LSU defeats Arkansas 5-3 in 10 innings to win series

NWA Media photo by Jason IvesterLSU's Alex Bregman is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run homer in the third inning against Arkansas on  April 14 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark.
NWA Media photo by Jason IvesterLSU's Alex Bregman is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run homer in the third inning against Arkansas on April 14 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — After the LSU baseball team had been held hitless while managing just one base runner in five straight innings, all Ty Ross was trying to do was get on base to lead off the 10th.

He did that and much more.

Ross drilled a pitch to right-center field for a double to ignite a two-run rally Sunday as the No. 2 Tigers beat No. 10 Arkansas 5-3 at Baum Stadium to win the three-game series.

“Being the leadoff hitter, I was just trying to figure out any way to get on,” Ross said.

Ross moved to third when Chris Sciambra perfectly placed a two-strike sacrifice bunt, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Sean McMullen, giving LSU (34-3, 13-2 Southeastern Conference) a 4-3 lead.

Mark Laird followed with an infield single, and Alex Bregman and Raph Rhymes added singles up the middle to push the lead to 5-3.

“I knew I was going to hit the ball to the outfield,” McMullen said of his go-ahead RBI. “I had no doubt. It was time for us to take the lead and win the game. We got the clutch double and the bunt with two strikes. The easiest part of the inning was the fly ball.”

Chris Cotton (2-0) worked around a one-out infield single in the bottom of the 10th to earn the win.

“I am really proud of Ty Ross,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s had a rough year offensively, and all weekend he has been hitting the ball right on the nose. (In Saturday’s 8-3 loss), he hit three balls as hard as he possibly could and got nothing to show for it. ... He didn’t get discouraged, and (the leadoff double) was absolutely enormous.

“Sciambra did a phenomenal job of getting the bunt down off a tough left-handed pitcher, and then Sean McMullen did his hitting early in the count and that was huge.”

While Ross’ double started the rally and McMullen’s sacrifice fly brought home the go-ahead run, the biggest at-bat in the inning may have been Sciambra’s bunt against Jalen Beeks.

“It’s the first time I’ve let a guy bunt with two strikes all year,” Mainieri said. “I know my players, and I know he’s a good bunter. It maybe took a couple pitches to really see the ball against a tough left-hander. I felt confident that he would stand in there and not be afraid. Even though he didn’t get the job done after a couple of pitches, I just felt like he still had a chance. He put down a perfect bunt.”

The final inning was the most effective LSU had been against Arkansas since its three-run third, when the Tigers used an RBI groundout from Laird and a two-run homer by Bregman to take a 3-1 lead against Razorbacks starter Randall Fant.

Right-hander Brandon Moore relieved Fant after Bregman’s home run and worked 3.2 scoreless inning, giving up just one hit.

“I’ve been in this game a long time, and I haven’t seen a crop of arms like Arkansas throws at you,” Mainieri said. “It was a challenge.”

The Razorbacks (25-12, 9-6) scored three runs off LSU starter Cody Glenn through the first four innings, including a home run by Jordan Farris in the third. From there, the Tigers bullpen took control, with Nick Rumbelow, Brent Bonvillian and Joey Bourgeois throwing 4.2 scoreless innings. Arkansas’ only hit in that stretch was a two-out single in the fourth.

“I thought it was a pretty well played ballgame,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Nobody really gave each other anything.”

Bregman was 3-for-4 to lead LSU. Mason Katz was 0-for-3, snapping his 16-game hitting streak.

“It was very important to string those hits together in the 10th,” Ross said. “Arkansas has a great pitching staff, and they were keeping our hitters off-balance. We just strung together hits when it counted, and that’s the most important thing. That’s the kind of championship baseball we try to play.”