Diggs does it: 3-run shot lifts Hogs over Tigers in opener

Arkansas fans cheer Thursday as right fielder Kendall Diggs rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the eighth inning of the top-ranked Razorbacks’ 7-4 victory over the No. 7 LSU Tigers at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. More photos at nwaonline.com/329lsuua/.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
Arkansas fans cheer Thursday as right fielder Kendall Diggs rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the eighth inning of the top-ranked Razorbacks’ 7-4 victory over the No. 7 LSU Tigers at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. More photos at nwaonline.com/329lsuua/. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas junior right fielder Kendall Diggs, who seems to specialize in hitting three-run home runs, did it again Thursday night against LSU.

Diggs hit a three-run home run against Gavin Guidry in the eighth inning to give the No. 1 Razorbacks some much needed breathing room in their 7-4 victory over the No. 7 Tigers at Baum-Walker Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 11,027.

It was the 21st career home run for Diggs and seventh of the three-run variety. He also has hit two grand slams.

Prior to Diggs' sixth home run this season, he was in a 2-for-20 slump, including 0-4 on Thursday night.

"It felt really good coming through for the guys," Diggs said. "The past couple of series and games, I wasn't super happy with how I was producing for the team.

"But that's how it goes. Just got to keep moving on to that next at-bat. You get a lot of them."

Diggs hit an 0-2 pitch from Guidry over the right-field fence after he had walked Wehiwa Aloy and Jared Sprague-Lott.

LSU scored a run in the ninth inning against Arkansas reliever Will McEntire and had a runner on third base -- adding to the significance of Diggs' home run -- when Stone Hewlett came in and struck out Brady Neal to end the game.

"Well, it doesn't surprise me a bit," Van Horn said of Diggs' home run after he had struck out twice looking, popped out and flied out previously in the game. "Obviously, we need him. One of our best hitters. Most experienced hitters.

"He wasn't having a great night, but we always talk about, 'You still have time. You can still help the team.'

"To me, he had a great night. He drove in three runs.

"I don't care what else he did. Just took one swing to flip his night and hopefully get him rolling."

Arkansas junior left-hander Hagen Smith (5-0) went 6 innings and allowed 5 hits and 2 runs without a walk and 10 strikeouts. He threw 65 strikes on 97 pitches and on the season has 72 strikeouts in 35 innings.

"Facing a tough lineup, I thought he was good," Van Horn said. "The amazing thing is, he keeps his stuff. The last inning he was still pumping 95, 96 [mph on fastballs].

"He could have gone out another inning. We're just trying to take care of him a little bit. That pitch count's built up.

"Today he was real, real good, but I've seen him great."

LSU took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning when Tommy White and Hayden Travinski hit back-to-back home runs.

White hit a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence and Travinski hit the next pitch over the right-field fence.

They were the first runs Smith had allowed against an SEC opponent after throwing 15 scoreless innings, including the previous two games against Missouri and Auburn.

"That was the first time I've ever given up back-to-back home runs," Smith said. "It's just part of the game. Home runs happen, especially against a good team like that. A good lineup.

"Just kind of have to forget about it."

Arkansas (21-3, 6-1 SEC) scored two runs in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead.

Jack Wagner, playing in his seventh game of the season, hit a one-out home run against LSU reliever Fidel Ulloa to tie it 2-2.

After Hudson White walked and Ty Wilmsmeyer drew a two-out walk, Justin Loer came in to pitch and allowed an RBI single by Peyton Stovall that put the Razorbacks ahead and sent Wilmsmeyer to third.

Loer left the runners stranded by striking out Wehiwa Aloy swinging.

Arkansas lost a run in the fifth inning when center fielder Paxton Kling threw out Wagner at a third base for the third out a split-second before Ben McLaughlin -- who wasn't running full speed -- crossed home plate standing up after a single by Hudson White.

Van Horn appealed the play, but the call was upheld after a video review to keep Arkansas' lead at 3-2.

"Just glad that didn't come back and get us," Van Horn said.

LSU (20-7, 2-5) left the potential tying run on third base in the eighth inning when McEntire struck out Michael Braswell swinging to keep the Razorbacks ahead after Jared Jones' two-out single had cut the Tigers' deficit to 4-3.

McEntire, a senior right-hander, threw 2 2/3 innings and 60 pitches.

"Those guys have been really good here for a long time, both of them," LSU Coach Jay Johnson said of Smith and McEntire. "I thought we did OK against Hagen. He's the best. And McEntire's been a winner. He's got video game reliever numbers.

"We set up the table, got him to [62] pitches. Hopefully he won't be able to come back this weekend."

Arkansas extended its lead to 4-2 in the seventh inning when Wilmsmeyer drew a two-out bases-loaded walk from Cam Johnson.

Mac Bingham hit a one-out single for LSU in the seventh inning against McEntire, but he struck out Ashton Larson looking and Steve Milam swinging to keep the Razorbacks ahead by a run.

Hewlett, a senior left-hander and transfer from Kansas who specializes in getting out left-handed hitters like Neal, fell behind 3-0 throwing three breaking balls, then threw fastballs to get the out.

"That was good to see Stone come in there and get that lefty," Van Horn said. "That was his job, get that hitter right there. Finish the game.

"I liked the way he didn't get all uptight about [the 3-0 count] and just basically did what we wanted him to do, and that was throw the ball over the plate. If they hit it, they hit it. But you don't want to walk him with White on deck, who seems to be swinging the bat extremely well right now."

Arkansas went ahead 1-0 in the third inning when Wilmsmeyer singled against LSU starter Javon Coleman and Stovall walked.

Ulloa replaced Coleman and Aloy walked to load the bases and McLaughlin hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Wilmsmeyer.

Before Diggs' home run, Hellmers struck out McLaughlin on the same pitch sequence he used on Diggs -- two curveballs followed by a fastball.

"[Hellmers] flipped me a show-me curveball in there at first and then snapped a really good one the next pitch," Diggs said of being at 0-2. "I remember stepping out and I did see it out of the hand. It had a little bit of pop, so it was kind of a thing for me -- I'm staying on the fastball here.

"If I see it pop, just sit back and try and foul it off, maybe spray it the other way. He did challenge me with a heater and just dropped the head on it."

Diggs smiled when asked what's up with him and three-run home runs?

"I've got great teammates that get on in front of me," Diggs said. "That's all I got."

  photo  Arkansas second baseman Peyton Stovall hits a go-ahead RBI single in Thursday’s 7-4 victory over LSU. More photos at nwaonline.com/329lsuua/. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

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