 innings this season (3).
The Tigers continued rolling at the plate in the second. DJ LeMahieu reached when he was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a Schimpf sacrifice bunt. He moved to third when Hollander grounded out to second, and then scored the Tigers fifth run of the game on a Dean single.
Martin found himself in another jam in the third when he walked Brett Eibner and Wilkins. Coon, a .185 hitter on the season, drove in his third run of the game when he drove a single up the middle.
However, in the second time in as many games, Leon Landry made a spectacular diving catch in center field to kill the rally and end the inning.
The Tigers matched the Razorbacks third inning run with one of their own. Clark hit a solo home run to left center field, adding to his team-leading total in that category, and putting the Tigers up, 6-3.
In the fourth, Hollander drove a shot up the middle and moved to second when Dean was struck by a pitch. A misread fly ball by Andrew Darr in right field put Gaudet on base and loaded the bags for Clark. However, he hit a ball right to Scott Lyons at shortstop and Helenihi couldn’t beat out an infield dribbler with the next at-bat, leaving all three Tiger base runners stranded.
Landry made another amazing catch in the fourth, leaping into the center field wall to catch a fly ball.
Martin found his niche as well, retiring eight straight batters from the end of the third until Coon collected his third hit of the game in the top of the sixth. However, he immediately walked Aaron Murphree, and was pulled after 5.1 innings and seven strikeouts.
The Tigers were in hot water for the rest of the sixth, using four relief pitchers to secure the final two outs of the inning. Paul Bertuccini pitched to one batter, giving up an RBI single to Tim Smalling. Shane Ardoin gave up a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Jacob House with the next at-bat to cut the Tigers lead to only one run.
Bradshaw stayed on in the seventh, but gave up a double to Eibner. Logan Forsythe bunted him to third, putting the tying run only 90 feet away from home plate. Bradshaw struck out Wilkins, and forced Coon to hit a grounder to LeMahieu.
Unfortunately, LeMahieu’s throw was short of Clark’s outstretched glove at first base. The ball hopped Clark, advancing Coon to second and allowing Eibner to score. Coon scored on a single by Murphree, giving the Razorbacks a 7-6 lead. Bradshaw finally retired Smalling to get out of the seventh.
Ochinko tied things up in the bottom of the seventh with his first home run of the season.
Bradshaw retired the Razorbacks in order in the eighth inning. Jared Bradford, who recorded his first save of the season on Wednesday against Tulane, went to the mound for the Tigers in the top of the ninth. Bradford followed suit, forcing three straight groundouts.
The Tigers threatened to end the game in the ninth when Clark advanced to second on a bad throw by a Razorback infielder with one out. Jared Mitchell, pinch-hitting for Helenihi, walked to put two men on. However, Ochinko struck out, and Landry flew out to center field, sending the game into extra innings.
Bradford gave up a hit to Coon, his fourth of the day, to open the top of the 10th. He advanced to third on a slow, infield chopper by Smalling. With one out on the board, Bradford got House to ground into a double play, stranding Coon at third.
LeMahieu led off the tenth for LSU. He hit a towering shot into left field that dropped into play after miscommunication by the Arkansas outfielder and shortstop. Schimpf struck out, Hollander flew out to center field and LeMahieu was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Dean.
Tschepikow hit a double to left center field in the eleventh, but was doubled up on a Eibner line drive.
Gaudet ended the game in the bottom of the 11th with his second homer of the season. Stephen Richards was credited with the loss.
“He just brought a pitch to me, and I took it,” said Gaudet.
Bradford (4-1) was credited with the win. He pitched three innings, striking out two.
“Bradford is such a money pitcher for us,” added Mainieri. “We have so much confidence in him because he has so much poise and such a great competitive spirit. We knew he would stay out there as long as it would take for us to win the game.”
The series against Arkansas will continue tomorrow at 3 p.m. The series finale on Sunday will begin at 1 p.m.
LSU 8, Arkansas 7 (Mar 21, 2008 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Arkansas............ 201 002 200 00 - 7 10 3 (13-7, 1-3 SEC)\
LSU................. 411 000 100 01 - 8 12 1 (13-6, 1-3 SEC)
Pitchers: Arkansas - Cliff Springston; Kendall Korbal(6); Stephen Richards(10). LSU -
Blake Martin; Paul Bertuccini(6); Shane Ardoin(6); Nolan Cain(6); Daniel Bradshaw(6); Jared Bradford(9).
Win-Jared Bradford(4-1) Loss-Stephen Richards(1-1) T-3:52 A-7488
HR AR - Casey Coon (2).
HR LSU - Matt Gaudet (2); Matt Clark (9); Sean Ochinko (1).
Weather: 71 degrees, cloudy
Bertuccini faced 1 batter in the 6th.
Cain faced 1 batter in the 6th.