FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The fourth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks hit five home runs Thursday night to jump out to a big lead against 15th-ranked LSU and ended up taking the series opener over the Tigers, 14-4, at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas (38-12, 18-7 SEC) didn’t’ seem to struggle at all with LSU (30-20, 14-11 SEC) starter Ma’Khail Hilliard, scoring six runs in the first three innings before putting up a six spot in the fourth after the Tigers had to go into their bullpen. The 14 runs scored is the most for an Arkansas team against LSU since scoring 14 in 2008 in a 14-13 victory in 10 innings.
Casey Martin, Dominic Fletcher, Casey Opitz, Trevor Ezell and Jack Kenley all went deep in the game as it was the second time this season that the Hogs have hit five home runs in a single game (vs. Northwestern State, April 23) and fourth time with four or more.
Martin turned in a 4-for-5 game with three runs scored, but he just had one RBI coming off his solo home run in the bottom of the first. It was Martin’s 12th home run of the year, just one shy of his total from his freshman season. Fletcher also went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. He’s got seven hits in his last five games and his home run off the scoreboard in the second inning was his second in three games.
Isaiah Campbell had to battle early in the game, but settled in after giving up two runs in the first two innings to go six innings strong. Campbell worked the final four innings scoreless and retired 11 of his final 12 batters while scattering just four hits, one walk and striking out four. It was Campbell’s ninth win of the year and 10th quality start as he’s pitched six or more innings in 10 of his last 11 starts.
By the middle of the bottom of the fourth inning, Arkansas already had a 7-1 lead and were knocking on the door to pad the lead even more when Jack Kenley got into the box with the bases loaded and one out. Kenley laced a 1-0 pitch down the right field line for a grand slam to make it 11-2 Razorbacks before the fifth inning. It was Kenley’s 10th home run of the year, making him one of four Razorbacks with 10 or more home runs this season. The grand slam was the fifth by a Hog batter in 2019 (C. Franklin, H. Kjerstad, C. Martin, D. Fletcher). For Kenley, his four RBIs marked his second game this year with four or more.
Home Run Pace Picks Up
Through 50 games this season, Arkansas has hit 69 home runs as a team, just six back of the pace of last year’s team that hit a school-record 98 home runs. Over the last 10 games, Arkansas has hit 25 home runs and four have come from Casey Martin, Heston Kjerstad and Dominic Fletcher. Fletcher hit his 10th home run of the year Thursday night, making 2019 his third-straight season with 10 or more home runs. The 69 home runs this year is now good for the most in the SEC.
“I would say the guys that are hitting home runs, not necessarily. We thought (Jack) Kenley would hit some home runs this year. I didn’t know he’d get to double digits. We thought he’d get close. He does a nice job of fouling off pitches and taking pitches and getting some good pitches to hit. We’ve hit a few here and there and you know a lot of times the second half of the season, when your team usually hits them, it warms up a little bit and your guys are in a little bit more of a groove offensively, seeing the ball better. I don’t even know how many we have. Every now and then it’s nice to hit some and put up some quick runs and that’s what we did tonight.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on his team’s home runs showing an uptick
“I’ve said this many a time this year that (Isaiah) Campbell, a lot of times in the past, he might have given up more runs, but he’s learned how to get out of those jams. He just gave up one. They, obviously, hit a home run in the next inning. You just tip your cap to (Daniel) Cabrera. He’s a really good hitter, probably one of the top hitters in our league. Solo home runs don’t beat you a lot of times.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Isaiah Campbell’s ability to limit damage
“Obviously, you’re playing a team like LSU and you’re playing a team in the league, and it’s the first game of the series, then they punch in a run in on your game one pitcher, it will make you start thinking a little bit. Maybe that’s what the crowd was doing. I don’t think there was any panic in our dugout whatsoever. We haven’t even hit yet. When (Casey) Martin hit that ball, it lit the crowd up a little bit. We’re confident and we’ve been playing pretty good. This team, I’ve said it a lot, they feel like they’re never out of a game and they’ll fight you.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on answering back in the first inning after LSU took the 1-0 lead
“Taking that first one is huge. Especially against a really talented team like that. But Marty (Casey Martin) said it already and will tell you that baseball is just a crazy sport. We can have 14-4 win today and a nail-biter the next day, the exact opposite. So just getting that first win under our belt and getting the wrinkles out of opening the series is big.” – Trevor Ezell on being a team like LSU by 10 runs in the series opener
To be honest, it’s a simple thing going back to when you’re a little kid. Coach would say, ‘You shouldn’t try to hit a home run. You try to hit a line drive and if you hit a line drive, it’ll find its way out.’ That’s pretty much what I want to do, is get a good pitch and put a good swing on it..” – Jack Kenley on if he expected his home run numbers to go up and if he’s trying to hit home runs
Arkansas and LSU will meet back on the field tomorrow for game two of their series with first pitch slated for a 6:30 p.m. start. The game will be televised online only via SEC Network+.