With the win and a deluge of rain in the Southeast postponing the rest of the league action, Auburn stands alone in first place in the SEC West after starting 0-3 in the league with a sweep at the hands of Florida. Facing a powerful Arkansas offense, the story of the game was Auburn's pitching. Coach Tommy Slater said that Dayton's performance allowed his team to peck away on offense and get the big victory, but some credit is due to the coaching staff as well.
"I just want to give a lot of credit to Butch Thompson (Auburn's pitching coach) and Bill Mosiello (Auburn's offensive coach)," Slater said. "I thought Mo ran a great offense tonight. I thought our kids executed tremendously. We got a lot of bunts down, just a tremendous job. I thought the pitch calling by Butch was outstanding. The bullpen management of Butch and Sully (Scott Sullivan) was outstanding. Just a great job by all of our assistant coaches and the players because they're the ones that go out and execute it.
"Grant was really good," Slater added. "He's so deceptive. His fastball is typically in that 84-86 MPH range. He was just beating their bats with the fastball, but it looks a lot harder than that to hitters. He's got great deception. Our hitters hate hitting off him and most teams do. Guys don't see him and he just gets on top of them. He certainly did that tonight."
Throwing a career high 111 pitches, Dayton gave up two in the second on a home run, but settled in to carve up the Razorbacks the rest of the way. Despite not having his usual breaking ball, Dayton was able to get the job done in the win on a very cold night.
"I was struggling with the off speed, not because it was cold," Dayton said. ‘I wasn't able to get the job done with that and I've got to work on it this week. As for the cold I took time and warmed up extra before the game and I was able to get the fastball over the plate.
At the plate the Tigers were led by Brian Fletcher and Matt Hall with two hits and one RBI each. Part of a 10-hit night for the Tigers that saw production up and down the lineup, the duo came through time and time again in the victory. Catcher Ryan Jenkins was the unsung hero of the game with a double and also a key sacrifice bunt, something Jenkins said he worked on this week to be able to help the team when he was at the plate.
"I was glad I got the help out the team in a lot of ways tonight," Jenkins said. "Mo worked real hard with me this week on getting my bunts down. He said with the kind of hitter I'm going to be, pretty much if you're going to hit .220 then you're going to have to bunt. We worked really hard this week and I felt comfortable doing it."
Continuing a trend it was Auburn that got on the board first in Friday's game against Springston. With one out in the second third baseman Joseph Sanders singled and immediately stole second to move into scoring position. Up next, designated hitter Kevin Patterson singled sharply to put runners on the corners for Fletcher.
The freshman left fielder did his job with a deep fly ball to right that scored Sanders and moved Patterson to second. That set the table for catcher Jenkins and he came through with a double just inside the bag at first base. Patterson scored and just like that it was 2-0 Tigers.
It didn't take Arkansas long to get those runs back as a leadoff walk by Dayton proved to be costly. Playing in just his second game of the season, catcher Jeff Nutt homered to right field. The blast tied the game and gave the Razorbacks some life on a cold night in Fayetteville.
Auburn answered back in the top of the third as second baseman Justin Hargett led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Right fielder Mike Bianucci then reached on an error by the Arkansas shortstop to put runners on the corners with nobody out. A ground ball by Hunter Morris scored Hargett, but Bianucci was cut down at second. Despite a Morris steal of second that's all the Tigers could muster, but it was enough to take the lead back 3-2.
With Dayton doing the job on the mound the Tigers came back for more in the fourth. Leading off, Fletcher worked a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jenkins. Then it was Hall time. One of Auburn's hottest hitters the last two weeks, Hall got a 3-1 count and lined a pitch up the middle for a single. Fletcher scored easily on the play and put the Tigers up two runs at the halfway point of Friday's game.
The Tigers extended the lead in the seventh off Springston as Hall led off the inning with a double down the left field line. A perfect bunt by Trent Mummey followed as he reached for a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out for Hargett. Although the freshman hit into a double play, Hall scored to make it 5-2 Auburn.
That would be the end of the night for Dayton as Hurst came on to pitch in the bottom of the seventh and immediately gave up a single to Nutt. Getting ahead 0-2 to Brett Eibner, Hurst hit him with a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate. Bearing down, the big sophomore sidewinder came back to strike out Tim Smalling, and a fly ball to left for out number two before leadoff man Sean Jones came to the plate. Once again getting ahead 0-2, Hurst got Jones on a pop up to end the threat and keep Auburn's lead at three.
Woodall made the victory stand up as he pitched two scoreless innings to earn his eighth save of the season. Dayton said getting a Friday night win was huge, but this team has bigger goals for the weekend.
"A Friday night game is huge," Dayton said. "The way the weekend is going to start off is how the Friday night game goes. I feel like we have a good chance to get the win tomorrow and even Sunday."
On Saturday the Tigers send freshman Cory Luckie (3-2, 3.05) to the mound against junior right-hander Justin Wells (1-0, 4.56) for the Hogs. The game time is scheduled for 2 p.m.