Reliever John Madden came on to close the deal and Coach Tommy Slater said the two did exactly what Auburn needed to get the Friday win.
"It was just a mature 90 pitch performance," Slater said. "It was six solid innings and he did a tremendous job getting us to the seventh and turning the ball over to Madden."
Trying desperately to get the game in because of shallow pitching depth on both teams, the Tigers and Hogs waited out a long rain before getting the game underway at around 9:46 Friday night. Catcher Josh Bell, who continued his torrid pace with three hits in the game, says that having Hughey on the mound was a big advantage for his team in this particular circumstance.
"I'm glad we had him going tonight because maybe another guy would have said 'well, we're just not going to play tonight' and lost his focus," Bell says. "He stayed ready to pitch the whole time, staying loose and focused. I was pretty tight and didn't do a great job of getting stretched out, but he did a good job of staying focused. He threw well for us tonight."
Despite a two hour and 46 minute rain delay, the game got underway with a small but rowdy crowd on hand. After sitting for so long it's no surprise that Hughey got off to a slow start. In the first Clint Arnold led off with a single to right field that Clete Thomas slipped trying to field, allowing Arnold to cruise into second base. Brock Bond was hit by a Hughey pitch to bring Jake Dugger to the plate. Just trying to bunt the runners over, Dugger got one down in front of Phillip Stringer at third and beat the throw to the bag for the base hit to load the bases.
Reaching down deep, Hughey answered the bell early as he struck out both Scott Hode and Clay Goodwin to bring Danny Hamblin to the plate. The fortune was on Auburn's side this inning as Hamblin hit a liner to Adam Stacey at short for the final out of the inning. The inning would prove to be a pivotal moment for Hughey and the Tigers.
"That wasn't fun after the little bloop hit," Hughey said. "I just had to focus a little bit more and make some pitches and hit some spots and I got out of it."
While he survived in the first, Hughey wouldn't be as fortunate in the second. Leading off the inning John Henry Marquardt reached on an error when he hit a sharp grounder back to the mound that bounced out of Hughey's glove. Walker followed with a single into center field on a ball that could have been caught by Bruce Edwards. A short fly ball was hit into shallow center, but Edwards slipped trying to put on the brakes and the ball fell for a base hit. Following a sacrifice bunt, Arnold plated Marquardt on a sacrifice fly to put Arkansas in the early lead.
The Tigers answered back with a strong third inning against Arkansas starter Nick Schmidt. Edwards led off the inning by earning a walk and Tyler Johnstone followed with a single into left that put a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Following a Clete Thomas walk Josh Bell struck out to bring Karl Amonite to the plate. Fighting off several two-strike pitches, Amonite took a breaking ball the other way through the left side for a single. The hit scored both Edwards and Johnstone to put Auburn ahead 2-1. That's all the Tigers would muster though as the bases were left loaded on a long Stringer fly ball to center field to end the inning.
Auburn added to its lead in the fourth thanks to the bat of the SEC Player of the Week Bell. With one out in the inning Edwards once again got things going with a single to center field. A Johnstone walk followed, bringing Thomas to the plate. The night's controversial play came then as Thomas grounded out to the third baseman on a close play, bringing Bell to the plate. With a tiring lefty on the mound, Bell drilled the first pitch just inside the third base bag for a double to score both runners and put Auburn up 4-1.
Hughey continued to cruise through the Hog hitters heading into the sixth inning. That's when he tied a long-standing Auburn record. Facing Hode and Goodwin to open the frame, Hughey got both on strikes to bring Hamblin to the plate. Getting ahead 1-2, Hughey threw a high fastball that Hamblin swung at for strike three, only the ball got by Bell to allow the batter to reach first. Following a hit-by-pitch, Hughey struck out catcher Brian Walker for a record fourth of the inning and his 10th of the game.
The lead was stretched to four in the bottom of the seventh by an unlikely hitter. Leading off the inning, Amonite walked and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Sprague. One out later Josh Donaldson, who was in for Stringer at third, was hit by a pitch to bring Stacey to the plate. Just four for his last 43 at the plate, Stacey came through with the insurance run as he singled to center to score Amonite and make it 5-1 Auburn. Edwards walked to load the bases for Johnstone, but a diving grab by Craig Gentry in center field kept the lead at four heading to the eighth.
From there Madden did the rest. After entering and retiring the Hogs in order in the seventh, Madden shut down the Razorbacks the final two innings for his fifth save of the season. Hughey said getting the win was huge for this team as it builds onto the momentum gained last weekend in Baton Rouge.
"If we continue to play the way we're playing right now then good things will happen in the SEC season," Hughey says. "To come out and beat Arkansas on Friday gives us a great opportunity to win the series tomorrow and Sunday."
In addition to Bell at the plate Edwards was the only other Tiger with at least two hits. On the day the Tigers totaled nine hits and despite the victory left 12 runners on base.
The Tigers and Razorbacks tangle for game two of the series Saturday at 4 p.m. when Josh Sullivan takes the mound against Charley Boyce for the Hogs. Sullivan is 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA this season while Boyce is 4-3 with an earned run average of 4.42.