Auburn, Ala.--Scoring three runs in the first inning, the #10 Auburn Tigers were stymied by an Arkansas bullpen that allowed just two hits in the final seven innings in a 7-3 Razorback win on Saturday to even the series. With the loss Auburn falls to 29-12 overall and 11-6 in SEC play while No. 14 Arkansas improves to 31-10, 12-5 in league play.
Allowing just three runs on five hits in five innings, Auburn freshman Davis Daniel did his job on the mound and gave the Tigers a chance but it was a lack of offense and one bad inning from reliever Andrew Mitchell that doomed the Tigers on this day.
Managing just six total hits, five in the first two innings, Auburn struck out 14 times and left 11 runners on base in the loss. Coach Butch Thompson said it was a case of his team losing their approach and also because Arkansas was too good on the mound led by reliever Cannon Chadwick, who picked up the win with four and one/thirds scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
"He just got up in the zone," Coach Butch Thompson said of Daniel. "There was a time there before he hit this run of three starts where the ball was just up. I thought he got up a little today and they got him there and hit the home run, but all in all he gave us five innings and we're tied in the game. I thought he did a good job and Cole Lipscomb did a nice job for us. I just thought down two runs we would have a chance in the ballgame at home to get something going. Cole did a good job and held serve until we got to the ninth inning."
The sixth inning was the pivotal time in the game for the Tigers. Daniel would get through five innings before turning things over to Andrew Mitchell to start the sixth and it wouldn’t be his day. Facing catcher Grant Koch to start the inning, Mitchell threw 10 pitches before finally walking the batter. It was the first of three walks he would issue to open the inning to give Arkansas the bases loaded with no outs.
Getting a fly ball for the first out to score a run, Mitchell allowed a single to Jax Biggers to plate the second run of the frame for the Razorbacks and put them in front 5-3. Lipscomb came on to get the final two outs in the sixth but not before the Tigers fell behind.
Shutting down Auburn in his first two innings, Chadwick ran out of gas in the bottom of the sixth. Hitting three batters around flyout and strikeout, Chadwick loaded the bases for the Tigers with two outs for Todd. The only problem was Todd had to face left-hander Evan Lee. Entering the game with 11 strikeouts in only 10 innings of work, the freshman struck out Todd swinging to leave the bases loaded.
"I thought the top of the sixth was the separator of the ballgame," Thompson said. "We walked three, I'm glad they didn't bust it open at that juncture to be honest with you. They've got bases loaded and nobody out. They wind up getting two runs, which proved to be the difference in the ballgame. That's why we keep harping on being able to shove the ball in the strike zone and when you can't do that it's tough."
Getting the leadoff man on in the seventh on a walk, the Tigers again stranded the runner with a fifth consecutive inning without a hit. In the eighth Anthony got Auburn’s first hit since the second inning and when pinch hitter Blake Logan walked it put runners on first and second with one out and another chance to do damage, but a Haecker fly ball and a Todd strikeout pushed Auburn’s total to 10 left on base for the game.
Arkansas tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to give reliever Jake Reindl all the cushion he would need as he pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the win for the Razorbacks.
Once again it was Auburn that got things started right out of the gate and Todd was the catalyst for the Tigers. Leading things off the center fielder bounced an infield single deep to the hole at shortstop. Coming up throwing, Jax Biggers threw the ball into the dugout for an error to put Todd on second with no outs.
Getting a pitch to hit Jay Estes followed with a sharp single to center field to put runners on the corners with no outs for Robert. Blasting a three-run homer in the first inning on Friday, Robert did his job on Saturday with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Todd and put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
Stealing second to move into scoring position, Estes set up Auburn for its second run when Conor Davis singled back up the middle. Estes easily scored on the play to give Daniel a two-run lead to work with.
In the second Auburn added to its lead with Josh Anthony getting things started with a leadoff single to left field. Stealing second to move into scoring position with one out before a Damon Haecker walk, Anthony scored on a Todd single to left field to make it a 3-0 lead for the Tigers.
With the heart of the order coming up for Auburn, the Razorbacks went to Chadwick and it proved to be the right move for Arkansas as he struck out Estes and Robert to leave two on for the Tigers.
The lead wouldn’t last long however as the Razorbacks struck for three runs to tie the game in the top of the third and it all started with a walk. Retiring the first batter and getting ahead 0-2 on Jake Arledge, Daniel threw four-straight ball to walk before Chad Spanberger’s first hit of the weekend put runners on the corners for Arkansas.
A Luke Bonfield single broke up the shutout for Daniel and but Auburn’s lead to two, something Jared Gates would erase with one swing of the bat. Getting a fastball down the middle, Gates blasted his fourth homer of the season to right field to tie the game.
Auburn will go for the series win on Sunday with the first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Tigers will go with freshman Ryan Watson on the mound with Arkansas countering with senior Josh Alberius.