With three of its top offensive performers out of the game in the first three innings, Auburn came back from a 6-0 deficit and scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning on the way to the victory. With the win, Auburn improves to 28-18 overall and 7-13 in SEC play while Arkansas falls to 34-12, 14-6 in conference action.
With starter Taylor Thompson lasting just three innings Saturday, Auburn had to depend on its offense to get the job done in game two and it happened just that way. Freshmen Robert Brooks and Ross Smith had three hits each as the Tigers pounded out 14 hits in the victory.
It was a game in which the Tigers just didn't give up without Josh Donaldson, Luke Greinke and Joseph Sanders in the lineup after both Donaldson and Greinke were banged up early and Sanders was removed by a coach's decision.
Throw in the ejection of Coach Tom Slater in the sixth inning for arguing a call at first base and you have a lot missing from Auburn's arsenal. In the end it didn't matter because assistant coach Matt Myers says the players knew they had to step up and fortunately they were able to do just that.
"This team doesn't give up," Myers says. "We've shown that before. We as coaches challenged them last night after the game and then Tom (Slater) challenged them in the second inning saying the way they were playing wasn't representing Auburn the right way and they needed to clean it up. Butch (Thompson), Karl (Nonemaker) and myself kept pounding it and pounding it in the dugout to stay in the game.
"It was important that we got the first two runs to take it to a four-run game because that's one big inning away," he adds. "We almost got the third run to cut it in half. After we got those two runs our guys really believed.
"They've got pretty good starters out there. Those two guys we've faced the last two nights and tomorrow are pretty good. It was like in Rocky when you draw blood on Ivan Drago. We drew blood and all of the sudden there was some vulnerability out there. We believed that we could get some at-bats going and our guys never let down."
Robert Brooks had a big day at the plate with three hits, three RBI and three runs scored.
Offensively, it was a true team effort for the Tigers and the story was the same on the mound as the bullpen picked up the slack for Thompson and pitched six strong innings, holding the Razorbacks to three runs. Johnny Thompson, Chris Dennis and Brett Butts were good for the Tigers as Dennis improved his record to 3-3 by allowing just one run in three innings.
Butts got his sixth save with two scoreless innings. Dennis says it was a game in which the team just refused to lose knowing how big the game was for the team.
"If you look at it on paper, Luke and Josh are our two and three-hole hitters and Joseph is our five-hole guy," Dennis says. "We took all of those guys out the game early and it became just one of those days. You've got guys that have been working really hard that hadn't had a lot of opportunities lately and they stepped up today. That was huge.
"They definitely had some opportunities they didn't capitalize on, especially early," Dennis says of the Razorbacks. "They had a chance to put us away. When we started making that comeback we started realizing we were in the game.
"Then all of the sudden once we got their bullpen in there we were scoring more and we were like ‘we're going to win this game.' I think everybody in the dugout, if you talked to them, knew we were going to win that game."
Trailing 6-0 and missing Donaldson with an injured thumb, Greinke with a sore shoulder and Sanders after he failed to run out a pop up on the infield, Auburn started the comeback trail in the bottom of the third with Brooks at the center of the rally for the Tigers. Leading off, he worked a walk to put the Tigers in business. Deciding to play aggressively, Auburn started Brooks from first and Smith delivered with a double off the wall in left field. Running on the play, Brooks scored easily to put the Tigers on the board. After moving to third on a fly ball by Eric Skinner, Smith scored on an infield single to make it 6-2 Razorbacks.
Arkansas got one run back in the top of the fourth before Auburn would again chip into the lead with two more runs. With one out, defensive replacement Justin Bristow took a pitch the opposite way for a double and his first hit of the season after being used exclusively as a pitcher until Wednesday night. Following a fly ball by Dustin Spruill, Brooks again delivered as he singled to right field to score Bristow. It was then time for Smith to come through again as he ripped another double, this one to dead left, to score Brooks and cut the Arkansas lead to three at 7-4.
Justin Bristow had a very good day in his first SEC action of the season in the field.
Both teams added single runs in the fifth and the Hogs a single run in the top of the sixth to make it 9-5 Razorbacks heading to the bottom of the seventh. That's when Auburn would bust loose with perhaps its most important inning of the season.
Leading off the seventh inning Edwards walked and advanced to second when another defensive replacement Andy Bennett was hit by a pitch. At the plate to sacrifice bunt, the third replacement Ryan Jenkins bunted back to the pitcher who cut down Edwards at third for the first out of the inning. From that point forward it was all Auburn.
Getting a pitch to drive, Mike Bianucci ripped a double into left field to score Bennett with the first run of the inning. Following a Bristow walk to load the bases, Spruill's ground ball to the right side scored Jenkins to cut the Arkansas lead back to just two.
Brooks would then come through with the biggest hit of the day as he doubled to right-center to score Bianucci and Bristow and bring Auburn all the way back to even. An infield single by Smith left the Tigers with runners on first and third with two outs for pinch hitter Ben Jones. His ground ball in the hole at second was thrown away at first, allowing Brooks to score and give Auburn its first lead at 10-9.
Auburn added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning with Bristow the man of the hour for the Tigers. Inserted into the lineup in the third inning for Sanders, Bristow already had a hit on the night and in the eighth he helped to build the Auburn lead. Leading off, Bennett singled to center field and with one out advanced to second on a wild pitch. With Bianucci at the plate, Arkansas intentionally walked him to pitch to Bristow.
After moving to second on a wild pitch himself, Bianucci was in position to score when Bristow ripped a single into left field. Bennett scored easily on the play, but a good throw from left field got Bianucci at the plate to keep Auburn's scoring at just one run. Ahead 11-9, Butts shut down the Razorbacks in the ninth to preserve the victory and keep Auburn's hopes for postseason play alive and kicking.
The Tigers go for the series victory on Sunday as they will send sophomore Bryan Woodall to the mound against Jess Todd for the Razorbacks. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.