Arkansas tripped by LSU in SEC Baseball title game – SECcountry.com
HOOVER, Ala. — Arkansas baseball’s first SEC Tournament title will have to come another year. LSU stayed the king of the league Sunday.
A stellar start from freshman Eric Walker was the LSU highlight as the Tigers won their 12th SEC title, 4-2. Arkansas fell to 0-4 in the baseball championship since joining the league in 1992.
Matters little, really, other than for record books. Arkansas already had done enough during the week at the SEC Tournament to seal up hosting duties for an NCAA Tournament regional next weekend. The Razorbacks will find out such confirmation (not guaranteed, though it would be a miracle otherwise) Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Arkansas had a chance in the bottom of the ninth. Luke Bonfield came to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs and Arkansas trailing by 2 runs. Bonfield, though, hit into a forceout to shortstop to end the game.
Walker had his way with Arkansas hitters for the second time this season. He threw a 4-hit shutout in the series clincher of the teams’ three-game series in April. Sunday was perhaps more impressive given the stakes.
The Razorbacks managed the 1 run on just 5 hits against Walker. Eric Cole’s solo home run in the third was the only thing of real significance. Walker, not a strikeout guy, had 8 in this outing.
Cole’s home run gave Arkansas the early lead, but that lasted for just a couple of outs. LSU plated 3 runs in the fourth to take control. One of the frustrating parts for the Razorbacks was that only one of those was earned.
Arkansas third baseman Jared Gates fumbled the ball from his glove to his throwing hand on a potential double play after a grounder. Instead of two outs and nobody on, LSU had two on and nobody out. Both players, Kramer Robertson and Cole Freeman, would score.
Cole’s RBI single in the ninth brought up Chad Spanberger with two on and Arkansas down 2 runs with two outs. The Tigers wanted no part of that. Spanberger was intentionally walked. That set up Bonfield’s at-bat.
Grading the Hogs
The strikeouts were the roughest part, especially considering Walker doesn’t often get many of them. Cole was the only Arkansas player to square up anything cleanly.
This wasn’t the problem Sunday. At least, not in a usual game. But the lack of hitting meant there was no room for error with the staff.
The Big Stick + Arm
Arm: Dominic Taccolini
The senior, in his final SEC Tournament game, did what he needed to out of the bullpen. LSU didn’t get anything against him as he worked 3 perfect innings, getting 4 strikeouts.
When you’re responsible for the only runs of the game, it’s a fairly easy choice.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Nothing until next weekend. The team is staying in Alabama on Sunday night. The Razorbacks will find out, officially, they are hosting later tonight. The Razorbacks definitely will be a host in the NCAA Tournament regionals; the only question is whether they’ll be a national seed/who else is playing at Baum Stadium. The latter will be determined Monday at noon (ET), when dates and times also will be announced.