Mark Laird’s walk-off hit gives LSU series-clinching win over Arkansas

Mark Laird has now tasted the thrill of a shaving cream pie.

Next time, he’ll leave on some of the puffy white substance for a free shave.

“I needed to,” he said with a laugh.

Laird, scruffy face and all, hit a walk-off RBI single to left field in the ninth inning as the LSU baseball team beat Arkansas 5-4 on Saturday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium for a drama-filled, series-clinching win on national television.

Laird’s two-out shot — a fast-falling line drive — bounded near the left-field foul line to bring home Jake Fraley, who was pinch-running for catcher Chris Chinea. Chinea walked to lead off the ninth inning.

The more than 5,000 at the Box leaped from their feet on the game-winner, and Laird got the ceremonial shaving cream pie in the face. It was the Monroe native’s first walk-off hit since doing it as a senior in high school at Ouachita Christian.

“It brings back memories,” Laird said, shaving cream still stuck behind one ear.

LSU (27-8-1, 8-5-1 Southeastern Conference) won its seventh straight game and sealed the series victory over the Razorbacks (21-15, 6-8) to continue its April victory march.

The Tigers are 7-0 this month and can sweep a second straight conference series Sunday. Game 3 is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch.

LSU built an early 4-0 lead Saturday before letting it slip away, needing a last-inning rally to send the 5,431 home happy.

Arkansas reliever Michael Gunn led off the ninth by walking Chinea on five pitches. Andrew Stevenson’s sacrifice bunt moved him to second before Kramer Robertson popped out to the catcher.

The Razorbacks intentionally walked Sean McMullen before Laird took Gunn’s high fastball and placed it down the left-field line. Arkansas left fielder Joe Serrano never had a chance.

“It was a thing of beauty,” coach Paul Mainieri said.

The Razorbacks walked McMullen despite the LSU leadoff man’s rough day: He was 0-for-4.

“I’m a competitive guy,” Laird said. “When I saw the guy in front of me was walked to face me, it kind of got to me a little bit.”

Laird had not had a hit in his previous 10 at-bats before saddling Gunn with his first earned run of the season.

“I was sitting fastball,” Laird said. “Got one on the outside corner and just went with it.”

Said Gunn: “I needed to get it down a little bit. But the walk is really what cost me.”

Starting pitcher Jared Poché, a freshman, allowed six hits and three runs in 5.2 innings. He was yanked in the sixth inning after Arkansas crept within 4-3 on a pair of singles and a run-scoring sacrifice fly to the warning track.

The Razorbacks tied the score in the seventh when Chinea overthrew Christian Ibarra in an attempt at catching Andrew Benintendi stealing third base. Benintendi easily came home to tie the score at 4.

Arkansas had four runners in scoring position in the final three innings but brought home just that one run.

A group of relievers stymied the Hogs over the final three innings. Kurt McCune went 1.1 innings before giving way to closer Joe Broussard.

Broussard (1-0, 0.49 ERA) got the win after holding Arkansas in check in a clutch situation.

Mainieri inserted Broussard with a man on second and one out in the ninth. Serrano’s groundout to second moved Benintendi to third, and Broussard intentionally walked Brian Anderson.

The hard-throwing junior then struck out pinch hitter Clark Eagan to end the inning.

Laird made sure, moments later, that LSU would have Broussard available for Sunday’s finale. Kyle Bouman will start the game, Mainieri said.

The coach said he’ll have most of his bullpen available Sunday.

He’ll have Laird, too.

“Got my foot down,” Laird said, “and went with it.”