LSU Baseball Salvages Series With 5-4 Win Over No. 1 Arkansas to Avoid Sweep

Tigers get maginifcent start from Ma'Khail Hilliard, solid bullpen performance to secure victory
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LSU was in need of some kind of momentum. The Tigers had very few bright moments against No. 1 Arkansas leading up to Saturday night's finale but LSU turned in arguably its most complete game of the season, knocking off the Razorbacks 5-4. 

After pitching well in his first start of the season on the mound, Ma'Khail Hilliard certainly caught the eye of LSU coach Paul Mainieri. Hilliard, who posted an 8-3 record as a freshman back in 2018, has that SEC starting pitching experience as the Tigers were looking for some consistency out of that third starter role. 

On Saturday Hilliard earned that opportunity and he made the most of it, going five innings and doing a great job commanding all of his pitches. His curveball has always been sublime but the issues have come with controlling his pitches and though he did record three walks on the evening, he also made the big pitches when they counted most, notably on a double play ball in the second inning with two runners on base. 

"Ma'Khail did a fantastic job for us," Mainieri said. "It's a lot more fun  to play with a lead. He threw the ball so well earlier this week. I thought he threw the ball great and seems to have found his confidence, his command is really good and it's been huge for our team. I couldn't be happier for a kid.

"Growing up I've always had to prove myself so being put in those situations, whether it's starting or relieving, it give me a lot of confidence," Hilliard said. 

Hilliard was also helped by stellar defense from all of his infielders but perhaps the most impressive plays came from Jordan Thompson and Tre' Morgan who connected on this gem in the second inning.

"If you want to pitch well, you better have good defense behind them," Mainieri said. "When you're in these tight games against great teams, they make those plays. I thought the whole infield played great."

The LSU offense was able to catch fire at the end of game two and that extended into the start of game three as LSU scored at least one run in each of the first three innings. The highlight came in the first inning when Morgan and Gavin Dugas both reached base, setting up a three-run homer from Cade Doughty to get the LSU faithful on their feet early.

Dylan Crews produced his best game of the series, going 2-for-4 with an RBI while Drew Bianco displayed some good situational hitting with a perfectly laid sacrifice bunt that scored another run early. In total, LSU was able to give Hilliard a 5-1 lead to work with and the veteran was able to preserve it for five innings before handing the ball to Garret Edwards in the sixth. 

Hilliard would finish his outing with five innings of one run baseball that included three strikeouts and three walks and most importantly, giving LSU the opportunity to utilize its most proficient arms out of the bullpen. 

Edwards tossed scoreless innings in the sixth, seventh innings and eighth. The freshman has had his up and down moments out of the bullpen this season but his performance Saturday evening was by far among his best, retiring all but one of the batters he faced. 

Devin Fontenot entered in the ninth inning to close the game out 

It was a much needed final win of the series for the purple and gold who now enter the part of the SEC schedule that can propel the team back into the playoff picture.