Friday SEC recaps: Arkansas and LSU post road series wins

 Barry Allen and Chris Lee   in Baseball

Photo Courtesy of LSU Athletics.

Arkansas and LSU posted series-clinching wins, while Alabama, Florida, Missouri and Vanderbilt all posted series-opening wins on Friday night. It seemed to be a pitching-dominant night around the league as Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker and LSU’s AJ Labas both tossed complete game wins. Arkansas’ Patrick Wicklander held South Carolina to one run and two hits over seven innings in the series-clinching win in Columbia. Alabama’s Tyler Ras held Kentucky to one run and three hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Florida’s Franco Aleman (5 IP) and Auburn’s Jack Owen (7 IP) allowed just two runs in 12 combined innings in Auburn. Here is a look at Friday’s SEC action.

TEAM OF THE DAY:

LSU posted its first series win over Ole Miss in Oxford since 2014 with a 7-2 series-clinching win over the Rebels. Right-hander AJ Labas recorded the Tigers first complete game of the season on the mound. He held the Rebels to two runs and scattered 10 hits in the win. He fanned six and walked one batter. Left fielder Gavin Dugas hit a ninth-inning grand slam to blow open a close game.

GAME OF THE DAY:

Florida won its SEC-leading seventh straight game with a 4-2 win at Auburn. The Gators scored two runs in the ninth inning to pull out the road win. UF third baseman Colby Halter stroked a go-ahead triple in the ninth inning. The teams traded two-run homers in the first seven innings. Jud Fabian gave the Gators a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Ryan Bliss hit a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh inning. Both starters - Franco Aleman (5 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) and Jack Owen (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) - were terrific on the mound.

PLAYER OF THE DAY:

LSU left fielder Gavin Dugas (2-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBIs) belted his second grand slam of the season in the Tigers 7-2 series-clinching win at Ole Miss. Dugas’ ninth-inning grand slam broke open a close game. Dugas also had a grand slam in the win over Louisiana Tech on Feb. 21.

PITCHER OF THE DAY:

Arkansas right-hander Patrick Wicklander tossed a career-high seven innings in the Razorbacks series-clinching win at South Carolina. He held the Gamecocks to one run and two hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He teamed with Kevin Kopps to no-hit the Gamecocks over the final 6 2/3 innings.

FRIDAY RECAPS:

South Carolina 6, Arkansas 2 (Game 1)

Arkansas 6, South Carolina 1 (Game 2) (Columbia)

Records: Arkansas (32-7, 13-5 SEC); South Carolina (25-12, 11-7 SEC)

Series: Arkansas wins series, 2-1

The road Hogs are at it again.

Arkansas improved to 12-3 away from Baum Stadium this season with a series win at South Carolina.

The Razorbacks clinched the series with a 5-1 victory in the series finale Friday night. Arkansas has SEC road series wins at Miss. State, Ole Miss and South Carolina this season.

Arkansas has won its first six SEC series this season. Florida is the last SEC team to win its first six SEC series. The Gators opened the 2018 season with nine straight series wins. Vanderbilt is the only SEC team to win all 10 SEC series in 2013.

The theme for the weekend was the Razorbacks pitching staff. In the two win over the Gamecocks, Arkansas allowed two runs and four hits.

Patrick Wicklander tossed a career-high seven innings in the finale for his second win. He limited the Gamecocks to one run on two hits with five strikeouts and no walks.

UA relief ace Kevin Kopps struck out all six batters he faced on 25 pitches (only 2 fastballs) to close out the weekend. Kopps worked five perfect innings in the series, with 12 strikeouts.

Wicklander and Kopps held the Gamecocks hitless over the final 6 2/3 innings.

Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles had a RBI single in the two-run second inning and right fielder Cayden Wallace belted a two-run homer in the fifth inning.

South Carolina centerfielder Brady Allen accounted for the lone run with a solo homer in the third inning. First baseman David Mendham led off the second inning with a base hit to account for the other hit for the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks posted 6-2 win in the first game of Friday’s double header.

South Carolina scored four runs in the sixth inning to take its only lead of the series.

Arkansas starter Peyton Pallette took a shutout in the sixth inning, but he and two relievers allowed three run and three walks in the frame. The Razorbacks could make a case for the sweep if not for the one bad inning on the mound.

Right fielder Andrew Eyster drove in the first run with a bases-loaded single. Left fielder Josiah Sightler followed with a bases-loaded walk and catcher Colin Burgess gave the Gamecocks their first lead of the series with a sac fly. Shortstop George Callil extended the lead to 4-3 with an RBI single.

Third baseman Cullen Smith gave Arkansas a 1-0 lead with solo home run down the left field line in the second inning.

First baseman Brady Slavens made it 2-0 with a sac fly in the fifth inning.

Andrew Peters worked three scoreless innings for his fourth win of the season. He struck out Robert Moore on a high fastball with the bases loaded to keep the Gamecocks in the game in the fifth inning. Brett Kerry got the final four outs for his fourth save.

Burgess and third baseman Michael Robinson had RBI singles in the eighth inning to pad the Gamecocks lead.

