"The last two innings were not great innings for Auburn baseball that's for sure," Coach John Pawlowski said. "We gave up five runs in the last two innings after scoring two in the bottom of the seventh. We had a miscue and a missed sign. I told the kids that's the difference sometimes, those little things we've got to get better at. We've got to regroup tomorrow. The way you get to the SEC Tournament is to avoid being swept at home or on the road. Tomorrow is a big game. Paul Burnside will need to step up for us."
Trailing 5-4 heading to the seventh inning, Auburn was looking for something offensively and got it from Sanders. With one out, pinch hitter Wes Gilmer walked and was replaced by runner Bradley Ray. He immediately stole second to move into scoring position and was joined on the bases by Justin Hargett on a walk. Another walk to Trent Mummey loaded the bases for Sanders.
Blazing hot to start the season, Sanders was hitless in his last 12 at-bats before stepping to the plate against Arkansas closer Stephen Richards. Getting a pitch to hit, Sanders pulled it through the left side for a single to score two runs and put Auburn in front 6-5. Mummey moved to third on the play and still with one out, the Tigers had a chance to break it open, but Richards came back to strike out Ben Jones and Hunter Morris to end the threat.
With reliever Bradley Hendrix in the game after coming on in the sixth, the Tigers were hoping to get through an inning before going to closer Austin Hubbard in the ninth. Things didn't happen as expected though as catcher Ryan Cisterna hit a pop up to Sanders at third. Losing the ball in the sun, Sanders completely missed the ball to allow Cisterna to reach first base.
That play seemed to take Auburn completely out of sorts as Hubbard came on and walked two in between getting two outs before DH Jacob House singled to left field to score two runs and put Arkansas back in front 7-6.
The Tigers had a chance to get those runs back in the bottom of the inning against Richards as Brian Fletcher walked to lead off and Casey McElroy singled to put the Tigers in business. A sacrifice bunt by Tony Caldwell moved both runners into scoring position with one out with Ray at the plate. Auburn put on the squeeze play with Hargett racing home, but Ray didn't get the signal and swung away, lining into a double play to end the inning.
In the ninth Arkansas scored three more runs on three hits and a pair of walks by Hubbard to break open the game on the way to winning their second series of the young SEC season.
"I thought we did have some chances, but the biggest thing is Arkansas scored all their runs with two outs," Pawlowski said. "They stepped up with two outs and had several two-out base hits. That was the difference.
"Then you look at what we did pitching-wise," he said. "We gave up 11 free bases via hit by pitch, I think we hit two or three guys, and then eight walks or so. You give up 11 free bases to any team, let alone a team like Arkansas in the SEC, and it's tough to be tough. We certainly couldn't overcome that today."
Auburn catcher Tony Caldwell guns down Cisterna on a steal attempt as Casey McElroy tags him out.
Auburn played the ultimate game of small ball to take the game's first lead. In the bottom of the first, Mummey walked and moved to second when Sanders as hit by a pitch. Following a bunt by Jones to move both runners into scoring position, Morris hit a smash to Scott Lyons at second base. He made the play and threw to first, but Mummey scored on the play to give Auburn the early 1-0 advantage.
It didn't take long for the Razorbacks to get on the scoreboard against Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs as Andrew Darr singled with one out in the second to get the visitors going. After getting Friday's hero Cisterna on a strikeout, the redshirt freshman looked like he would get out of the inning, but he hit number nine hitter Collin Kuhn with a pitch and that opened the floodgates for Arkansas.
Leadoff hitter Chase Leavitt followed with a double to right-center to score both runners and draw first blood for the visitors. Lyons then singled home Leavitt to make it 3-1 Arkansas heading to the bottom of the second.
Up first for the Tigers, shortstop McElroy hit a chopper over the head of Forrest for an infield single. Still at first two outs later, McElroy was able to trot home as Justin Hargett smashed his second home run of the season over the K Corner in right field. That tied the game at three with Jacobs settling in on the mound.
Arkansas took the lead back in the top of the sixth with two runs on three hits, but the Tigers cut into that advantage in the bottom of the inning and barely missed another run. Leading things off, Jones hit a liner into right field that Leavitt pulled down from above the wall, robbing him of a home run. That proved to be huge as Morris followed with a solo shot, his fifth of the season. Instead of tied, Auburn was down by one, setting the stage for the late Arkansas victory.
Auburn will try to salvage a win on Sunday as senior Paul Burnside takes the mound against Arkansas starter Drew Smyly. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.