Early Lead Stakes Hogs To Victory Over Tigers

Arkansas scored four runs in each of the first two innings to down the Auburn Tigers 9-7 Friday night at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite three home runs and solid pitching from relievers Josh Sullivan and Cory Dueitt, the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers couldn't overcome an early eight-run deficit and lost the series opener to the 20th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks 9-7 on Friday night.

Haas Pratt had an early three-run home run and Ryan Fox added his 15th of the season and three runs batted in to lead the Hogs to the win. The loss drops Auburn to 30-9 overall, 11-5 in SEC play, while the win moves Arkansas to 29-7 overall and 10-6 in league games.

Arkansas starter Jarrett Gardner got the win, pitching five and one-third innings and giving up five runs on eight hits. Without even solid numbers, it was enough to win on a night when Auburn starter Eric Brandon had possibly the most disappointing performance of his career. Lasting for just four outs, he gave up eight runs on eight hits and threw 41 pitches. The loss drops him to 2-3 on the season and puts the Tigers in a hole the remaining two days of the key series in the Western Division.

"They've been on fire and they just pretty much destroyed Eric early," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said. "He just has to bounce back and make some quality pitches. After that we did. We settled down and made good pitches and defended. It became a nice ball game. It was just too deep to dig out of tonight. We'll just come back tomorrow for one game and see what happens."

The Razorbacks wasted little time jumping on Brandon and the Tigers. In the first inning Nick Pitts led off with a single to left-center and Kirk McConnell followed with a single through the left side to bring Andrew Wishy to the plate. A power hitter, he singled up the middle to score Pitts with the game's first run bringing Miami transfer Pratt to the dish. Pratt added to his nine home runs total with a bomb off the scoreboard in left field giving Arkansas a 4-0 lead. Brandon would settle down and retire the Razorbacks, but not before the Tigers were in a deep hole.

That hole turned into the Grand Canyon in the second inning as Arkansas scored four more runs to put the game away early. Scott Hode led off the second with an infield single on a 0-2 pitch to bring Pitts to the plate. Continuing to struggle with his control, Brandon hit Pitts to give the Hogs two base runners with nobody out. After a strikeout of McConnell, Wishy did the damage again with another single up the middle to score Hode. Pratt followed and was hit by a pitch as well, bringing Clay Goodwin up to bat. He followed suit with the rest of his teammates, singling through the left side to bring Brandon's night to a quick end and bring Sullivan into the contest.

Auburn's backup quarterback heading into the fall and a native of Arkansas, Sullivan got Topps on a comebacker to the mound and retired Wishy at the plate for the second out of the inning. The SEC's leading home run hitter, Fox, singled up the middle to score both Pratt and Goodwin before Topps was thrown out at second to end the inning. Leading 8-0, the Razorbacks would get a scare from the Tigers before earning the victory.

Karl Amonite hit two solo home runs in Friday night's game.

The Tigers finally broke through in the third inning when Clete Thomas singled to start the mini-rally. Chuck Jeroloman also broke through with a long fly ball to deep right field, but Wishy tracked it down for the first out of the inning. Sean Gamble followed with a ground ball back to the pitcher that retired Thomas at second for out number two. Gardner appeared to be out of the inning when he got Javon Moran to ground back to him on the mound, but he rushed his throw and allowed Moran to reach to bring Tug Hulett to the plate. Instead of his usual routine, Hulett pulled the ball into the right-center gap for a single to score Gamble with Auburn's first run of the game. A Bobby Huddleston strikeout brought the inning to an end with the Tigers trailing 8-1.

Karl Amonite continued his tear against SEC pitching in the fourth when he hit a solo home run deep over the bullpen in right-center to cut the lead to six, but Arkansas got the run back in the fifth when Fox hit his 15th home run of the season over the Green Monster in left field. Trailing 9-2, Auburn came to bat in the bottom of the sixth hoping to make some noise. That's exactly what they did.

Hulett led off the inning by flipping a single into left field to bring Huddleston to the plate. Auburn's leader in home runs, he drove a pitch the other way and into the visiting bullpen for a two-run home run to cut the lead down to five. In a serious groove, Amonite hit a blast deep into the spring night to make it 9-5 Razorbacks with three innings left to play. Things were looking up for the Tigers and continued to do so in the seventh.

Gamble led off the inning with a walk on four pitches off ace Razorback reliever Scott Roehl. Working with a 2-2 count, Moran singled to right field to bring Hulett to the plate. On this night Roehl was just too tough, striking out Hulett to bring Huddleston to the plate. Sitting on a fastball, Huddleston singled to right field to score both Gamble and Moran after they moved up on a balk. That would be the last Auburn threat of the night though as Amonite and Scott Schade both struck out to end the inning.

Reliever Boyd Goodner came on for the Hogs in the eighth and kept the Tigers scoreless to earn his first save of the season. Auburn did have a chance to tie the game in the ninth when Moran was hit by a pitch with one out but a long Hulett fly out to center and a Huddleston strike out closed the game.

Junior Cory Dueitt gave up just two hits in three innings while striking out three Razorback hitters.

Hulett, Huddleston and Amonite all had two hits for the Tigers and Huddleston totaled four RBI to extend his team lead in the category. Amonite's two home runs gives him five in SEC play and he has 18 RBI in 16 SEC games.

In other SEC action LSU lost the first game of its series at Vanderbilt 4-2 Friday night while Mississippi State was trailing South Carolina 2-0 in the seventh inning when the game was suspended until Saturday. Ole Miss defeated Alabama 10-2 in Oxford after jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first. Auburn remains a half game out of first place, tied with MSU.

Game two of the series is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Saturday when Arnold Hughey takes the mound for the Tigers against sophomore left-hander Clint Brannon for the Hogs.

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