O'Neal Leads Tigers to Series Win at Arkansas

Auburn split an SEC baseball doubleheader to take its road series at Arkansas two games to one with a strong pitching performance by Michael O'Neal leading the Tigers.

Fayetteville, Ark.--Michael O'Neal proved he belonged back in the SEC weekend starting rotation as he pitched eight strong innings while his Auburn Tigers defeated Arkansas 7-2 to take the second game of a Saturday baseball doubleheader.

After losing the first Saturday game 4-3 in 10 innings, the Tigers managed to take two out of three contests from the Razorbacks. It was the fifth consecutive season the Tigers won their series vs. Arkansas.

O'Neal allowed seven hits and two runs in eight innings to improve his record to 3-4. He struck out four batters and walked two.

The victory improved Auburn's record to 9-12 in the SEC and 25-12 overall while Arkansas ended the series with a 10-11 SEC record and a 28-18 overall mark.

"When we put up that first run in the first inning it kind of took the pressure off of me and said, ‘hey, we were going to score some runs today' so do your thing and fill up the (strike) zone," O'Neal said.

The senior left-hander pointed out that with the ballpark's spacious dimensions combined with the wind blowing in the key to his success was not giving up bases on balls. "It meant you could fill the strike zone up and let the defense work," he said.

Coach Sunny Golloway said he liked what he saw from O'Neal. "He was really good. Coach (Scott) Foxhall is to be given a lot of credit. He knows how to handle Mike, he knows what Mike needs to do. I just turned him loose with Mike and kind of get out of the way and let them do their thing. They were successful last year and they are being successful this year."

Saturday's doubleheader second game took the place of a game originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon. That contest was moved ahead a day because of the threat of bad weather.

"Our kids played really tough today, all 18 innings," Golloway said. "I am proud of the way they competed and the way they came out after losing a really tough game and really jumped on Oliver (Arkansas pitcher Chris Oliver), a really good arm. He has pitched really well here at home."

Golloway said after the game one loss he challenged the team's veteran players to play better in the series finale. "I said, ‘fellas, we are fighting hard to get to postseason and at some point it is on you.' That was a tough loss, and I know it was close, but we had some chances. I said, ‘at some point you have to want to be the guy.' We talked about the mental toughness side of it."

In the second game of the doubleheader the Tigers jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Damon Haecker reached base with a one-out walk and moved to second on a single by Damek Tomscha. He advanced to third on a fly out by Blake Austin and scored from there on an error by the Razorbacks as they tried unsuccessfully to catch Tomscha stealing second base.

The Tigers boosted their lead with their first extra base hit of the three-game series when Austin's two-out home run in the third inning scored Tomscha, who reached base on a hit by pitch.

Blake Austin is a senior catcher for the Tigers.

In the fourth inning Auburn chased Arkansas starting pitcher Oliver, whose control was an issue. He allowed five walks combined with five hits to give up six earned runs.

Anfernee Grier started the rally with a leadoff walk. Ryan Tella followed with a bunt single and Ebert loaded the bases with an infield hit.

Pinch-hitting for Brett Bining, Blake Logan walked to force home a run to make the score 4-0 and end Oliver's outing. Reliever Dominic Taccolini helped Auburn's cause with a wild pitch to make the score 5-0.

After groundouts by Robert and Haecker didn't advance the runners, Tomscha's two-out single brought home the Tigers from second and third base to make the score 7-0.

Arkansas scored two runs in the sixth, but O'Neal got through that and pitched two more innings before Trey Cochran-Gill took care of the Razorbacks in the ninth inning.

In the first game Saturday the Tigers wasted another good pitching start from freshman Keegan Thompson, who gave up two runs in seven innings before leaving with a 3-2 lead. He struck out six Razorbacks.

Out of the bullpen Jay Wade provided no relief for the Tigers as he got into a jam. Wade gave up a run to tie the game before Terrance Dedrick got the Tigers out of the inning.

Neither team scored again until the 10th inning although Auburn missed a golden opportunity in top of that inning J.J. Shaffer reached base on a walk and Dan Glevenyak walked with one out.

After Jordan Ebert struck out swinging for out two the Razorbacks brought in their ace closer, Michael Gunn, who walked Haecker on four pitches. However, Tomscha struck out to end the threat.

In the bottom of the inning Eric Fisher doubled off Dedrick to lead off the inning. With the bases loaded and one out the Razorbacks won the game on a single to center by Tyler Spooner.

Arkansas scored single runs in the second and third innings before Auburn answered with a run in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs Tomscha was hit by a pitch and moved to third on a single by Blake Austin. Blake Logan then drove home Tomscha to cut the margin to 2-1.

The Tigers took the lead with two runs in the sixth as Ebert opened the inning with a single and moved to second on a walk to Haecker. Ebert then scored from second on a bunt single by Tomscha followed by a throwing error on the third baseman. Haecker then scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin before Logan ended the threat by grounding into a double play.

Auburn was out-hit 13-5 in game one, but bounced back to out-hit the Razorbacks 8-7 in the finale.

Auburn returns to action on Friday as Mississippi State visits Plainsman Park.

Game One Box Score

Game One Box Score

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