Fayetteville, Ark.--Arkansas got four home runs, two from Michael Bernal, to take an easy 14-7 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday to take the series from Coach Butch Thompson’s club. Failing to score the first six innings, Auburn allowed back-to-back five run innings and never challenged as the Tigers fell to 11-12 with the loss and 1-4 in SEC play.
“That’s the most challenging game we’ve had at the end of the day,” Thompson said. “We kept playing and the guys kept fighting and scored a few runs late, but that fifth and sixth inning they really took control of the ballgame.
“For a moment there it was the worst that we’ve competed, but the guys still have something in them,” he added. “They kept competing and trying to have good at-bats late in the game. Hopefully that carries into tomorrow for us to try to have a competitive game on Easter.”
On the mound Auburn’s pitching didn’t hold up its end of the bargain on Saturday as starter Casey Mize allowed three runs in three and two/thirds innings to take the loss. It was the bullpen that suffered the most damage for the Tigers as Andrew Mitchell allowed five runs in just two/thirds of an inning and Daniel Sprinkle doing the same to end Auburn’s hopes for the win.
At the plate Josh Palacios led the Tigers with two hits, including a three-run home run, and four RBI on the night. Daniel Robert, Kyler Deese and Jackson Burgreen all had two hits for Auburn as the Tigers managed just three hits until falling behind 13-0.
The good news for Auburn is that they didn’t quit, scoring seven runs in the final three innings to make it respectable. Thompson said the fight his team showed is something he hopes they can carry over into Sunday, but there’s a lot of work to be done he noted.
“There’s a huge game tomorrow,” Thompson said. “There are so many things for us to work on and talk about. Now it’s not that one-run ballgame and we’ve got to start paying attention to things that are going to cause us to have success in the league. If we don’t correct some things we’ll be more challenged in the league as we move forward.”
Missing out on so many opportunities in Friday night’s 3-2 loss, Auburn’s offense never got untracked on Saturday as Arkansas starter Keaton McKinney shut down the Tigers from the start. Early on however Auburn once again had a chance to take the early lead as Josh Palacios walked with one out in the first inning and Jordan Ebert singled, but Niko Buentello hit into an inning-ending double play to give a hint of what was to come.
Allowing a single to lead off the game, Mize faced trouble right away as a passed ball allowed Clark Eagan to advance to second. Following a ground ball that advanced him to third, he later scored on a fielder’s choice to give the Razorbacks the early lead.
Auburn’s freshman starter would settle in however, pitching a pair of scoreless innings before again running into trouble in the fourth. Walking Rick Nomura to start the inning, Mize came back to get the next two batters before leaving a pitch over the plate to Bernal. That proved to be a bad move as Bernal deposited it over the wall in right field for a two-run shot. The bomb made it 2-0 Razorbacks and the rout was on.
After Gordon Cardenas got the Tigers out of the fourth, Mitchell came on to start the fifth inning and immediately walked the first hitter he faced. Following a bunt single the second walk of the frame by Mitchell loaded the bases with nobody out. Getting Nomura to hit into a double play and allowing just one run to score, Mitchell looked like he would get out of the inning but the third walk of the inning kept things alive for the Razorbacks and they would take advantage of the gift and get another from Auburn.
Getting a fly ball to right field for what should have been the third out, Auburn instead saw two more runs cross the plate when Jackson Burgreen lost it in the lights for the error. That brought Bernal back to the plate and for the second time on the night he homered, making it a five-run inning and putting the Tigers in an 8-0 hole.
Sprinkle got Auburn out of the fifth, but wouldn’t make it out of the sixth as the Razorbacks struck for five more runs to put the game out of reach. The big blow came from Luke Bonfield as his two-run homer made it three on the night for Arkansas and gave them a 13-run lead.
The Tigers finally got the offense going in the seventh inning as Cody Nulph and Burgreen singled to set the table for Palacios and the left fielder delivered, driving a pitch over the wall in right field for his third home run of the year. Auburn tacked on a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to cut the Arkansas lead in half, but it would be far too little and too late on this night as the Tigers dropped the second game of the series to the Razorbacks.
Auburn will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday with junior Cole Lipscomb taking the mound for the Tigers. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.