FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas freshman Dominic Ficociello drove in the eventual game-winning run in the sixth inning with his first collegiate home run, while three Arkansas pitchers combined for a 10-hit shutout as the Razorbacks defeated No. 17 LSU 2-0 on Friday night in front of 9,712 fans at Baum Stadium.
With the series-opening win, Arkansas improves to 21-8 and 4-6 in Southeastern Conference play, while LSU is now 21-9 and 3-7 in league contests. The Razorbacks are now 7-1 on Friday nights this season and have won the series opener in three of four conference series.
The actual attendance of 9,712 and the paid crowd of 9,854 were both season highs for Arkansas and marked the sixth-largest crowd (both paid and actual) in Baum Stadium history.
Barrett Astin earned the third win of his freshman season on the mound, throwing 2.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts. For the third straight game, Nolan Sanburn closed the door, earning his fifth save of the season. Sanburn pitched 1.1 hitless innings with a strikeout.
LSU starter Kurt McCune was the tough-luck loser and suffered his first loss of the season to drop to 5-1. McCune allowed two runs, just one earned, on four hits with nine strikeouts over 7.2 innings.
Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale received a no decision after throwing five shutout innings and tied a career-high with seven strikeouts. Baxendale had to leave the game after throwing two pitches in the sixth inning due to a finger blister on his throwing hand.
Ficociello provided the game-winning run with his first collegiate home run, a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth inning. The home run also gave him the team lead in RBI with his 27th of the season.
"I didn’t know if he was going to get it out," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I knew it was a double and it just kept riding. He hit it hard and we see him do it all the time in batting practices and scrimmages in the fall. He has some good pop in there and he finally got it. It was a good time for his first college home run."
Bo Bigham led the Razorbacks with two hits, including hitting a triple for the second straight game, and also reached base two more times on hit by pitches. Bigham extended his hitting streak to nine games, one shy of tying his career long. Tim Carver, James McCann and Kyle Robinson each added a hit in the win.
LSU managed 10 hits in the game, but some timely strikeouts and great defense by the Razorbacks, including a season-high tying three double plays, kept the Tigers off the scoreboard. For the game, LSU left 11 runners on base, including nine in the first four innings.
Austin Nola had three hits to pace the Tigers at the plate. Raph Rhymes and Ty Ross also had two hits.
LSU had a chance to get some runs early, but stranded the bases loaded in the first two innings. In the first, the Tigers put a runner on each base with one out, but Baxendale got Nola to strike out swinging and Grant Dozar to ground out to short to end the inning. In the top of the second, the Tigers again loaded the bases with one out, but back-to-back strikeouts of Tyler Hanover and JaCoby Jones again kept LSU from crossing home plate.
Arkansas had its first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the second. After a lead off single by Robinson, Ficociello moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt. Bigham was hit by a pitch with two outs and then a double steal moved the runners to second and third. McCune got Jarrod McKinney to strike out swinging to end the game and leave the runners at second and third.
The Razorbacks finally broke the deadlock with a run in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Ficociello lined a solo home run over the right field wall and into the LSU bullpen to put Arkansas in front 1-0.
Arkansas added an insurance run in the seventh without the benefit of a hit. Carver reached on a fielding error by the LSU first baseman to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Morris. Carver then advanced to third on the wild pitch and the throw to third by the LSU catcher was wild and went into left field, allowing Carver to score to put the Razorbacks on top 2-0.
LSU appeared to have a rally going in the top of the eighth, but some great defense by the Razorbacks thwarted the threat. Nola led off the inning with a single and Dozar was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. Mason Katz then hit a fly ball to left-center field. Collin Kuhn made the catch and threw a rocket to third base to double up Nola, who was looking to advance. Alex Edward ended the inning with a swinging strikeout.
In the ninth, the Tigers were able to get the lead off runner on after a walk to Trey Watkins. However, Rhymes grounded into a 4-3 double play to clear the bases with two out. Hanover grounded out to second to end the ball game.
Arkansas and LSU continue the three-game series on Saturday with a 7 p.m. first pitch in a game that will be televised by ESPNU. A pair of right handed freshman pitchers are scheduled to start. Arkansas will send Brandon Moore (2-1, 3.89) to the mound, while LSU will counter with Kevin Gausman (2-3, 5.59).