Working on a no hitter through three and two-thirds innings, Auburn starter Arnold Hughey gave up six hits and six runs, including a grand slam from catcher Judd Kindle, to suffer the loss and drop his record to 4-3. Arkansas starter Clint Brannon improved to 3-1 this season by allowing three runs on six hits in five innings of work Saturday.
"They beat us," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said. "They are the best team we have played. They have done everything you have to do to be a championship club. I didn't know if anybody could defend better than Mississippi State, but it looks like they have. They have a great plan with their pitchers and a lot of different looks. They have played well."
In a game mired in controversy over missed call after missed call behind the plate and on the bases, both coaches got in the mix early with Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn getting ejected in the bottom of the first inning for arguing a balk call and Renfroe out early to protest Javon Moran being picked off at third base.
With the crowd into the game because of the early action, the Tigers got on the board first with a Tug Hulett single to left field that scored Sean Gamble with the first run of the game. It could have been more except for a blown call by third base umpire Jack Cox. Standing at second base with Bobby Huddleston at the plate, Moran was picked off by Brannon and caught in a rundown between second and third. Using his speed, Moran forced three throws and took off for the third base bag. Sliding under the tag, Moran was called out after both umpires looked to the other for a call. That brought Renfroe out of the dugout, but it was to no avail and the inning ended with Auburn ahead by just one.
For the next two innings things went as planned for both pitchers as they cruised through three innings with the Tigers leading 1-0. That would change quickly in the fourth.
Striking out Kirk McConnell to begin the inning and then coaxing Andrew Wishy to pop out to Karl Amonite at first base, Hughey appeared to be in a groove with first baseman Haas Pratt coming to the plate. Singling through the left side on a 1-1 count, Pratt started a run of Arkansas hitters at the plate over the next few minutes that would five Arkansas the cushion it needed to take control of the game. Down 0-2 in the count, Clay Goodwin singled to right field and both runners moved up a base on a passed ball by Josh Bell with Ryan Fox at the plate. Not wanting to give in to the SEC's leading home run hitter, the Tigers decided to pitch around Fox to face Kindle.
Arnold Hughey took the loss in Saturday's game.
That was a move many baseball coaches would have made at that point in the game. Kindle entered Saturday's game hitting .233 with no home runs and just three runs batted in. Those numbers became a thing of the past with one swing of the bat Saturday when he hit a first-pitch fastball from Hughey deep over the Green Monster in left field for a grand slam to give the Hogs the 4-1 lead. Still shaken, Hughey gave up a double by Brett Hagedorn, a single to Scott Hode and a double to leadoff hitter Nick Pitts to score two more runs and lead 6-1 going and the momentum.
"Arnie was throwing real well," Renfroe said, "then the next thing you know the bases are loaded and the guy hits his first home run. That's how things have gone for two days. They have really put it to us. That's something that you can't figure out. That's baseball. He (Hughey) came right back out and gave us a shot to get right back in it."
Settling down, Hughey held the Razorbacks in check in the fifth inning and the Tigers responded with a pair of runs to get back in the game. With two outs and nobody on base, Hulett doubled off the wall in left-center and Huddleston was hit by a pitch to bring Bell to the plate. Still on a tear, he doubled to right field to score both Hulett and Huddleston and cut the lead to three. The inning ended when Karl Amonite flew out deep to center field. That frustration would be a signal of things to come for the Tigers.
In the sixth inning Scott Schade led off with a triple that almost cleared the angled wall of the Green Monster. Standing at third base with nobody out, Schade should have been a shoo-in to scorer, but it just wasn't Auburn's day as both Clete Thomas and Chuck Jeroloman struck out and Gamble hit a ground ball to second to end the inning. Trailing by three, the Tigers would have one more run at the Hogs before the game was decided in convincing fashion.
Following a Pratt single that scored Pitts in the top of the seventh inning, Auburn came to the plate in the bottom half looking for a big inning. That's exactly what they got with Amonite's help. With two outs and nobody on, Huddleston singled to right field to bring Bell to the plate. Bell did what he's done all year, come through in the clutch with a double to right.
With runners on second and third, Amonite came to the plate to face reliever Caton Hall. Facing a slight breeze blowing in from right field, Amonite drilled a long fly ball that bounced off the back wall of the visitor's bullpen for a three-run home run to cut the lead to 7-6. The home run was Amonite's fourth in five games and gives him 21 RBI in 17 SEC games.
"Karl's swinging real well," Renfroe said. "He's been a plus for us. They just kind of stopped us when they had to. Karl has been the guy that has given us a lift. I think he'll continue to do that."
That lift would be short lived on Saturday as the Hogs came back with three runs of their own to put the game away in the eighth inning. After Chris Dennis came on for Hughey in the sixth and pitched one and two-thirds innings while giving up one run on two hits, senior Levale Speigner started the eighth hoping to keep Arkansas at bay.
Scott Schade had two hits in Saturday's game.
Showing his all-around game, Fox hit a chopper that Speigner just redirected enough to allow Fox to beat a play from Jeroloman at shortstop. After appearing to pick off Fox at first and not getting the call, Speigner walked Brady Toops and pinch-hitter Scott Bridges bunted both runners over to bring Hode to the plate. Hoping for the strikeout, Renfroe put Auburn closer Steven Register in the game trying to keep the contest close. The move didn't work as Hode bunted the ball back to Register, who lost his footing trying to get Fox at the plate and he scored to put Arkansas back up by two. Pitts followed with a double to right-center to score both Toops and Hode and just like that the Hogs had a four-run lead.
They would add another run in the ninth off Jim Miksis to make the final score 11-6. The loss gives Auburn back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the deepest into a season for that since 1997 when the Tigers lost the first two games to Alabama at home on their way to the College World Series.
For the Tigers Hulett led the way with three hits and one RBI while Schade, Moran and Bell each had two hits. Auburn pounded 12 total hits with seven of the nine starters reaching safely. Pitts and Pratt both had two hits for the Hogs, part of a 10-hit attack. Auburn pitchers combined to strike out 12 Arkansas hitters in Saturday's game.
Auburn will send junior Colby Paxton to the mound hoping to avoid a home sweep at the hands of the Hogs on Sunday. Charley Boyce (4-1, 3.31 ERA) will throw for the Razorbacks. The first pitch for Sunday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.