Auburn, Ala.--Tied at six with No. 14 Arkansas in the seventh inning, the 10th-ranked Auburn Tigers scored five runs to break open the game and Andrew Mitchell’s strong performance out of the bullpen sealed the deal for Butch Thompson’s team as they took the series from the Hogs. With the victory Auburn improves to 30-12 overall and 12-6 in SEC play, just one game behind this week’s opponent Mississippi State for first place in the league.
“It's fun to watch our guys compete,” Thompson said. “I would have been happy with our ball club win, lose or draw today because I just saw them fight like they've been doing for every game in the balance. To win nine out of 10 series gives our team confidence because we've pointed toward that. But honestly, I'd be proud of our team win, lose or draw today because they were giving us all they had.”
The story of the game was Mitchell on the mound and an improved offensive approach for the Tigers that saw them set a team-high with 10 extra-base hits, including a pair of home runs, after striking out 14 times in a Saturday loss.
Allowing two runs in just one/third of an inning a day earlier, Mitchell came back strong in the biggest of circumstances for Auburn. Allowing just one run on three hits in five innings to pick up his fifth win of the year, the junior got some encouraging words from his head coach following his struggles, something Mitchell said was important to him.
“It means the world,” Mitchell said of having his coach believe in him. “I know I have those days and every pitcher has those days but I know the next time I get out there I’ll give it my all. I think I’ve worked hard enough in order to get that (trust).”
At the plate third baseman Joshua Anthony’s four hits led a 16-hit attack for the Tigers, another season high. Part of a bottom half of the order that combined for 13 hits and nine RBI for the day with Dylan Ingram and Luke Jarvis both adding three hits, including the fifth home run for each, Anthony said it was all about approach for the offense.
“Coach Siss (Doug Sisson) kind of had to remind us before the game to stay playing our game and stay within ourselves, not try to do too much,” Anthony said. “We listened to him.
“We just hit the mistakes. Those off-speed pitches were kind of up in the zone and we keyed on them.”
That was apparent late in the game with the Tigers needing some offense to break open a tie game in the bottom of the seventh. Starting the inning with a walk, one of four times he reached base, Ingram moved to third on a Jarvis double to put the pressure on an Arkansas pitching staff that used six different pitchers on Sunday.
At the plate already with a pair of hits on the day, Anthony faced a shift from the Razorbacks with three infielders on the left side of the diamond. It didn’t matter to the Auburn third baseman as he ripped an inside pitch down the line and off the glove of third baseman Jared Gates for a double to score both runners.
Later in the inning with Anthony on second base and one out, Bo Decker delivered for the second time in the game. Earlier coming through with a two-out RBI single, Decker got a pitched to drive and didn’t miss it. His double off the left field wall scored Anthony to put Auburn in front 9-6.
Allowing his only run in the game in the seventh inning, Mitchell pitched a scoreless eighth to give the Tigers the momentum heading back to the dish. With two outs and nobody on, Ingram extended the Auburn lead with one swing of the bat with a long home run off the scoreboard in left. Now up four, the Tigers added another insurance run on back-to-back doubles from Jarvis and Anthony.
Back on the mound in the ninth to finish things off, Mitchell needed just 16 total pitches in the final two innings to slam the door on the Razorbacks and give Auburn the big series win.
Trailing 1-0 in the second inning, Auburn got off to another hot start with designated hitter Conor Davis singled before Ingram popped up for the first out to bring Jarvis to the plate. Getting down in the count, the Auburn shortstop choked up and took a pitch over the left field wall for a two-run bomb to give the Tigers the lead.
Auburn wasn’t done though as Anthony and Blake Logan had back-to-back singles to set the table for Jonah Todd. Getting a pitch to take the other way, the junior smoked a double off the left field wall to score both runners and make it a 4-1 advantage.
Arkansas would get a run back in the top of the third to cut the lead back to two but once again Auburn would answer. Starting things off with a double, Jarvis moved to third on an Anthony single with one out. Following a pop up for the second out, Decker came through with a single up the middle to put the Tigers back in front 5-2.
Going to reliever Calvin Coker to start the fourth, Auburn ran into some bad luck as three infield singles and a Chad Spanberger single to center field pushed across three runs to tie the game at five.
That set the stage for Auburn’s strong finish on Sunday to win their ninth series in 10 weekends this season.