HOOVER, Ala. — Five LSU pitchers combined on a one-hitter as the Tigers advanced to the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament with a 3-1 victory against Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Second-seeded LSU (51-9) will play the winner of Saturday’s late semifinal game between top-seeded Vanderbilt and fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the title game at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Tigers have not played the regular-season champion Commodores and they won two out of three against the Bulldogs to open SEC play in mid-March in Starkville, Miss.
Freshman Hunter Newman started and allowed an unearned run while pitching four hitless innings, Kevin Berry (5-1) threw a hitless inning, Will LaMarche gave up the only hit while pitching two scoreless innings, Joey Bourgeois pitched a perfect eighth and Chris Cotton pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save and third in the tourney.
Christian Ibarra three hits, including two doubles, and two runs batted in and Tyler Moore hit an RBI grounder as LSU won an elimination game for the second consecutive
Day. The Tigers defeated Alabama 3-2 on Friday.
After stranding six runners through the first five innings without scoring, the Tigers finally put together a scoring rally to wipe out a 1-0 deficit in the sixth.
Brandon Moore, who got the last out in the fifth after relieving starter Randall Fant, walked Mason Katz and gave up a single to Raph Rhymes to start the sixth.
Ibarra lined an 0-2 pitch to left field to tie the score and bring in left-hander Michael Gunn to replace Moore.
Ty Ross sacrificed the runners to second and third and Arkansas played the infield in at the corners, but not in the middle. Tyler Moore hit a grounder to short and Brett McAfee threw home, but it was too late to get Rhymes and the Tigers grabbed a 2-1 lead.
LSU increased the lead in the seventh. Jared Foster singled leading off and one out later took off on a hit and run as Katz struck out. Foster stole second and went to third when Jake Wise’ throwing went into shallow center for an error.
After Rhymes walked, Ibarra drilled about into the gap in left-center. It appeared two runs would score easily, but Rhymes appeared to miss second base as he rounded and had to go back and touch as Ibarra neared second. Rhymes made third, but was left there when Ty Ross grounded out, leaving the Tigers with a 3-1 lead.
Newman had an outstanding beginning, retiring the Hogs in order in each of the first two innings, getting one strikeout in each.
He fell behind in the third without allowing a hit. Jake Wise walked leading off and went to second when Newman’s pickoff throw sailed past Chris Chinea for a throwing error.
Eric Fisher, who was poised to sacrifice Wise to second before the error, sacrificed him to third. McAfee hit a high pop into the sunny sky in shallow right. Right fielder Jared Foster backed off as second baseman Katz battled the sun and dropped the ball for an error as Wise scored.
With two outs in the fourth, Newman walked Jacob Mahan and hit Wise. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch before Newman got Fisher to ground out.
When Newman walked McAfee leading off the fifth, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri removed Newman, even though he hadn’t allowed a hit, and brought in Berry. After a sacrifice bunt, Berry yielded a walk before getting the final two outs.
LaMarche relieved to start the sixth and allowed the Hogs’ first hit, a leadoff single by Tyler Spoon. Even though Spoon took off ahead of Mahan’s bunt, LaMarche was able to start a 1-6-3 double play, then he got a grounder to end the inning.
He threw a perfect seventh then turned it over to Bourgeois and Cotton.