OMAHA, Neb. – The Arkansas baseball team’s season ended on Friday afternoon at the College World Series with a 14-5 loss to Southeastern Conference rival LSU in Omaha, Neb., after an amazing run that saw the Razorbacks go from an afterthought to a tie for third in the college baseball ranks.
Arkansas (41-24) gave everything it had in a pair of victories at the CWS over Cal St. Fullerton and Virginia, but could not solve LSU’s (54-16) pitching or contain the Tigers’ bats in two losses to the SEC Champion. Arkansas’ third-place finish at the College World Series matches its second best in program history (1985). The Razorbacks were the national runner up in 1979.
Sophomore Brett Eibner hit his second home run in as many games to put the Razorbacks on the scoreboard, but with a huge hill to climb, the runs were too little too late. In the bottom of the seventh, Jacob House delivered his second single of the game and on the next pitch Eibner hit his second two-run homer of the CWS, this one to right-center field. Senior Chase Leavitt collected three of Arkansas’ nine hits including belting a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Eibner and Jacob House also had three hits for the Razorbacks.
"I’m really proud of our team," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn. "The way we were fighting back at the end of the year, we made a good run and played some good baseball. The end of the year is always tough. It is always emotional, but I told them I wasn’t going to get emotional because I was just too proud of them. When you lose, there is only one place to end your season at that is standing out on the field out there (Rosenblatt Stadium)."
LSU starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo (11-3) was superb on the mound earning the win after blanking the Razorbacks for six innings and scattering four hits while striking out five batters. Arkansas closer Stephen Richards (6-2) was tagged with the loss in his first starting nod of the season and his first start since 2007.
"LSU was too strong today," Van Horn said. "We didn’t have enough to hold them down. We cycled a couple of guys (on the mound). We didn’t want to hurt anybody. We didn’t want to go with Dallas Keuchel or Drew Smyly. Renaudo was throwing too good for them. He had a much better outing than he did in his first game here.
"It was good to see us hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth. That is what we have been doing all season long. It didn’t mean anything this time, but it was good to see."
For the second straight game against the Razorbacks, LSU jumped out front on Arkansas by scoring in the top of the first inning. After Richards retired the first two batters he faced by strikeouts, he gave up a double down the right-field line to Blake Dean. LSU followed up the two-base hit with a single up the middle by Micah Gibbs to take a 1-0 lead.
A long third inning for the Tigers gave them a 4-0 lead, aided by a Razorback error. A pair of singles surrounded a walk which loaded the bases with no outs. Arkansas went to the bullpen and on the first batter a ground ball to first was mishandled and allowed a run to score and keep the bases loaded. A strikeout and sacrifice fly followed and a wild pitch scored LSU’s third run of the inning.
Arkansas got leadoff singles in both the third and fifth innings, but could not muster an extra-base hit or key drive to bring the runner home. In the fifth, Eibner singled to lead off and moved to third on ground outs to the infield, but was stranded at the bag on a pop out to shortstop. Meanwhile, LSU increased its lead by two with solo home runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to run the score to 6-0.
LSU exploded for five runs in a fateful seventh inning to seal Arkansas’ fate in the game and take an 11-0 lead. The Tigers battled four Razorback pitchers in the inning and pounded four hits and took advantage of three Arkansas walks and an error.
After Eibner’s two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh got the Hogs on the scoreboard, the Tigers added two more runs of their own in the top of the ninth inning. Nicholas Pontiff earned a one-out single before Tyler Hanover launched a two-run home run to make it 13-2. Later in the inning, Chad Jones singled in a run to extend the lead to 14-2.
The Razorbacks rebounded with three of their own in the bottom of the ninth. Thomas Hauskey earned a pinch hit single to start the frame. With two outs in the inning, Andrew Darr walked before Leavitt sent a pitch over the wall in right field to make the final margin 14-5.
The Razorbacks tied a College World Series record by utilizing eight pitchers against the Tigers. The 13 combined pitchers used in the game by Arkansas and LSU also tied a College World Series record. The game was delayed two hours and 30 minutes by rain and started at 3:38 p.m. CT.
With the collegiate season over for Arkansas, the Razorback players will leave Fayetteville over the course of the next week and head to their respective summer league teams. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.