LSU 2, Ole Miss 1 (Oxford)

Records: LSU (24-14, 6-11 SEC); Ole Miss (27-12, 9-8 SEC)

Series: LSU leads series, 2-0

LSU right-hander AJ Labas posted the Tigers first complete game of the season in a series-clinching 7-2 win at Ole Miss.

Labas held the Rebels to two runs and scattered 10 hits for his third win of the season. He struck out six and walked one batter.

The Tigers clinched their first series win over the Rebels in Oxford since 2014. LSU seeks is its first sweep in Oxford since 1996 when the two teams square off in the finale on Saturday.

LSU left fielder Gavin Dugas belted a ninth-inning grand slam to give the Tigers a 6-1 lead. Second baseman Drew Bianco made it 7-1 with an RBI single to shortstop to cap the five-run ninth inning.

The Tigers broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the sixth inning.

Ole Miss left fielder Kevin Graham smacked a solo home run in the sixth to make to 2-1.

Ole Miss starter Doug Nikhazy pitched well, but got on offensive support in the loss. He allowed two runs (1 ER) and seven hits in six innings with 11 strikeouts and three walks. Ole Miss is now 5-1 when Nikhazy starts in SEC play.

Vanderbilt 6, Mississippi State (Nashville)

Records: Vanderbilt (30-6, 12-4 SEC); Mississippi State (28-9, 10-6 SEC)

Series: Vanderbilt leads series, 1-0

Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker threw a complete game and allowed just one earned run as the Commodores beat Mississippi State, 6-2, at Hawkins Field on Friday. 

The All-American right-hander ran his record to 9-1 after allowing just four base runners all night. He out-dueled Christian MacLeod (3-3) in the fourth after the MSU lefty struggled to find the strike zone that inning, allowing four runs on three singles and three walks in the inning.

Rocker had his fastball and slider working, offsetting it with an effective change-up and cutter and working ahead in the count most of the night. 

Vanderbilt catcher C.J. Rodriguez was 3 for 3 with two runs, an RBI and a walk, while outfielders Isaiah Thomas and Cooper Davis each drove in two. 

Alabama 10, Kentucky 1 (Lexington)

Records: Alabama (24-13, 8-8 SEC); Kentucky (22-13, 7-9 SEC)

Series: Alabama leads series, 2-0

Alabama rode the right arm of Tyler Ras and a seven-run seventh inning to a 10-1 win at Kentucky.

The Crimson Tide has won six of its last seven SEC games, including a four-game SEC road winning streak.

Ras limited UK to one run on three hits in seven innings for his sixth win of the season. He struck out six and did not walk a batter.

The Crimson Tide led 3-1 after four innings and then broke the game open with a seven-run seventh inning.

UA took advantage of two UK errors and couple of walks in the inning. DH Owen Diodati had an RBI single and shortstop Jim Jarvis had a two-run double in the frame.

Diodati led the Crimson Tide with three hits and two RBIs.  Right fielder William Hamiter and catcher Sam Praytor both had two RBIs.

UK scored its only run of the game on first basemen T.J. Collett’s home run in the fourth inning.

Florida 4, Auburn 2 (Auburn)

Records: Florida (27-11, 10-6 SEC); Auburn (16-19, 2-14 SEC)

Series: Florida leads series, 2-0

Florida used a two-run ninth inning to defeat Auburn 4-2 in the series opener at Plainsman Park.

UF first baseman Kendrick Calilao drew a one-out walk in the ninth off Trace Bright. Freshman third baseman Colby Halter ripped a triple to center field to score pinch-runner Brock Edge with the go-ahead run. Second baseman Josh Rivera followed with an RBI single to put the Gators up 4-2.

UF turned to Jack Leftwich to close out the game in the ninth inning. The right-hander worked a perfect inning with one strikeout for his first save. In his last three relief appearances, Leftwich is 2-0 with one save and has retired 27 of 28 batters faced with 10 strikeouts.

Both starters pitched well. Auburn’s Jack Owen allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings in the no decision. He struck out seven had no walks. Florida’s Franco Aleman allowed six hits in five scoreless innings. He struck out five and walked one.

Centerfielder Jud Fabian lilted a two-run homer in the fourth inning to put the Gators in front 2-0.

Auburn shortstop Ryan Bliss hit a game-tying two-run homer off Florida reliever Christian Scott in the seventh inning.

Missouri 6, Georgia 4 (Columbia)

Records: Missouri (12-23, 5-11 SEC); Georgia (24-13, 7-9 SEC)

Series: Missouri leads series, 2-0

Missouri starter Seth Halvorsen held Georgia to one hit through seven innings and the Tigers hung on for a 6-4 series-opening win in Columbia.

Halvorsen (4-2) allowed one run and one hit in seven innings for the win. He struck out six but walked five batters.

The Tigers led 6-1 entering the ninth inning before Georgia made things interesting when second baseman Josh McAllister smacked a three-run home run off Konnor Ash to pull the Bulldogs to within 6-4.

Georgia managed only three hits in the loss, with two coming off Ash with two outs in the ninth inning.

Third baseman Cameron Swanger and DH Tre’ Morris both hit two-run homers for Missouri.