Hoover, Ala. — Nick Pitts’ potential game-winning home run fell two feet short of going over the wall and instead landed in right fielder Jon Zeringue’s glove for the final out of the game as the top-seeded LSU Tigers claimed a 5-4 victory over the eighth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks in Thursday’s first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.Arkansas fell to 34-19 overall and will now play fifth-seeded Ole Miss in an elimination game Friday at 1 p.m. CT. LSU improved to 38-18-1 and will take on fourth-seeded Mississippi State at 8 p.m. Friday.
Jarrett Gardner (4-5) took the loss for Arkansas after going eight innings and surrendering five runs, all earned, on 10 hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
Jason Determann (6-0) earned the win after allowing four runs, all earned, on eight hits with one walk and four strikeouts in seven and one-third innings. Billy Sadler earned his fourth save after pitching the final one and two-thirds innings.
After spending 72 hours in Hoover the Razorbacks and Tigers finally began their first-round SEC Tournament game at 10:03 p.m. Thursday. The game was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., but was pushed back when the Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State game went into extra innings.
LSU got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning. Bruce Sprowl reached on an infield single to begin the inning when he slid under the tag of Gardner at first base. J.C. Holt then singled to put runners at second and third with one out. Aaron Hill singled to right to plate Sprowl and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Blake Gill gave LSU a 2-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Holt who moved to third on Hill’s single. The Tigers added to their lead when Clay Harris singled to left to bring in Hill and push the lead to 3-0.
In the fourth inning, Zeringue doubled in the gap to left and moved to third on a wild pitch. Sprowl then hit a fielder’s choice to left to score Zeringue and give the Tigers a 4-0 advantage. Matt Liuzza, who walked, was thrown out at second on the play.
The Razorbacks cut into the LSU lead in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, Clay Goodwin singled and advanced to third on a double to right-center by Brett Hagedorn. On a 1-2 pitch, Scott Hode blooped a single over the second baseman’s head to plate both runners and cut the LSU lead to 4-2.
LSU added to its lead in the bottom of the seventh when Holt doubled and scored on a single by Hill. The RBI single gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead.
The Razorbacks mounted a rally in the top of the eighth inning. Nick Pitts singled and scored on a triple to right-center by designated hitter Jason Pyle. It was Pyle’s first triple of the season and it cut the deficit to 5-3. Haas Pratt then made it a 5-4 game with a single to right that scored Pyle.
Sadler was then brought in to pitch for Determann.
Chris Williams was inserted as a pinch-runner for Pratt and moved into scoring position when he stole second base. Andrew Wishy struck out for the second out of the inning to bring Ryan Fox to the plate. On a 1-2 count, Sadler threw a wild pitch to allow Williams to move to third. Fox drew a walk to put runners on the corners with two out.
Sadler ended the inning with the tying run a third when Goodwin struck out swinging.
With one out in the ninth, pinch-hitter Kirk McConnell walked and was lifted for pinch-runner Scott Bridges. After Bridges stole second, Hode moved him to third with a ground ball out to second for the second out of the inning. Pitts then came to the plate and hit a towering fly ball to right that appeared to sail over the fence. But, without a steady breeze that had blown throughout most of the game, the ball fell short of the wall and sealed the 5-4 win for the LSU Tigers.