Auburn, Ala.--The #10 Auburn Tigers (29-11, 11-5) got home runs from Daniel Robert, Joshua Anthony and Dylan Ingram and scored five runs in the first and eight more in the third to break the game open as Coach Butch Thompson’s team pounded #14 Arkansas 15-2 to take the big Friday night win in a series matching up two of the top teams in the SEC.
Hitting 10 home runs the first 34 games of the season, the Tigers have hit nine in the last six games thanks to the three on Friday night. It was the first three-homer game for Auburn since March 20 of last season and the most runs in an SEC game since scoring 15 on April 9, 2011 at Kentucky.
“We talked about the get-better categories with the offense and I guess we hit three tonight,” the second-year coach said. “We had six in five games (coming into Friday night). The boys just felt good and came out swinging, just the first three guys. I thought Jonah Todd did Jonah Todd-things again. Jay Estes got a fastball to hit and then Daniel Robert. All three were important home runs, but that first one just to have the first three hits and to hit the home run out of the gate, there’s no doubt about the momentum of it.
“Then the bottom of the third was huge. So was the top of the fourth, but the guys are just linking up and everybody is just connecting. They had a little trouble getting the breaking ball over and we took enough of them and wound up getting a couple of elevated fastballs and the guys kept swinging. Then Keegan Thompson with his competitive nature, I thought the top of the fourth coming out and getting a zero, a shut-down, after we had the big inning in the third was huge in the ballgame.”
On the mound starter Keegan Thompson allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings and struck out seven to pick up his fifth win of the season. The victory improved the junior to 12-2 in his career at Plainsman Park. Staked to a huge early lead, he said it was all about throwing strikes and trying to get deep to save the bullpen.
“It was nice because I was missing middle of the plate and up the whole night,” Keegan Thompson said. “It was good to get the run support. I think if we wouldn't have done that it might have been a different ballgame. I think they would have put different approaches and at-bats together. I hope we save a couple of those hits for tomorrow.”
Thompson threw 96 pitches on the way to his sixth win of the season.
At the plate Anthony led the way with three hits and four RBI, including a pair of doubles to go with his home run. Robert, Ingram, Conor Davis and Bo Decker all had two hits as the Tigers tied a season high with 15 hits in the win.
For Anthony it was a long time coming for a player expected to provide power for the Tigers. Hitting 25 home runs a season ago in junior college, the third baseman has played great defense at third base this season and knew the offense would come sooner or later.
“It was more of a relief,” Anthony said. “I just finally got it out of the way. I wasn't pressing to hit a home run necessarily and I wasn't thinking about my power numbers going towards the end of the season, but it felt good to get it out of the way.”
It didn’t take Auburn long to jump on Arkansas starter Blaine Knight on Friday with five first-inning runs to put the Razorbacks in a huge hole, but not until Keegan Thompson survived a crazy first inning. Striking out two batters but with both reaching after the ball got by catcher Blake Logan, the junior had to get five outs in the frame. With a single mixed it the Razorbacks loaded the bases before a Carson Shaddy ground ball to Josh Anthony at third ended the inning on a great play.
Still rolling in the leadoff spot, Jonah Todd singled to start the game for Auburn and Jay Estes followed with a double down the left field line to put the Tigers in front 1-0. Walking to the plate with a chance to do some damage, Robert jumped on the first pitch and hit it 400 feet over the center field wall for a two-run shot.
Following a groundout, Ingram walked to bring Luke Jarvis to the plate. Ripping an 0-1 pitch for a double, Jarvis set the table for Anthony and his singled to left scored both for a five-run lead.
Pitching a pair of scoreless innings to open the game, Keegan Thompson ran into trouble in the third as Arkansas put together four singles to score a pair of runs and cut the Auburn lead to three, but that wouldn’t last long.
Opening the bottom of the third, the Tigers got a walk to Anthony to again put the offense in business. A Logan double put runners on second and third before Bo Decker singled through the left side to make it 6-2 Auburn. With runners on the corners, Todd did his job with a sacrifice fly to score Logan and put the Tigers back in front by five.
That would be all for Knight as reliever Weston Rogers came on and immediately walked the only two batters he would face to load the bases for Davis. Facing Angus Denton, Davis singled back up the middle to score two more Auburn runs. An Ingram single added the fifth run of the inning and set the table for Anthony.
With a pair of runners on, Anthony got a 1-0 fastball and drove it off the scoreboard in left field for his first homer of the season. The blast put Auburn up 13-2 and was cause for celebration for fans at Plainsman Park, but Anthony’s teammates gave him the silent treatment when getting back to the dugout before jumping on him in celebration.
Knight finished the game by allowing eight runs on eight hits in just two and two/thirds innings. It was the most runs the sophomore has allowed in his career and his ERA went from 1.89 to 3.13 in the loss.
With a commanding 11-run cushion to work with Thompson pitched three scoreless innings before turning things over to Calvin Coker in the seventh, but not before his offense would supply him with two more runs. Getting a one-out double from Davis, Auburn was looking to add some insurance and it would come from Ingram. Jumping on the first pitch, Ingram hit a two-run blast to center field for his fourth home run of the year to put the finishing touches on an impressive Friday night win.
Auburn will go for the series win on Saturday with freshman Davis Daniel on the mound for the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.