FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas shook off their purple haze history against LSU with a strong relief outing from Kevin Kopps and a rally from an early three-run deficit Friday at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Heston Kjerstad hit his 14th home run, and Kopps fired four shutout innings in a 11-6 victory before a paid crowd of 11,714, the sixth largest in Baum-Walker history.
The Tigers (30-21, 14-12) lost their fifth game in a row and gave up double-figure runs for the fourth consecutive game.
Arkansas won its first three-game set against LSU since a sweep in 2011. The large video board posted a squished opossum after the game, a reference to LSU’s celebrated “Rally Possum” comeback over Arkansas in 2016 that turned into a sensation all the way to the NCAA Super Regionals.
“It feels really good to finally win a series since 2011 and kind of break that streak for us and the fans,” Kopps said.
“It feels good to win the series, but we’re not satisfied,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “We’ll do everything we can to win the game tomorrow.”
The Hogs will go for their fourth SEC home sweep in today’s 1 p.m. finale with freshman right-hander Connor Noland (2-3, 4.39 ERA) facing LSU freshman righty Landon Marceaux (3-2, 7.04).
Arkansas will enter the final four games of the regular season with a 2 1/2 game lead in the SEC West.
Kopps (5-3) allowed 1 hit, 1 walk and no runs while striking out 4 in 4 innings to pick up the victory.
“That was huge,” Kjerstad said. “After that, he just slammed the door on them and got us back in the dugout. He was doing work out there. We just wanted to help him out.”
Kopps entered with the bases loaded and one out, and he fell behind 2-0 to catcher Saul Garza before inducing a 6-4-3 double play.
“We had the bases loaded one out, Dave made the move of the game bringing Kopps in,” LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said. “He got the double play ball. We couldn’t do much with him after that.”
Dominic Fletcher had two hits and 3 RBI, while Kjerstad and Casey Opitz also had a pair of hits apiece.
Jacob Kostyshock got the last two outs of the eighth with the tying run at the plate and Arkansas ahead 5-3.
LSU loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth off Elijah Trest, then Josh Smith hit a bases-clearing triple to the right-field corner with one out off Matt Cronin before the closer finished off the game.
The Tigers scored in the first two innings against Patrick Wicklander, just as they did against Arkansas ace Isaiah Campbell on Thursday. Unlike Campbell, Wicklander could not settle in and put up a string of zeroes after falling behind 3-0.
Smith led off the game with a strange infield single. Arkansas second baseman Jack Kenley got to his grounder in the hole but threw an off-balance one-hopper to Trevor Ezell, who made the scoop while falling backward as Smith’s cleats swiped across the top of his cap. The play went to a review, where Smith was judged safe.
With two outs, Daniel Cabrera looped a ball to short right field, and Kjerstad threw toward second base instead of home, ensuring an LSU run and a 1-0 lead.
Brandt Broussard hit a one-out single in the second inning, then Garza scored him with a resounding home run the opposite way over the right-field fence for a 3-0 lead. It was Garza’s fourth home run.
LSU starter Eric Walker, who shut the Hogs down in two victories in 2017, got off to a good start again.
The right-hander had good control of his breaking pitches and kept the Razorbacks off-balance by mixing in a fastball touching 90 mph. The bottom of the Arkansas order scratched out a run in the third as Opitz led off with a single and scored on Christian Franklin’s double into the gap in right-center field.
The score remained 3-1 until the fifth. Opitz singled again and Franklin walked, then Mainieri came with the hook for Walker after Trevor Ezell’s ground out moved Opitz to third. Casey Martin greeted reliever Zack Hess (3-4) with an RBI ground ball to second base.
Kjerstad’s one-out home run in the sixth pulled the Razorbacks into a tie.
They broke it off Hess with two runs in the seventh.
Ezell led off with a double into the right-field corner, breaking an 0 for 11 skid for the top four Arkansas batters. Martin’s single over third baseman Chris Reid brought in Ezell with the go-ahead run. Martin stole second easily, and Fletcher smoked a ball up the middle to make it 5-3.
The Razorbacks teed off against right-hander Trent Vietmeier in the bottom of the eighth. Matt Goodheart hit a two-run single to right field with the bases loaded, then Fletcher ripped a ball into the right-center gap for his SEC-best 20th double and two more runs. Kjerstad and Jacob Nesbit hit RBI singles to complete the big inning.
NO. 4 ARKANSAS VS. NO. 17 LSU
WHEN 1 p.m.
WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS LSU 30-21, 14-12 SEC; Arkansas 39-12, 19-7
STARTING PITCHERS LSU RHP Landon Marceaux (3-2, 7.04 ERA); Arkansas RHP Connor Noland (2-3, 4.39)
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
SHORT HOPS Arkansas posted its second six-run inning of the series in the eighth and batted around for the third time in the series. … Heston Kjerstad’s game-tying home run in the sixth inning was his 14th, tying his home run total of last season.… Dominic Fletcher’s eighth inning, two-run double was his SEC-leading 20th, breaking a tie with teammate Casey Martin. … The Tigers have given up 56 runs in their past four games. … Rain is in the forecast this morning, with an 85 percent chance at 8 a.m., per weather.com. The chances diminish to 35 percent by the 1 p.m. game time.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TODAY LSU, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
THURSDAY at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
FRIDAY at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m.