Walker, Schmidt Too Much For Tigers

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas catcher Brian Walker and pitcher Nick Schmidt set the tone for Thursday's 6-3 win against Auburn at the end of the first half inning.

Schmidt strutted off the mound after striking out three-hole hitter Mike Bianucci with a diving slider and Walker flipped the ball high into the air before jogging to the dugout. Through their nonchalant, yet confident actions, they seemed to say, 'This is our day.'

It was.

Walker drove in four runs with two homers while Schmidt mixed in a variety of offspeed pitches with his 93 mph fastball to finish with a career-high with 15 strikeouts in front of 6,623 in Baum Stadium.

Both sensed something special was going to happen after the inning-ending strikeout of the Tigers' top hitter.

"We got in a rhythm in that first inning," Walker said. "When Schmidt's out there, he's confident, I'm confident and the whole team is confident."

"I felt good in that first inning ... 1 ... 2 ... 3," Schmidt said. "We had that attitude about us that we weren't going to lose after that."

The win snapped a two-game losing skid for the No. 15 Razorbacks (36-17, 16-12 in the Southeastern Conference) while extending the Tigers' season-long losing streak to eight games.

"I thought Nick did a great job of coming out and pitching well," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "Nothing special from either team offensively. It wasn't like it was a blowout or we were ever in big-time control except that we had a four-run lead and had Schmidt pitching pretty well."

Walker may have been taking out some frustrations from last weekend's series at Ole Miss. He was ejected in the second inning of Saturday's 7-3 loss for arguing he was hit with a pitch and then went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Sunday's 5-4 loss.

Most everyone Walker came in contact with in the past four days brought up his regionally televised meltdown.

"I overreacted and I made a mistake," said Walker, who was 10-for-his-last-15 before the ejection. "I'll learn from it and it felt good to come out and contribute, especially after this long week.

"Hopefully, it'll die down soon and we'll start focusing on us winning."

After Auburn (22-32, 9-19) jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a solo homer by Josh Donaldson and an RBI single Justin Bristow in the second, Arkansas answered with authority in the bottom of the inning.

Back-to-back one-out singles by David Hum and Blake Parker set up Walker's three-run homer off the top of the 40-foot scoreboard over the right-center field wall. He crushed an 0-1 changeup that landed in the "O" of the "George" on George Cole Field.

It gave the Razorbacks a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.

"(Walker) got the big hit," Van Horn said. "He just hammered one off the top of the scoreboard to give us the lead where we could kind of relax a little bit."

Walker led off the fourth inning with a solo homer that crawled over the wall in right. Walker hit the 0-1 fastball on the handle, but used his strength to muscle it out of the park.

Arkansas added another run in the fourth when Jake Dugger lined a single to right to score Matt Willard, who reached on a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Then in the fifth, Parker hit a one-out single to left and moved to second on a walk before scoring on Craig Gentry's single to center that pushed the Hogs' lead to 6-2.

With the offense producing early, all Schmidt had to do was fill the zone with strikes and he did by collecting his second straight double-digit strikeout performance and seventh of the season.

Schmidt (9-2) was off for only one inning, the second, as he allowed two runs off two hits and a walk. It was smooth sailing from there until Auburn put together three hits and scored a run on an infield single by Tyler Johnstone to cut the Hogs' lead to 6-3 in the seventh.

Devin Collis made his 30th appearance of the season and recorded his team-leading ninth save by retiring three of the four batters he faced in the ninth.

Auburn reliever Andy Masten did a nice job of holding Arkansas in check for the final four innings after taking over for starter Paul Burnside (2-3). He allowed one run on three hits while striking out five.

"Andy did a tremendous job," said Auburn coach Tom Slater. "He's been pretty good for the last three or four outings for us in a row like that, so we weren't surprised he was able to keep them off balance."

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