After a tense nine innings in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon, Arkansas’ baseball team had an absolute blast in the 10th – actually a couple of them.

Freshman pinch-hitter Reese Robinett delivered a tie-breaking, three-run homer and Kendall Diggs’ grand slam capped an 8-run onslaught in the 10th that surged No. 3 Arkansas to a 9-3 win over No. 1 LSU at Alex Box Stadium.

It was the 15th straight win for the Razorbacks (20-2, 4-0), the longest in season one since 2003 , as Arkansas got excellent pitching from starter Hunter Hollan (3 hits allowed and 7 strikeouts  in 1/3 scoreless innings) and reliever Hagen Smith (4 2/3 innings with 8 strikeouts).

It was  the opener of a three-game set with the Tigers (19-3, 2-2), who added a pair of runs in the bottom of the 10th.

“What a game,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “I thought Hunter Hollan was amazing, pitching to that lineup on the road, wind blowing out about 15 mph pretty consistently and we had a full house for a 12 o’clock game on a Friday, kind of a late-arriving crowd. They kind of showed up in the second. It was full. He kept us in the game.”

Both teams fanned 15 times in a game that was 1-1 at the end of the nine innings and featured LSU ace Paul Skenes, who fanned 12 in his  innings of mound work.

“It was two good teams going at it,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “As usual Paul Skenes, you couldn’t ask for a better performance. It was complete domination, but unfortunately for us Hunter Hollan was really good and Hagen Smith was a guy we really had a hard time with last year as a starter.

“So credit those guys for executing pitches and we have to get reset and get ready to go tomorrow.”

The two teams are slated to meet twice on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 6:30, the second game being moved up a day to expected bad weather Sunday in Baton Rouge.

The first game will be televised on the  SEC Network, while the nightcap will stream on SEC Network+.

Van Horn was happy that his team didn’t celebrate too much after the win seeing as how the goal is to win the series and possibly sweep it, not just get one win.

“Yeah, I mean we talked after the game today that it was a really good win, a lot of good things happened, and how we hung in there and we fought and playing in a tough environment, but at the same time, we still haven’t won the series,” Van Horn said. 

“I like the way that after the game, when the game ended, we didn’t just go crazy and start celebrating. We know that it’s just a game, and we’ve got 26 more conference games, but we’ve got two more tomorrow. So just enjoy it a little bit, learn from it and try to get ready to play.”

Hollan threw 87 pitches and Smith (4-0) tossed 80 while holding the LSU offense to eight hits, one of which was Brady Neal’s solo home run off Smith that tied the game in the bottom of the eighth.

“Well, I’m ecstatic about it honestly,” Van Horn said of the pitching performance.  “ We knew that once Hagen entered his second, third inning that he wasn’t going to come back tomorrow. We really needed to find a way to win that game because we were using him, and obviously that takes away a big weapon out of our bullpen in a doubleheader.

“It was really big. I was very pleased but more pleased that we found a way to win.”

Hollan, who got a no-decision and remains 4-0 this season, admitted he found some extra motivation via social media.

“I saw a tweet this morning that said we’re seven days away from the pitching matchup of the year, and it was (Tennessee’s Chase) Dollander versus Skenes,” Hollan said. “That kind of got the fire in the butt a little bit, knowing that social media-wise, people don’t really know me. Just go in and compete in the zone. We had a really good scouting report and stuck to it, and it paid off.”

Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the four inning when Tavian Josneberger got his team’s first hit against Skenes. He doubled, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Peyton Stovall’s sacrifice fly.

“I mean if we don’t have a passed ball right there, they don’t score,” Johnson said. “ It was really just execution. Jonasberger, I mean Josenberger, who is a really good player, got a good swing on the top and Stovall moved the ball for the sacrifice fly.”

“Other than that, I mean he got in a little trouble with the (three six-inning walks) and  pitched himself out it in his last inning there, which I believe was the sixth or the seventh. But you can’t ask for a better pithing performance than that.”

Van Horn was impressed with Skenes, who entered the game 5-0, with a 0.59 ERA and a nation’s-best 59 strikeouts, 3 walks, 2 runs allowed and 12 hits in just 30 1/3 innnings

In addition to his 12 strikeouts, Skenes allowed one run on two hits and walked three against Arkansas while going a season-high 7 innings. 

“Skenes was everything as advertised,” Van Horn said. “I’ve never seen a better arm at this level. It’s unbelievable. Hagen came in and kind of put out the fire there and got us through an inning or two and you saw what happened.”

What happened was Robinett coming off the bench to bat for shortstop John Bolton with two on and one out.  He hit the second pitch he saw from LSU closer and former Vanderbilt pitcher Christian Little over the fence for his second home run this season.

“We finally broke loose, got a couple big hits and Reese Robinett came in and, I mean, you couldn’t ask for anything more,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got a freshman pinch hitting on the road, LSU, and the first time he swung the bat, he hit it 400 feet opposite field to give us a three-run lead.”

Van Horn expounded on his choice to use Robinett, who has now homered in both of his team’s last two contests.

“Yeah, he was my first left-handed bat I had going and I think sometimes they kind of show you what you need to do a little bit,” Van Horn said. “There’s some hints. I played him in the game on Tuesday and he hit an opposite field home run. He also got a big base hit to left-center with two strikes on him. 

“I just thought he knows the strike zone a little bit, took the first pitch and… Anyway, I just felt like he could drive in a run for us. Fortunately he ran into one and he hit hard and the wind took it and he hit it a long way.”

Robinett, nicknamed Big Country, was obviously thrilled with his heroics

“Coach Van Horn just kind of told me off the bench to get ready and so I was like ‘here we go,’” Robinett said. “I got up there and first pitch fastball, I saw it all. He doubled up and came with the one I wanted – a fast ball again…Today I felt really comfortable at the plate.” 

Stovall added another sacrifice fly later in the 10th, Jace Bohrofen got hit to reload the bases and Diggs followed by crushing his grand slam for his eighth round-tripper of the season.

“I’m just glad we kept tacking on runs,” Van Horn said. “I felt like we needed to keep scoring. I’ve been a part of a lot of games down here and no lead is safe.”

Johnson, whose team won two of three at Texas A&M last weekend is happy he won’t have see Hollan and Smith again.

“I think if you want to look for a silver lining in this is it took a really good pitching performance to win a really tight game in extra innings for them. Smith is their best bullet and at least you would hope he would be done for the series.”

He noted that playing two on Saturday was just the best thing the teams could do with the weather.

“I don’t think it changes a whole lot to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “I mean we are playing within 12 hours when we would have been playing so it’s we just got to get in the weather. It’s not an ideal situation with lightning tonight and rain tonight and heavier stuff on Sunday.

“It is suppose to be a nice day tomorrow so hopefully everybody will come out and get behind these guys.”

Arkansas will start Will McEntire on the mound in Saturday’s first game against LSU’s Ty xxxxx.

The Razorback have not announced a starter for the nightcap while the Tigers will send out Thatcher Hurd.

“I think we are in about as good a place as we could be having those guys going tomorrow,” Johnson said.

Photo courtesy of Arkansa athletics