FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Chris Sciambra waited 11-and-a-half months for this chance.
He made it count — four times.
Sciambra hit a bases-clearing triple and rolled up four RBIs and LSU pounded Arkansas 16-3 on Friday night, evening this Southeastern Conference series to set up a Saturday rubber match at Baum Stadium.
The Tigers (20-3, 3-2 SEC) rebounded from Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Hogs (11-10, 1-4) with a dominant performance, shaking off a short hitting skid by banging out 21 hits — the most in an SEC game since 2009.
The 13-run victory is tied for the biggest SEC loss in Arkansas coach Dave van Horn’s 13 seasons, and the 16 runs is a program high for a game in Fayetteville.
The two teams meet 2 p.m. Saturday in Game 3. LSU will attempt to win an SEC series after losing the opening game — something the program has done just once in the past 51 conference series dating to 2010.
Coach Paul Mainieri tinkered with his order Friday after his squad mustered a total of five runs the previous two games. He inserted Scaimbra as the designated hitter and batted him leadoff, a surprising move that paid off, and LSU got a three-hit, seven-inning outing from freshman starting pitcher Alex Lange.
“Sciambra’s always ready when you call on him,” Mainieri said. “He’s an amazing kid. Every time you call him, he seems to do something to help your team win.”
A senior and former Catholic High product, Sciambra got his first start in an SEC game since April 4 last year against Mississippi State — just one of two conference starts last season for the Baton Rouge native.
He led off the game by walking, had an RBI groundout and later hit a bases-loaded triple, whipping a first pitch down the first-base line and to the right field corner. It was the third triple of his four-year LSU career and the first since his sophomore season in 2013.
Scaimbra had started just three games this season and played in less than half of the Tigers’ games.
“Triple lke that with the bases loaded, close game, kind of busted it open,” he said. “That was pretty awesome. It’s a great feeling to hear the stands silent here on the road in the SEC. That’s one of the best feelings you can have.”
He helped LSU roll up more hits than it had in its previous two games (15) — a 4-2 10-inning win at Southern and Thursday’s defeat here in northwest Arkansas.
“We had a rough day yesterday,” second baseman Jared Foster said. “Hit some balls hard, didn’t get them to fall. Good to come out and get those hits and keep hitting the ball hard.”
Foster rocked a two-run homer over the bleachers in left field, Andrew Stevenson extended his hitting streak to nine games and Kade Scivicque had three singles.
Meanwhile, Lange retired his first nine batters — on just 26 pitches — before having to escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just a run in the fourth. He finished with six strikeouts and two walks in a 99-pitch start, following his 13-strikeout game last weekend with a solid job in his first SEC road nod.
“When you’re faced with a bases-loaded jam like that, you’ve got to really compose yourself and think more control instead of trying to throw harder,” Lange said. “Got to think about location. Trying to make my pitches, get a groundball. You’re trying to minimize damage.”
He did, leaving his head coach raving afterward for a rookie who moves to 5-0 and has an ERA under 2.
“He’s just amazing,” Mainieri said. “So much fun to watch. When he gets into that mindset where he’s just going to attack the hitters, he’s pretty good. He’s going to keep getting better. He set the tone for us tonight.”
The only negative on the night? Bregman’s 10-game hitting streak ended. He hit into a double play, hit two hard lineouts and walked twice. Otherwise, it was a fine night for a team that’s had a rough previous two games. The Tigers had to rally to beat Southern and limped to a four-run loss Thursday.
This one never seemed close, and they poured it on in the top of the ninth, scoring six.
LSU scored two runs on three hits in the first inning against Arkansas starter James Teague. Chris Chinea broke 0-for-8 skid in style in the fourth. His hard-hit line drive careened off of shortstop Michael Bernal’s glove and squirted into the outfield for a single.
He scored a few batters later during a four-hit, two-run fourth inning for LSU that had Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn yanking his starter with no outs in the fourth.
The Tigers had three straight hits in the inning, including a double from Jake Fraley — a line drive shot that hit the right field wall while in the air.
They blew it open with a four-run fifth, getting that bases-clearing triple from Sciambra and a bases-loaded walk from Fraley.
Mainieri moved Fraley from leadoff to the No. 9 hole, replacing him with Sciambra. He told Sciambra his plans after Thursday night’s loss. Why’d the coach make it? Fraley has been pressing at leadoff, he said.
The coach expects to start him in Saturday’s rubber match.
Collin Strall kept his ERA at zero, despite allowing two on in the eighth inning, and lefty Hunter Devall allowed a two-run homer in the ninth before closing it out.
Lange’s lengthy outing and a 3.1-inning relief stint from freshman Austin Bain on Thursday has LSU’s bullpen in solid shape for the rubber match. Three of the Tigers’ top relievers — Zac Person, Parker Bugg and Alden Cartwright — have not thrown in two games against the Razorbacks.
Jake Godfrey is set to go against Arkansas’ best hurler, Trey Killian, on Saturday.
“We’ve got a totally rested bullpen,” Mainieri said. “We’ve got the arms. We’ve just got to get through the start of the game. Godfrey has got to give us four or five innings and we’ll have plenty of guys after that, our main guys. Going to be going up against a tremendous challenge tomorrow, in Killian. It’s going to be a heckuva a ballgame tomorrow.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.