FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 17 LSU might look vulnerable on paper -- with a middle-of-the-SEC pack .273 team batting average and a 4.66 team earned run average that is 11th in the league -- but fans of the No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks know beating the Tigers won't come easy.
It never does.
ARKANSAS BASEBALL vs. LSU
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS LSU 30-19, 14-10 SEC); Arkansas 37-12, 17-7
STARTING PITCHERS LSU Ma’Khail Hilliard (0-2, 4.59 ERA); Arkansas RHP Isaiah Campbell (8–1, 2.54 ERA)
SERIES LSU leads 73-32 overall.
COACHES Paul Mainieri (581-248-3 in 12th year at LSU); Dave Van Horn (680-376 in 17th year at Arkansas)
RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings.
LSU Coach Paul Mainieri worked with Razorbacks Matt Cronin and Dominic Fletcher on the USA Collegiate team last summer. “They’re great kids,” Mainieri said on his weekly radio show. … LSU ranks 103rd nationally in team batting average (.276), 115th in team earned-run average (4.55), 26th in fielding percentage (.978) and 50th in scoring (6.8 runs per game). Arkansas is 11th in team batting average (.309), 57th in team ERA (4.00), 110th in fielding percentage (.971) and 13th in scoring (8.0 rpg). … Arkansas’ Van Horn won his 1,000th game as a Division I coach in Sunday’s 9-1 victory at Kentucky. … LSU’s Mainieri has won 1,445 games as a Division I coach.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TODAY LSU*, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
FRIDAY LSU*, 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY LSU*, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
LSU (30-19, 14-10 SEC) has dominated the series historically -- with a 73-32 all-time record -- as well as recently. The Tigers have won 22 of the past 28 games against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas (37-12, 17-7) will try to buck that trend and move closer to the SEC West title when it hosts the Tigers for a three-game series starting today at 6:30 p.m. The Razorbacks own a two-game lead in the SEC West over Ole Miss and Mississippi State, who play each other this weekend, and a three-game lead over LSU.
Arkansas ace right-hander Isaiah Campbell (8-1, 2.54 ERA) will take on LSU sophomore righty Ma'Khail Hilliard (0-2, 4.59) in the opener at Baum-Walker Stadium.
A series victory by the Hogs would be their first in the series since a three-game sweep in 2011 in Fayetteville.
"I mean, obviously they've had our number the last few years," Van Horn said. "Statistically you can look at that. But this is a new year. That's what we like about it."
The past four Arkansas teams to reach the College World Series -- in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 -- all lost regular-season series to the Tigers. The 2009 Arkansas team hammered LSU 11-4 at Baum Stadium in the first meeting of the year before losing 5-0 and 4-3 and then being single-handedly eliminated from the CWS by the Tigers in 9-1 and 14-5 losses.
"I always enjoy playing against Arkansas, and it's not just because we've had success," LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said Monday on his weekly radio show. "I have the greatest respect for their coach, Dave Van Horn. I think he does a great job.
"They've got an excellent ball club. They were catching a pop fly away from winning the national championship last year, and their team is loaded again this year."
Arkansas has been one of the nation's best clubs for a long stretch, but LSU has controlled them like no one else.
"I mean obviously we're aware of it, but we don't talk about [it]," Campbell said. "It's a rivalry weekend no matter how good either team's playing. Both teams are going to play to the best of their ability and it's going to be a good weekend."
Campbell, the most veteran Razorback, has been on Arkansas clubs that are 2-9 against the Tigers.
Last year, Arkansas won the series opener in Baton Rouge 5-4 behind Blaine Knight. The Tigers rebounded to win 6-4 and 7-5 at home, then eliminated the Razorbacks from the SEC Tournament with a 2-1 victory behind ace Zack Hess, who was moved back into the bullpen last week.
Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz said he draws extra motivation from last year's series.
"They beat us last year," he said. "Any team that beat us last year, we have a little chip on our shoulder going into it. We don't get too caught up in it if it's LSU. It's just they beat us last year and we want to get them back this year."
Arkansas has seemingly every advantage -- with the exception of team defense -- heading into the series.
The Hogs have outhit LSU .309 to .273, have outscored the Tigers 392-329, outhomered them 64-47 and have outpitched them with a 4.00 ERA to 4.66. Arkansas has stolen 64 of 77 bases and thrown out 23 of 48 (47.9 percent) base stealers. The Tigers have stolen 46 of 63 bases and thrown out 12 of 88 (13.6 percent) base stealers.
LSU's defense is solid, as its .977 fielding percentage ranks fifth in the SEC, well ahead of 12th place Arkansas (.971).
The Razorbacks have an SEC-best .331 batting average against right-handed pitchers and LSU does not have a left-handed pitcher on its roster.
Van Horn said doesn't see the Razorbacks as having extra motivation to win the series.
"Those are really things I can't control," he said. "I don't feel like we look at this series much different than any other. I think it's more for the fans to be honest with you."
Arkansas is likely to go with freshmen in left-hander Patrick Wicklander (5-1, 3.91 ERA) and right-hander Connor Noland (2-3, 4.39) in the final two games.
"They've got a great Friday night starter," Mainieri said. "They've got a good left-hander No. 2, and their third starter has really developed.
"They've got a really good offensive team. There will be 10,000 people or more in the stands every night, so we'll have to be ready, obviously. What's happened in the past is not gonna factor in this weekend. We're going to have to really play great baseball to have success up there."
Hog killer Eric Walker (4-4, 5.30) is slated to start Friday's game for LSU. Walker is 2-0 against Arkansas, with 9 hits, 3 walks and 1 run allowed in 16 2/3 innings to go along with 12 strikeouts.
Walker threw a complete-game four-hitter in a 2-0 victory in the series finale at Arkansas in 2017 to clinch the series.
That is part of the Hogs' 1-11 record in rubber-match games against LSU since joining the SEC. They are 0-10 in those games under Van Horn and went 1-1 under Norm DeBryin, the only victory a 7-6 decision at Baum Stadium on March 21, 1999.
The Tigers have won the last six postseason games in the series, all in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
Sports on 05/09/2019
Print Headline: Tigers have Hogs' number for awhile