The days of LSU baseball struggling to find a third starter are a bygone memory. Freshman Eric Walker was on top of his game yet again Sunday afternoon, throwing his first career complete-game shutout to lead the Tigers to a 2-0 win over Arkansas.
The Tigers (22-11, 7-5 SEC) took a series win home from Fayetteville against the team the entered the weekend atop the SEC West, and did so in fashion that won’t soon be forgotten.
LSU trailed Arkansas 8-1 through six innings on Saturday night before a 5-run rally with two outs in the ninth propelled them to a 10-8 win. Surprisingly, it was LSU’s first SEC win when trailing by three or more runs in the ninth inning since 1991.
But as the old adage goes in baseball, momentum only goes as far as the next day’s pitcher. And fortunately for the Tigers, that pitcher was Walker. Topping last week’s 7 shutout innings against Texas A&M, the Arlington, Texas, native allowed 4 hits and 2 walks in the longest outing of his career. Significantly, no Arkansas (25-8, 8-4) leadoff hitters reached base against Walker all game.
Walker became the first LSU pitcher with a complete-game shutout against an SEC opponent since Aaron Nola in 2014, and the first to do it in a Sunday road game since Greg Smith in 2005.
LSU turned double plays to end Arkansas’ sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Third baseman Josh Smith snagged a grounder to turn a 5-4-3 double play to end the Hogs’ sixth. Shortstop Kramer Robertson did the trick with a 6-4-3 number to end the seventh. The Tigers went the unconventional route in the eighth, with Walker grabbing a liner back to the mound and tossing to first for the final out of the inning.
Kramer Robertson, inning-ender
Robertson had a hand in ending five different Arkansas innings.
Robertson assisted inning-ending groundouts in the first and third, snagged line drives to end the fourth and fifth, then started the double play to close out the seventh.
LSU scored a single run in two different frames.
The Tigers scored on a two-out Nick Coomes RBI double in the second inning that scored Josh Smith from first base. The lone insurance run came in the eighth when Greg Deichmann knocked home Robertson with a single. Robertson, who batted leadoff, reached base when he was hit by a pitch.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was ejected by home plate umpire Seth Buckminster for arguing balls and strikes. Van Horn was displeased with a called strike three on batter Jared Gates that ended the Razorbacks’ second inning.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
The Tigers head to the ballpark in Metairie formerly known as Zephyr Field for the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.
LSU faces Louisiana-Lafayette (18-13-1) at 7 p.m. from the newly rechristened home of the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes. In-state midweek games have been a struggle for the Tigers this season. LSU is 4-4 against Louisiana schools.