"27 outs are tough to get in college baseball," coach John Pawlowski said. "It just doesn't matter who you're playing or where you're playing, the games are never over. I thought Ethan Wallen, he battled through on Friday night and came back today and made some big pitches. It wasn't easy but he got the job done for us."
With Wallen on the mound Auburn looked to be in good shape heading back out for the ninth inning after scoring four runs in the eighth to take back the lead from the Razorbacks 8-5. That feeling went away quickly though as Arkansas loaded the bases and got a single from Kyle Robinson to make it a two-run game and bring Dominic Ficociello to the plate.
Already with three hits on the day the big lefty ripped a single through the right side directly towards the oncoming Fradejas. Catching the ground ball he came up throwing and gunned down Reynolds after Jacob Morris had scored easily from third base. Applying the tag at the plate, catcher Tony Caldwell held the ball in the air to show the umpire for the second out. Wallen then got a groundout to end the game and earn the win for Auburn.
"Basically I knew he was the tying runner," Fradejas said. "I just wanted to make a good throw and I did. It's awesome that Tony held onto the ball. It's always tough when you've got a runner coming in there and you've got to hold the ball and put the tag on him as well. Tony did a good job with that."
Caldwell shows the baseball to the umpire after tagging out the Arkansas runner at the plate.
The play would not have been necessary if not for the huge eighth inning for the Tigers at the plate. Leading 4-3 going into the inning Auburn allowed two runs to the Razorbacks and trailed for the first time all day going into the next-to-last at bat for the home team. Perhaps the biggest play came first as pinch hitter Cullen Wacker was hit by a pitch from Arkansas reliever Randall Fant to get things rolling.
After a fly ball out, Justin Hargett and Justin Fradejas were both walked to load the bases for Casey McElroy. Already with two hits on the day, the junior shortstop found a crease as his single through the right side scored two runs and put Auburn back in front 7-5.
"My last at-bat I was just trying to put the ball in play and get one run in," McElroy said. "The way things have been going for me this weekend it had eyes and found its way through the infield."
Auburn wasn't done there however as Dan Gamache followed with a single to score Fradejas for the two-run lead. Caldwell finished off the scoring with a two-out single through the left side to put Auburn up 8-5. It proved to be the winning run and couldn't have come at a better time for the senior.
"I was struggling," Caldwell said. "Their pitchers were doing really good today. I just battled and I knew I had to put the ball in play. That's what I did. I got a curve ball and did my best to hit it away from them."
Starter Derek Varnadore again did a very solid job for the Tigers on the mound Sunday, allowing three runs on five hits in six innings. Reliever Zach Blatt allowed two runs on three hits in one and one/third innings while Wallen got the win after giving up a pair of runs on three hits in one and two/thirds.
Auburn got on the board first on a beautiful Sunday as McElroy wasted little time in extending his hitting streak to 15 games with a single with two outs in the bottom of the first. After Gamache was hit by a pitch Wes Gilmer followed with a single to left to score McElroy. The hit extended Gilmer's hitting streak to 14 games and gave Varnadore the early advantage.
The Tigers added to the lead in the second as Kevin Patterson singled to lead off the second. One out later Creede Simpson doubled to put runners on second and third for Justin Hargett. He continued to deliver in the clutch with a single to center to score Patterson. However he was caught stealing Fradejas struck out to end the threat.
Leading 2-0 Varnadore gave up a single run in the top of the third as Bo Bigham doubled and later scored on a Collin Kuhn sacrifice fly. Auburn answered back in the bottom of the inning however as McElroy led off with a solo home run to right field. It was his fourth of the season and put Auburn in front 3-1.
In the fourth Auburn again threatened as Brooks Beisner was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to second on a single by Simpson. Following a Hargett strikeout Fradejas walked to load the bases for McElroy. For the eighth time on the weekend Arkansas hit an Auburn batter, this time to force in a run. Gamache hit a fly ball to end the inning with the Tigers now in front 4-1.
After leaving a pair of runners on base to end the sixth Auburn faced its first real adversity of the day in the top of the seventh against the Razorbacks. A double and single to start the inning was it for Varnadore as Blatt came in with the Tigers up 4-2 and a runner on base. The jam got even tougher for Auburn has Bigham reached on a bunt single to put runners on first and second and still nobody out.
Following a sacrifice bunt Kuhn again delivered a sacrifice fly, this time to score James McCann from third base. The Opelika native on the mound recovered to strike out Jacob Morris to end the inning with Auburn up 4-3.
The slide would continue in the top of the eighth as Blatt committed the cardinal sin in baseball of walking the leadoff man. With Reynolds on first and facing Robinson, Blatt appeared to strike out the third baseman on a 2-2 pitch but it was called a ball. On the next pitch Robinson singled to left and an error by freshman Jay Gonzalez in left field allowed Robinson to move to second.
Ethan Wallen was very good out of the bullpen for the Tigers in the series.
Ficociello proved to be a thorn in Auburn's side again as his single to right field scored both runners for the 5-4 Arkansas lead. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner into scoring position, Wallen relieved Blatt to face McCann with still just one out in the eighth. He got a ground ball out and strikeout to keep the deficit to just one for the Tigers and set up the frantic finish at Plainsman Park.
Auburn will travel to Jacksonville State Tuesday night for a 6:30 p.m. start against the Gamecocks before hitting the road to Mississippi State next weekend for a three-game series.