Junior right-hander Aaron Nola set a career high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings Friday night as eighth-ranked LSU posted a 5-3 win over No. 24 Arkansas at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
LSU improved to 26-8-1 overall and 7-5-1 in the SEC with its sixth straight win. Arkansas is 21-14 overall and 6-7 in conference play.
The Tigers and Razorbacks square off in Game 2 of the series Saturday at 12 p.m. on ESPN 2. The game can be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network, including Baton Rouge flagship WDGL-FM 98.1 FM. Live audio and stats of the games may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Freshman left-hander Jared Poche’ (6-2, 2.25 ERA) will take the mound for the Tigers on Saturday while junior left-hander Jalen Beeks (5-2, 1.05 ERA) will start for Arkansas.
LSU moved to within a half-game of first place in the overall SEC standings with Friday night’s win. South Carolina, Ole Miss and Alabama share first place with 8-5 league marks.
“This game demonstrated that no SEC game is over until the final out is recorded,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This was a real battle against a very good Arkansas team. Their starting pitcher gave them a courageous effort; fortunately, Aaron Nola raised his game to another level once again in turning in a tremendous performance.”
Nola improved to 7-1 this season by limiting the Razorbacks to two runs on four hits in seven innings with two walks and a career-best 13 strikeouts.
“Hits are going to be tough to come by against this Arkansas staff; they have several excellent arms,” Mainieri said. “We were able to produce enough offense tonight to earn the win, and that’s the goal, to finish the game with at least one more run than the other team.”
The Tigers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Arkansas starter Trey Killiian (1-6). Leftfielder Sean McMullen led off the inning by reaching on a walk. Centerfielder Mark Laird reached on a fielder’s choice, and Laird and McMullen moved to second and third, respectively, on an error by Arkansas shortstop Michael Bernal. LSU shortstop Alex Bregman followed with an RBI single to score McMullen and Laird.
Freshman Kramer Robertson reached base to lead off the third inning after being hit by a pitch. McMullen followed with a two-run home run over the right field wall to make it 4-0. It was McMullen’s fourth home run of the season.
Arkansas got on the board in the fifth inning with a solo home run by first baseman Eric Fisher, reducing the Tigers’ lead to 4-1.
LSU added a run in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by Robertson to score Stevenson, who had led off the inning with a single.
The Razorbacks cut into the Tiger lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two runners on base due to walks, second baseman Brian Anderson hit a two-run double to center field against LSU reliever Zac Person.
However, LSU closer Joe Broussard entered the game with one out and a runner on second base in the eighth and recorded his eighth save of the year. Broussard worked 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing no hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Killian fired a complete game for Arkansas, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts.