FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas got eight good innings from its pitching staff Saturday. It was that one bad inning that cost the No. 9 Razorbacks.
Auburn hit four home runs in an eight-run fifth inning and Arkansas stranded two runners in scoring position to end the game as the Razorbacks' comeback bid fell short in an 8-7 loss to the Tigers at Baum Stadium.
"They have a good team and good hitters," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We made a couple of mistakes and they hurt us."
Andy Wilkins' RBI single scored Zack Cox from second base to pull Arkansas within 8-7 in the ninth and Wilkins advanced to second on a throw to third base.
Monk Kreder followed with a pop fly to shallow right field that wasn't deep enough for Eibner to tag. Eibner might have been able to score earlier in the bat on a pitch in the dirt by Auburn pitcher Austin Hubbard but decided not to run.
"It would have been a little gutsy," Van Horn said. "The ball popped out and the catcher went the other way, but he would had to have gone right away. He probably could have made it but it was a tough angle for him and a better angle for us to the side."
Tom Hauskey, who had gone 2-for-2 in pinch-hitting situations prior to Saturday, struck out on a check-swing to end the game.
"We've just got to put the bat on the ball a little better with a runner on third and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning," Van Horn said. "That was the at-bat of the game and we worked hard to get there. It was disappointing it didn't happen for us but give their pitcher a lot of credit. He worked out of a jam."
Auburn (29-15, 11-9 SEC) took the lead in the fifth inning by scoring eight runs off Razorback starter Randall Fant and relief pitcher Jeremy Heatley. All-SEC first baseman Hunter Morris hit two home runs in the inning for the Tigers.
Arkansas (35-9, 14-6) gradually fought back, scoring one in the sixth on a James McCann RBI single to pull within 8-4. The Razorbacks scored twice more in the seventh, first on a Wilkins RBI single to plate Cox and again when Eibner scored on a wild pitch from third to make it 8-7.
But struggles at the top of the lineup hampered the Razorback rally. Leadoff man Collin Kuhn struck out to end the eighth inning and two-hole hitter Bo Bigham struck out to start the ninth. The two hitters combined to go 0-for-10 in the game.
"It's pretty hard," Kuhn said of the struggles. "Me and Bo kind of take it personally. Hopefully we can make up for it tomorrow."
Kuhn made up for the woes at the plate with his defense early on, throwing out Auburn leadoff hitter Justin Fradejas at the plate to end the top of the first inning.
That gave the Razorbacks momentum and they took advantage with an Eibner three-run home run in the bottom half of the inning to bring his SEC-leading total to 16 this season.
"I kept feeling like we needed to score more runs," Van Horn said. "They changed pitchers and he was throwing a lot of sliders to get guys out. I knew they'd come back because they've got a good offensive team. Three wasn't going to be enough."
Arkansas had its chances but stranded at least one base runner in each of the final seven innings.
The big Auburn inning was a disappointing ending for the Razorback starter Fant, who had retired 11 consecutive batters heading into the frame. He finished with his first loss of the season after giving up four runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings.
After Heatley gave up four runs in 1/3 inning of work, freshman DJ Baxendale stopped the bleeding out of the bullpen, going 3 2/3 innings, allowing no runs on two hits and striking out four batters.
"DJ gave us a chance to get back into the game, which we did," Van Horn said.
The two teams will meet for the rubber match of the three-game series tomorrow with a first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
Auburn 8, Arkansas 7
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