Courtesy: Zach Lawson, Athletic Media Relations
BATON ROUGE, La. – For the third time in his career, Brett Eibner hit two home runs to lead the offensive charge as the No. 13 University of Arkansas baseball team beat third-ranked LSU, 6-3, Friday night at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La, in the Southeastern Conference opener. Eibner posted a pair of two-run home runs and had four RBI. Mike Bolsinger worked seven strong innings to pick up his third win of the season.
“We’ve talked about staying calm because this is just the first of 30 (conference games),” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “You never know how the team will react after a long trip and playing in a new park we’ve never seen before. I thought we handled it pretty well. We left too many runners on base and couldn’t get that big single in the game but we got the big home runs.”
James McCann collected the first hit of the game for either team with a single that nearly got past a diving Leon Landry, LSU’s center fielder. The Razorback catcher was stranded at first as LSU starter Austin Ross sat down the next two hitters to get out of the inning. McCann tied a career high with three hits Friday.
The Tigers cracked the scoreboard first in their half of the second. With two outs, Tyler Hanover tripled off the wall in left center for the Tigers’ first hit of the game. Matt Gaudet immediately followed with a home run into the right-field seats to give the home team an early 2-0 advantage.
Arkansas scored four runs in the top of the fourth to grab the lead. Leading off the inning, Zack Cox extended his season-opening hitting streak to 16 games with a single to right field. The streak is the second longest under Van Horn. Andy Wilkins, the Hogs’ next hitter, tied the score with a towering two-run shot to left field, his seventh big fly of the season. After a one-out McCann single, Eibner put Arkansas on top, 4-2, with a line-drive home run down the line in left field. It was his third home run of the season.
Wilkins’ blast against LSU gives the junior slugger 34 career home runs and moves him into a tie for seventh with Jake Dugger (2004-07) on the program’s all-time list. Wilkins finished the game 2-for-3 at the plate with a double to go along with his home run and two runs scored.
The Razorbacks had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth. With runners on first and second and no outs after a back-to-back errors by the Tigers’ infield, Cox looked to push a run across the plate with a shot headed for center field, but Austin Nola, the LSU shortstop, dove to his left to snag the liner out of the air and collected himself to double Vinson off second with a toss to the bag.
With two outs, the threat continued after an intentional walk to Wilkins gave the Hogs runners on first and second but Ross struck out Monk Kreder to escape the inning without allowing a run.
Wilkins led off the seventh with a double to right center. Kreder laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Wilkins over to third with one out. McCann grounded out to the shortstop for the second out but with the infield playing in on the grass, Wilkins was unable to score. Eibner took care of the run with his second home run of the game, a monster shot that went over the scoreboard in left field. The two-run home run upped the Arkansas lead to 6-2.
After running into trouble in the LSU second, Bolsinger was strong for the Hogs. The McKinney, Texas, native tied his career high with seven innings and struck out four Tigers. After Gaudet’s home run, Bolsinger gave up just two hits over his final five innings of work. Friday’s game was Bolsinger’s first start in an SEC game since March 14, 2009; he worked 2.1 innings in that game and did not figure into the decision.
LSU tacked on a third run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Gaudet, but DJ Baxendale, on in relief of Bolsinger, capped his two-inning effort and sealed the game by picking Hanover off at second base.
Game two of the conference-opening series is set for a 3 p.m. start Saturday at Alex Box Stadium. Drew Smyly (2-0, 1.80 ERA) is penciled in to get the start for the Hogs and LSU will counter with Joey Bourgeois (2-1, 4.74 ERA). The contest will be aired on Cox Sports Television (channel 119 in Northwest Arkansas). For more information and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.