Auburn, Ala.--Arkansas first baseman Danny Hamblin hit two home runs and pitcher Nick Schmidt needed just 114 pitches in a complete game as the Razorbacks pounded the Auburn Tigers 12-1 in the series opener Friday night at Plainsman Park. Arkansas batters totaled four home runs and Auburn had just four hits as the loss drops them to 27-18 overall and 6-13 in SEC play. With the victory Arkansas improves to 34-11, 14-5 in conference play.
Without normal Friday night starter Paul Burnside in the opener against the Razorbacks, the Tigers turned to fellow sophomore Evan Crawford to try to get the weekend off to a good start. This season Auburn has struggled in all phases of the game without Burnside or Taylor Thompson on the mound and it was more of the same Friday night. Slater says although Crawford didn't perform well, he did a good job of staying in the game to keep Auburn's bullpen fresh for the rest of the weekend.
"While the linescore is as ugly as can be, obviously, what he did do was eat innings for us," Slater says. "On a night like tonight when you get behind early like that and you're not scoring a lot of runs you need your guy to eat innings and he did. He ate seven innings for us tonight and it saves our bullpen for the weekend, particularly coming off a 16 inning game Wednesday night. That was the one positive tonight for Evan Crawford, that he ate seven innings for us."
Schmidt, on the other hand, was terrific as he earned his ninth win of the season. Allowing just four hits and one earned run, the big left-hander struck out eight Auburn hitters and walked three in the victory. Slater says his team gave an early lead to the wrong pitcher Friday night.
"You give up a four-spot in the first to Nick Schmidt and he's going to do exactly what he did and that's dominate our hitters for nine innings," Slater says. "They extended the lead throughout the game. It was a great job of offense by Arkansas. They continued to build and expand their lead and Nick was a stud tonight, that's the bottom line."
Facing a team that has lived off big innings this year, Crawford got off to a rough start as Ben Tschepikow singled through the left side to get the Razorbacks started. One out later Jeff Nutt singled to right field and advanced to second when Ross Smith threw to third base to try to cut down the lead runner.
It wouldn't matter in this inning as Casey Coon's infield single to third base scored the first run of the game and brought Hamblin to the plate looking to put an early stamp on this contest. Getting a pitch to drive, Hamblin hit a rocket just over the wall in left-center for a three-run home run. It was his 14th of the season and the 15th time this season Arkansas had scored four runs in an inning.
With a commanding lead in the first, Schmidt settled into an early rhythm that Auburn never really figured out. The Tigers did manage a single run in the second as freshman Joseph Sanders doubled to deep center field and scored on fellow freshman Smith's single to center field. It would be the only time Schmidt showed any signs at all of allowing a run until the eighth inning.
Freshman Joseph Sanders had Auburn's only extra-base hit of the night and scored the only run.
By that time the Razorbacks had blown things wide open and led 10-1. A single run in the third off Crawford got the run back Auburn scored in the second. With one out, Logan Forsythe doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. From there he would score on a ground ball to make it 5-1 Razorbacks. It was the fourth that did in the Tigers for good. A single by Jake Dugger got Arkansas started and Jeff Nutt followed with a bunt single.
A walk to Brian Walker then loaded the bases with nobody out and the top of the Razorback order coming to the plate. A single by Sean Jones scored the first of three runs in the inning as a ground ball and sacrifice fly followed to make it 8-1 Arkansas heading to the bottom of the fourth. It was the 21st time this season Arkansas has scored three runs in an inning.
The only problem for Auburn was they weren't done. With Crawford still plugging away, Arkansas added a single run in the fifth for an eight run lead. Schmidt continued to dominate on the mound and Arkansas poured it on offensively off reliever Josh Blake with another single run in the eighth before Coon's two-run homer in the top of the ninth gave Arkansas the last of its 12 runs on the night.
Auburn will look to even the series on Saturday as freshman Taylor Thompson will take the hill for the Tigers against Duke Welker for the Razorbacks. The game is set to begin at 2 p.m. at Plainsman Park.