Auburn falls to 12-6 overall and 0-1 in SEC play while the #9 Razorbacks improve to 15-2 overall and 1-0 in league action. In a game filled with the ups and downs that accompany an extra-inning affair, coach John Pawlowski said his team just didn't capitalize when they had the opportunity to do so.
"We dug ourselves a hole there early in the game but our guys battled back," Pawlowski said. "I thought the one inning Kevin Patterson comes up with a huge double that gets us right back even. Then you look at the job Slade Smith and Ethan Wallen did.
"They pitched over seven innings and I think we only gave up three hits. That was very encouraging to see that out of the bullpen. It's a very disappointing loss and frustrating loss for our club."
After surviving a leadoff walk in the ninth with the game tied at five, Wallen again tempted fate as he hit James McCann with a pitch to open the 10th inning. Following a sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position, Wallen recovered to get out of the inning on a pair of ground balls. That gave the Tigers a chance to win it in the bottom of the10th.
With one out Dan Gamache singled to right field off ace reliever Nolan Sanburn to get the Auburn rally started. Following a Wes Gilmer strikeout Tony Caldwell came to the plate. After sitting out the last week because of a sore shoulder, the senior came through in the clutch with a single to right field to put runners on the corners for Kevin Patterson. Already with three RBI on the night the senior quickly got down 0-2 before striking out to end the threat.
For the third consecutive inning Wallen put the leadoff man on as he hit Jarrod McKinney to bring number nine hitter Tim Carver to the plate. Trying a hit and run Carver swung at a pitch and missed by Caldwell couldn't hang onto the ball allowing McKinney to reach second. Wallen recovered to strike out Carver to bring Collin Kuhn to the plate. The Arkansas leadoff man came through with a double to left to put the Razorbacks up 6-5. Auburn failed to mount a threat in the 11th to drop the series opener.
"We just talked about that, in tight games you've got to find a way to get that leadoff guy out," Pawlowski said. "I think we hit a couple of guys. They did a good job and found a way to get on base. We just couldn't come up with that hit to put us over the top or to win the ballgame."
Auburn starter Cory Luckie allowed nine hits and four runs in three and two/thirds innings and wasn't sharp from the outset on Friday night. The good news is that Smith was outstanding, allowing just a run on two hits in two and two/thirds innings. Wallen had a stellar performance as well, giving up just a run on one hit in four and two/thirds innings to take the loss.
The Tigers took the early lead and scored the first run allowed by Auburn starter D.J. Baxendale this season with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Leading off Justin Hargett singled up the middle and following a failed bunt attempt by Justin Fradejas, Casey McElroy's double to center field scored Hargett for the 1-0 lead.
Arkansas put the pressure right back on the Tigers as Dominic Ficociello and Bo Bigham singled and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Vinson. Right fielder McKinney followed with a bunt single to the right side to tie the game at one and put runners on the corners with still just one out for Carver. Another bunt, this one a sacrifice, left runners on second and third with two outs for Kuhn. Luckie was saved by a Gilmer diving catch to end the threat and keep it 1-1 with Auburn coming to the plate.
Leading off the third inning Arkansas third baseman Matt Reynolds hit an 0-2 pitch into the right field corner for a triple. He easily scored on a groundout by designated hitter Kyle Robinson to make it 2-1 Razorbacks as through three innings Luckie had allowed five hits.
Things got worse for the junior in the fourth as Arkansas collected four more hits and a pair of runs to push the lead to 4-1 before Smith came on to put out the fire.
Now trailing 4-1 Auburn needed something big in the bottom of the fourth and Patterson delivered just that and more. With one out Gamache was hit by a pitch and Gilmer along with Caldwell followed with singles to load the bases for the big seniors. Getting something away, the left-hander drove it off the wall under the scoreboard for a double. All three runners scored on the play to tie things at four.
In the fifth the Tigers took the lead back on a two-out solo homer from McElroy to center field, his third of the season. It could have been more as Hargett singled to lead off the inning but was thrown out trying to steal second.
After cruising through the fifth and sixth Smith ran into trouble in the seventh as Kuhn led off with a single to center field to bring Reynolds to the plate. Already with three hits on the night, Reynolds skipped a single through the middle to put a pair of runners on for Robinson. A sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position and brought Smith's outing to an end.
Auburn's top reliever through the first part of the season, Wallen came in to face James McCann with the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position. Getting ahead 0-2, Wallen left one across the plate just enough for McCann to hit a ground ball and score the tying run. Wallen recovered to strike out Ficociello and keep the score tied at five.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh Hargett did his job as a leadoff man with a double just inside the first base bag off of left-handed reliever Randall Fant. That brought Fradejas to the plate still looking for his first hit of the night. It wouldn't come as his fly ball to left for out number two meant it was up to McElroy to get the job done.
Instead he was hit by the first pitch from reliever Trent Daniel to bring Gamache to the plate. Auburn's hottest hitter the last week, the junior was 0-2 as he stepped to the plate. He too was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Gilmer but the senior struck out to leave the bases loaded and the game tied at five.
Arkansas would go on to win the game in the 11th to take the early lead in the series.
At the plate Hargett had three hits for the Tigers with McElroy and Caldwell adding two each. Auburn finished with just 10 hits on the night with only two coming after the fifth inning.
Junior Will Irvin will get the start for Auburn on Saturday against Arkansas. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.