Hagen Smith Delivers Again For Arkansas, Highlighting College Baseball Roundup


Image credit: Hagen Smith (33) Arkansas Razorbacks vs Oregon State Beavers in a non-conference NCAA baseball game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Friday, February 23, 2024 (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)

Anytime Arkansas and LSU meet on the diamond, it’s a big occasion. The SEC West rivals have had plenty of showdowns over the years and this week’s top-10 series is no different. The top-ranked Razorbacks have raced out to an outstanding start to the season behind the best pitching staff in the nation and ace Hagen Smith. While LSU has stumbled out of the gate in SEC play, it is still the reigning national champions and ranked No. 9.

Baum-Walker Stadium filled up Thursday evening with 11,027 fans eager to see both the rivalry and the next chapter in what is quickly becoming a historic season for Smith. It was just March 28, but the evening had a big-game feel to it.

On the field, it was business as usual for the Razorbacks. Smith turned in another impressive start, striking out 10 batters and holding the Tigers to two runs in six innings. Righthander Will McEntire (2.2 IP, 8 K) and lefthander Stone Hewlett (.1 IP, 1 K) combined to slam the door behind him. Arkansas got a few big swings including home runs from Kendall Diggs and Jack Wagner and put constant offensive pressure on LSU, collecting 10 hits and 11 walks.

In the end, it was too much for LSU to overcome and Arkansas won, 7-4. The Razorbacks (21-3, 6-1) won the big moments and answered every punch the Tigers threw.

It started with Smith on the mound. As he has done all season, he pounded the strike zone with a fastball that reached into the upper 90s, a sharp slider and a diving changeup. His combination of plus stuff, strike-throwing ability and attacking mentality on the mound has made life tough for hitters all season and pushed him to the top of the sport. All of that was on display Thursday.

Smith has faced LSU four times in his career and Arkansas is undefeated in those games. The lefthander has struck out 34 batters and held the Tigers to seven runs on 17 hits and five walks in 21.1 innings.

But LSU also pushed Smith in a way he hasn’t been since his abbreviated Opening Day start (1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K). The Tigers stacked the lineup with righthanded hitters, including All-American slugger Tommy White. They collected five hits against Smith, who had allowed just 11 total in his first six starts. The five hits included back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning by White and Hayden Travinski, which snapped Smith’s scoreless innings streak at 24. The runs were the first Smith had allowed since March 1.

While the home runs might have proved Smith (5-0, 1.54, 72 K, 35 IP) is mortal after all, what he did after showed why he is on the very short list of best pitchers in college baseball. He simply got back to business and retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced and completed another quality start, his sixth straight.

Smith is making the spectacular look routine and, in doing so, he’s taking the Razorbacks on an incredible ride.

Ace Watch

We highlight some of the best pitching performances of the day beyond Smith and Miami’s Gage Ziehl (see below).

Greysen Carter, RHP, Vanderbilt: Carter made his first start since Opening Day and he dominated Missouri, leading No. 7 Vanderbilt to a 3-1 victory. He struck out 11 batters and held the Tigers to three hits and a walk in 8.1 innings. Carter has mostly worked as a multi-inning reliever this season and is now 3-0, 3.80 with 24 strikeouts and 13 walks in 21.1 innings.

Caleb Granger, RHP, Florida A&M: Granger threw seven scoreless innings to help the Rattlers to a 10-1 victory against Jackson State. He struck out 10 batters, walked none and held the Tigers to two hits. Granger improved to 4-2, 2.09 with 38 strikeouts and 10 walks in 43 innings.

Jakob Hall, RHP, Oral Roberts: Hall threw eight scoreless innings to lead the Golden Eagles to a 1-0 victory at Nebraska-Omaha. He struck out eight batters and worked around four hits and two walks. Hall improved to 3-2, 4.75 with 52 strikeouts and 11 walks in 47.1 innings.

Sam Highfill, RHP, NC State: HIghfill threw an eight-inning shutout to lead the No. 25 Wolfpack to a 10-0, run-rule shortened victory against Notre Dame. He struck out 10 batters, walked none and allowed three hits. Highfill improved to 3-1, 3.72 with 42 strikeouts and 17 walks in 38.2 innings this season.

Louis Rodriguez, RHP, TCU: Making his first start of the season, Rodriguez threw eight scoreless innings as the Horned Frogs rolled to a 14-1 victory against Houston. The sophomore struck out 10 batters, walked none and held the Cougars to three hits. Rodriguez improved to 3-0, 1.40 with 32 strikeouts and five walks in 25.2 innings.

Grant Taylor, RHP, Washington State: Taylor delivered one of the best pitching performances of the season, as he struck out a program record 17 batters in a one-hit shutout to lead the Cougars to a 4-0 victory against archrival Washington. He gave up a two-out single in the first inning but was flawless after that. He retired the final 25 batters he faced and at one point struck out 10 straight batters. Taylor improved to 4-1, 3.27 with 47 strikeouts and 16 walks in 42.1 innings.  

Around The Horn

  • Miami used some Mark Light Stadimum magic and a stellar start from Gage Ziehl to defeat No. 2 Clemson, 3-2. Ziehl threw a complete game and struck out 15 batters while holding the Tigers to two runs (one earned) on seven hits and no walks. As good as his effort was, however, it wouldn’t have been enough if the Hurricanes hadn’t scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Jack Scanlon played hero, as he hit a two-run home run off Clemson closer Rob Hughes to send Miami (15-10, 6-4) to victory.
  • USC upset No. 3 Oregon State, 2-1, as Brayden Dowd delivered a walk-off single. The Trojans got excellent work on the mound from Caden Aoki (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K), Xavier Martinez (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K) and Josh Blum (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K). That trio combined to hold the Beavers to one run on four hits. It was the first time Oregon State (1-3, 5-2) had been held under two runs in a game since April 7, 2023, when it was shut out by Oregon.
  • Lamar scored five runs in the seventh inning to upset No. 21 Oklahoma, 12-10. The game was a back-and-forth affair, as the Cardinals (20-5) scored six runs in the second inning, only to see the Sooners (15-10) score eight runs over the third and fourth innings to retake control. But Oklahoma didn’t put away Lamar, which took advantage of four errors and eight walks on the night. Lamar had its 13-game winning streak snapped Tuesday with a loss to Houston but got right back in the win column Friday.
  • Kansas State opened a key series against Texas with a 14-6 victory, extending their winning streak to 10 games. The Wildcats (18-6, 6-1) fell behind early, as the Longhorns scored three times in the first two innings, before punching back in a big way. They scored eight runs in the second inning and never looked back, as they produced 14 runs on 18 hits and seven walks, while striking out just five times. First baseman David Bishop went 4-for-5, scored three runs and finished a triple short of the cycle.
  • Louisiana-Monroe defeated Coastal Carolina, 11-3, behind a big night from shortstop Colby Lunsford (3-for-4, 2 R) and outfielder Shawn Weatherbee (4-for-5, 5 RBI). The Warhawks (14-12, 3-4) jumped on Chanticleers starter Alexander Meckley, scoring eight runs in the third and fourth innings to knock him out and take control of the game. Coastal (18-7, 3-4), the preseason Sun Belt favorite has now lost five of its last seven games and fell to just 1-4 away from home this season.

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