HOOVER, Alabama -- A five-run fourth inning and stellar pitching drove 2-seed Arkansas to a 5-4 win over 3-seed LSU in a thrilling third-round victory during the SEC Tournament on Thursday at the Hoover Met.
The Hogs advanced to the semifinals for the sixth time in 10 seasons since the tournament expanded to 12 teams in 2013. Arkansas also snapped the Tigers' six-game winning streak against it in the SEC Tournament.
In the much-anticipated matchup of two of the SEC's best, LSU got the ball rolling in the top of the first inning. Tommy White recorded the first hit of the day and Hayden Travinski followed it up with another single, leading to an eventual first-inning score.
Paul Skenes was excellent to start the game, per usual.
And so was Hagen Smith for Arkansas, who tied his career high with nine strikeouts in the first 3.2 innings. Smith's pitch count was high and he was replaced by Hunter Hollan in the top of the fourth with two outs and bases loaded - who finished the game out with a win and eight strikeouts.
"To me, the story was our two pitchers. I thought they did a great job. Between the two of them, we didn't have to field a lot of balls," head coach Dave Van Horn said following the game.
Hollan threw a wild pitch and allowed Travinski to score, but he struck out Alex Milazzo to leave the inning with minimal damage.
Skenes' fantastic start slowed down in the bottom of the fourth when he allowed two runs. The Hogs had the bases loaded with two outs and brought in Riley Cooper for relief.
Cooper appeared to end the inning with a flyout from Kendall Diggs, but a controversial catcher's interference was called. Diggs advanced to first and the Razorbacks took the lead with the score. In the ensuing at-bat, Jace Bohrofen drilled a single to right field that brought in another two runs.
How did Van Horn feel about the controversial call?
"Catcher's interference," Van Horn said. "He hit his glove when he swung... We heard it. We saw it. And the ball still made it to the outfield. If he hadn't hit his glove, he might have hit it over his head, the way we look at it.
Other people look at it a different way. But he definitely hit his glove. I don't know that big board replay showed, you could really see, but we knew immediately that he hit his glove.The Hogs changed the pace of the game with the impressive five-run outing and it was the turning point."
LSU carried some hope after having a history with 11 SEC Tournament wins after trailing by three-plus runs, which is the most of any team.
Following the explosive fourth inning, both relief pitchers were able to neutralize the game and slow down all scoring inthe fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
LSU attempted to claw its way back into the game with a run in the top of the eighth. Crews wasn't going to give up without a fight as he nailed a homer in the top of the ninth as well, but it wasn't enough to combat the Hogs' fourth inning.
"Yeah, it's great to win the game. To me, it's not all about all the other stuff. It's about playing good today and let's try to win today and advance. That's the way I coach our team. I don't like to rah-rah a whole lot."
HOW IT HAPPENED
T1 | White singled through the right side. Travinski singled to right field, White advanced to third. Tre' Morgan singled to left field, Travinski advanced to second and White scored. LSU 1, Arkansas 0.
T4 | Travinski singled through the left side. Morgan singled through the left side and Travinski advanced to second. Dugas walked, Morgan advanced to second and Travinski advanced to third. Dugas advanced to second, Morgan advanced to third and Travinski scored on a wild pitch. LSU 2, Arkansas 1.
B4 | Jared Wegner was hit by pitch. Brady Slavens singled up the middle, Wegner advanced to third. Caleb Cali singled through the right side, Slavens advanced to second and Wegner scored. Holt singled up the middle, Cali advanced to second and Slavens scored. Diggs reached on catcher's interference, Rowland advanced to second, Holt advanced to third and Cali scored. Bohrofen singled, Diggs advanced to third, Rowland and Holt scored. Arkansas 5, LSU 2.
T8 | Travinski singled to left field. Travinski advanced to second on a wild pitch. Thompson singled to left field, Travinski scored. Arkansas 5, LSU 3.
T9 | Crews homered to left field. Arkansas 5, LSU 4.
Arkansas (40-15) will move on to the semifinals to face the winner of Game 13. First pitch is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday in a contest that will be televised on SEC Network.
LSU (43-13) will face 10-seed Texas A&M in the fourth round. First pitch is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. ET on Friday in a contest that will be televised on SEC Network.