Arkansas takes series from Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Brian Walker looked shocked. When a reporter informed him that his second-inning home run Sunday gave him homers in four consecutive games, Walker's face contorted a bit. He then reacted with a comical quip.

"That's a fluke deal," Walker said.

Accident or not, Walker's stellar day in the left-handed batter's box at Plainsman Park fueled Arkansas' 8-1 victory over Auburn. The win was the Hogs' seventh in seven tries on a Sunday after splitting the first two games of a series.

And though many Razorbacks excelled with a bat in their hands Sunday — they slapped 17 hits — Walker's performance stuck out as the most impressive.

"He's not jumping at the ball as much," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He's staying in his legs more, and he's made a great effort to improve."

The 6-foot junior catcher from Tulsa raised his season batting average to .258 and set two career marks Sunday.

His home run to right field to lead off the second inning was his ninth this season, one more than he hit last season.

He also recorded four hits overall in five at-bats, another career-high. Walker credited steady soft-toss work with Arkansas (35-12, 15-6 in the Southeastern Conference) hitting coach Todd Butler as the main reason for his recent streak.

"Mentally I think I'm better," Walker said. "I'm not thinking as much, which is usually my problem. But there's been some mechanical things, like trying to be soft with my stride."

Walker's long-ball streak started last Sunday, when he homered at Georgia. He sat out Arkansas' mid-week game against Wichita State, and hit home runs in each of this weekend's contests.

Ryan Fox was the last Razorback to homer in four consecutive games, doing so in 2003 against Kentucky, Oral Roberts and Georgia twice.

In the fourth inning, Walker bounced a hard-hit grounder just into right field off the glove of Auburn (28-19, 7-14) second baseman Robert Brooks. In the fifth, he laid down a perfectly-placed bunt down the third-base line. Attempting to sacrifice two runners over, Walker ended up with his third hit.

He then earned his career-high hit amount in the sixth on a line-drive double into the left-center field gap. His hit streak ended with an eighth-inning groundout.

"I was thinking (about the fifth hit) a little bit," Walker said. "But he made some good pitches on me and got me out."

Walker also contributed with his defense. Arkansas starter Jess Todd, who tossed his second complete game, threw a slider for an apparent strikeout in the seventh inning.

But the ball got by Walker and Auburn's Ryan Jenkins took off for first base. Walker scrambled to get the ball, blindly whirled and threw.

Right on target. Just like his recent performance at the plate.

"He just made a tremendous play," Van Horn said. "You take his defense and his offense ... and it was a big day for him all the way around."

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