The win improves Auburn to 19-12 overall and 4-7 in SEC play while Arkansas falls to 15-15 and 4-7 in league action.
Tied heading into the bottom of the ninth, Auburn got a single from Melvin Gray to start the rally before an errant pickoff attempt moved him to second base with one out. An intentional walk put runners on first and second before reliever Jacob Stone hit Ben Craft to load the bases for Nulph. On the next pitch Nulph was plunked to give the Tigers the win as Gray trotted home with the winning run.
“I was going up there looking to get a ball up in the strike zone and elevate it,” Nulph said following the game. "He threw a slider that was in and I didn’t think it was going to hit me. It ended up grabbing my knee and I couldn’t ask for a better result.
“That’s huge” he added. “It seems like the ball is always kind of bouncing the other way and it’s nice to catch a break like that. We battled our butts off. Keegan (Thompson) did great tonight, we played good defense, and we only put up a couple of runs, but that’s the SEC. You just kind of battle and it’s nice to have the ball bounce our way.”
Cody Nulph winces in pain after being hit with the pitch in the ninth inning
Making the win possible was a combination of outstanding pitching from starter Keegan Thompson and another very good defensive outing by the Tigers. Pitching a complete game the sophomore allowed just two runs on six hits and struck out nine to improve his record to 6-2 on the season. Coach Sunny Golloway said it was another standout performance by his ace.
“For me the thing I would say is that we can’t take Keegan Thompson for granted,” Golloway said. “He’s pretty special and to have him in the Saturday slot gives us a lot of confidence. We didn’t sleep well last night because that was a really tough one. I don’t know why it was so tough, but it was really a tough pill to swallow. I’m just proud of all of our guys. Not just Keegan, but I thought everybody had to have a gut-check performance.”
Blake Logan led the way at the plate for the Tigers with two hits while Gray scored two of Auburn’s three runs in the win.
Arkansas was led by Andrew Benintendi and Bobby Wernes with two hits each. On the mound Dominic Taccolini allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings while Lance Phillips took the loss, giving up a run on two hits in one and one/third innings of relief.
Auburn took the early lead in the second inning thanks to help from the Arkansas defense. Leading things off, second baseman Gray reached on an error by his counterpart Michael Bernal. Continuing his hitting ways, Kyler Deese singled to center field and the speedy Gray moved all the way around to third on the play. It proved to be important as Craft hit into a double play, but Gray scored to put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
In the top of the fourth inning Arkansas put a pair of good swings on Thompson, but Anfernee Grier’s defense behind him saved the day. Leading off the inning Joe Serrano hit a deep fly ball to center that Grier ran down almost to the wall. With two outs Chad Spanberger laced a ball into the gap in right-center, but Grier’s diving grab kept the Razorbacks from threatening.
Thompson wouldn’t be as fortunate in the top of the fifth as Tyler Spoon doubled to left to start things for the Razorbacks before an infield single off the bat of Wernes put runners on first and third with no outs. This time the Tigers returned the favor as a double play groundout scored Spoon from third, but kept the inning from being a big one for Arkansas.
With Taccolini still pitching well Auburn got the offense going again in the bottom of the sixth. Leading off, Grier reached on an infield single to put the Tigers in business. Up next Damon Haecker hit a ground ball off the glove of the first baseman, but an alert Taccolini scooped the ball and made a dive to the first base bag just ahead of Haecker for the out. In the meantime an alert Grier had moved all the way to third.
Following a walk to Gray, a Daniel Robert groundout pushed across Grier from third to put Auburn back in front 2-1.
The back and forth would continue in the seventh as Benintendi singled and scored moments later on a double off the bat of Chad Spanberger. Following a groundout to move the runner to third, Thompson walked Wernes intentionally to put runners on the corner and then got a pop up and a terrific play by Nulph to end the inning and keep the game tied at two.
Still tied in the top of the ninth Arkansas got a leadoff single by Benintendi and a stolen base with one out to move into scoring position. A fly ball to center field by Spoon for the second out brought Wernes to the plate for the Razorbacks. Already with two hits on the night, Wernes was walked intentionally to bring Bernal to the plate. The move paid off as Thompson struck out Bernal to end the inning with the game still tied and set Auburn up for the ninth inning heroics.
Auburn goes for the series win on Sunday against the Razorbacks with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. CDT.
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