FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Jared Poché stepped off the mound and threw up his hands in frustration.
This was one rainy, cold mess.
LSU escaped with a win without its bats earlier this week. The Tigers never got a chance to survive this one.
Poché had the worst outing of his career – a 10-hit, five-run start that lasted less than four innings – and LSU’s offense remained in its slumber in a 5-1 loss to Arkansas on Thursday night at chilly, rainy Baum Stadium.
Arkansas starter Dominic Taccolini six-hit the Tigers through six innings, and Poché spotted the Razorbacks a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning of the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference set between the two teams.
“I didn’t have it,” Poché said. “Got to give credit to Arkansas. Everything I threw they hit. It just wasn’t my night tonight.”
LSU (19-3, 2-2 SEC), ranked No. 1 in the nation in one poll, lost the first game of a series against the Hogs (11-9, 1-3) for the first time since 2011 and are now fighting to avoid what would be just a second series loss to the school in the last 11 tries.
For the second straight game, LSU’s bats weren’t firing, and the Tigers are now 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position in the last two outings. They were 0 for 5 Thursday - a night in which they amassed a host of hard lineouts and were the victim of a handful of highlight defensive plays.
They were able to escape with a 4-2 win over Southern in 10 innings on Tuesday despite having just three hits in the first seven innings of that one, but Poché didn’t give them much of a shot in this one in front 3,014 fans.
He had the roughest outing of his career in LSU’s first game in an SEC road venue this season, and Mainieri had regerets afterward. The coach thought hard about pulling Poché earlier and starting the fourth inning with freshman Austin Bain.
The Razorbacks scored three in the fourth against Poché before Bain came in for an impressive 3.1 inning stint, the highlight of the night for the Tigers.
“In retrospect, I wish I would have hooked him a little bit earlier,” Mainieri said. “I have such confidence in Jared and I thought he could settle in, but obviously it was the wrong thing to do. They ended up getting to him.”
Poché, now 5-1 with the loss, allowed more hits (10) and earned runs (5) than he has in his LSU career, and the 3.2 innings on the mound was his shortest start. He walked two, hit a batter and struck out just one. Arkansas piled up one in each the first and second and chased Poché in that five-hit, three-run fourth.
“I wasn’t locating as well as I normally do,” he said. “They put the bat on the ball. They found holes. They capitliazed.”
Said shortstop Alex Bregman: “That’s really rare, but the kid competed and that’s all you can ask out of a guy. He just didn’t have it tonight.”
The offense didn’t help him.
LSU left the bases loaded in the fifth inning after first baseman Danny Zardon hit into an inning-ending double play, and the Tigers stranded the leadoff man on base in the fifth and seventh innings. Arkansas’ third and first basemen had web gems, and Hogs right fielder Tyler Spoon saved two runs with a grab in the gap in the fifth.
“A lot of at-them balls tonight,” Bregman said. “A lot of guys were hitting it hard. They made a bunch of good plays too.”
Bregman had LSU’s only run - a solo home run to left-center field in the sixth, his sixth longball of the year. Catcher Kade Scivicque led off the seventh with a double, bringing Taccolini’s tenure to a close. Zach Jackson, Arkansas’ top reliever, allowed just one base runner in the final three innings, shutting down the Tigers with a mid-90s fastball.
“Jackson was really focused,” Mainieri said. “When he’s in the strike zone with the fastball and breaking ball, it’s almost unfair.”
Bain pitched a one-hitter through more than three innings, rolling up four strikeouts in the process and stranding a total of seven runners on base. Doug Norman threw a perfect eighth inning.
“I came in with two runners on and just tried to suppress any damage and see what I could do to get as many outs as I could,” Bain said.
Poché didn’t have his stuff, and he knew it early on, showing more frustration and emotion than he ever has through a steady rain. Even the mound visits didn’t help. Pitching coach Alan Dunn visited in that third inning, and Poché followed the trip with a four-pitch walk.
While Poché struggled early, Taccolini (4-2) buzzed through the LSU order. He faced the minimum in three of the first four frames, despite some hard-hit balls from the Tigers. In the second inning, for instance, all three batters had hard lineouts that were caught.
“We go about our business,” Bregman said on bouncing back. “Just prepare to have a lot of energy, prepare to attack. Our offense will come back and try and do a lot better. We have a lot of confidence in (starting pitcher) Alex Lange.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.