Once again Auburn got a fantastic pitching performance as Cory Luckie was the definition of a hard-luck loser on Saturday. In six-plus innings Luckie allowed just three earned runs to take the loss and fall to 3-3 on the season. Coach Tommy Slater said his team's defense was the difference in Saturday's game.
"Cory was really good," Slater said. "He was outstanding. He really threw the ball well for us. He pitched his heart out. It's unfortunate. Those two errors in the third inning, we gave them the two runs. The leadoff hitter, not a well-hit ball, and we make a throwing error. Really the bunt defense we messed up, that was a mental error, we didn't get first base covered.
"(Joseph Sanders) gets charged for the error on the throw, but that's not his fault. We didn't get it covered. That's a mental error. Those two runs that they scored in that inning come off two errors. It was really a day when they didn't hit the ball hard off Corey hardly at all. We just need to do a little bit better job in the third of playing defense and not giving up those two runs."
At the plate the Tigers got production from the bottom of the order as Brian Fletcher came through with two doubles and scored two runs while Ryan Jenkins added a pair of two-out hits that scored runs. Sanders added two hits as well with Matt Hall extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
It took all that just to stay in the game as the top of the order had a dreadful day for the Tigers as Razorback starter Justin Wells did a masterful job in the win. Hitters 1-4 in the Auburn lineup combined to go 0-14 on Saturday with junior fight fielder Mike Bianucci striking out three times. Slater said the offensive output is something that has to improve beginning on Sunday.
"The bottom half of our lineup was really good again," Slater said. "Fletch with a couple of doubles, he's really swinging the bat well right now. Ryan Jenkins, his first at bat a ground ball to second base moves the runner to third. That was a very nice quality at bat right there…Jenks is swinging it well. Really the bottom half of our lineup has been swinging it well of late.
"The lineup for the most part up and down has been swinging it real well. The last couple of days it has been the bottom that is swinging it better than the top. We've got good kids and they're working hard. I'm sure they'll all be ready to go tomorrow."
Auburn got the first lead of the day, but it didn't come until the top of the third inning. Leading off, Fletcher doubled to left field and moved to second on a ground ball off the bat of catcher Jenkins. Hall then did his job with a fly ball to left field. That easily scored Fletcher to put the Tigers on the board.
The Razorbacks answered back in the bottom of the third thanks to some shaky defense by the Tigers. Leading off, Ryan Sisterna reached on an error by Joseph Sanders at third base. Following a single by Scott Lyons, Sanders made his second error of the inning as Sean Jones' grounder to him at third was thrown away at first. The error allowed Sisterna to score and put runners on first and second with nobody out. Luckie managed to allow just one more run on a sacrifice fly to keep the damage to a minimum.
Fletcher made the play of the day in the bottom of the fourth to keep the lead at just one. With two outs Sisterna hit a deep fly ball to left that Fletcher brought back into the field for out number three.
Jenkins continued his solid play for the Tigers in the top of the fifth as a Sanders leadoff single and a stolen base following a Kevin Patterson fly out moved him into scoring position. Fletcher struck out for the second out of the inning to bring Jenkins to the plate. Getting a pitch to hit to the right side, Jenkins just pushed it through for the single to score Sanders to tie the game at two.
Arkansas again answered back in the bottom of the sixth off Luckie as a leadoff walk to Logan Forsythe came back to haunt the freshman. Moving to second on a ground ball, Forsythe scored on a bloop single to right field off the bat of Brett Eibner. Luckie then helped himself as he picked Eibner off first base just moments before Tim Smalling's triple to center field. Luckie came back to strike out Andrew Darr to end the inning with the Hogs up 3-2.
Fletcher and Jenkins again teamed up in the top of the seventh for the Tigers to push across a run and tie the game once again. With two outs and nobody on Fletcher doubled to right field and Jenkins delivered with a single to center field. With the game tied once again Auburn had to hold the Razorbacks, but that wasn't to be.
Very good through six innings, Luckie couldn't make it through seven as the Razorbacks jumped on the freshman and knocked him out of the game. Cisterna led off the inning with a double and, after moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, scored on a sacrifice fly to put the Hogs back in front. Ben Tschepikow singled to chase Luckie from the game as Scott Shuman came in in relief. A passed by moved the runner to second where he scored on a Logan Forsythe single. That would be all for the Razorbacks, but it was enough as Auburn managed just one more run.
It came in the top of the eighth as Justin Hargett walked to lead off the inning. Following a Bianucci strikout, his fifth in two days, Hunter Morris' fly ball for the second out of the inning put the Tigers in a bind, but back to back singles by Sanders and Patterson pushed across the fourth run of the game with Fletcher coming to the plate. Patterson stole second to move into scoring position, but Fletcher struck out to end the threat with Auburn trailing 5-4. That's the way things would finish as Steven Richards pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save.
Auburn will look to win its third consecutive series on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. with freshman Bradley Hendrix getting his second start in SEC play.