"It didn't start out the way we wanted it to, but the job that Slade Smith did," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "I don't really know how many ground balls he wound up getting but a tremendous, tremendous job from him. It gave us a chance because you look at the game and we didn't have anything going offensively. All of the sudden it was like the switched flipped and we put up eight runs in one inning. I'm excited for the kids. It was a good win to come back from being down early in the ballgame."
The story of the game on the mound for the Tigers was the pitching of Smith. Coming in after starter Stephen Kohlscheen struggled to get out of the first, the freshman picked up his first career SEC win and said for him it was just the mindset of keeping his team in the game after being down three after one inning.
"I come out and my main goal was just to keep us in the game," Smith said. "I knew that our bats would get hot and they did. I'm glad I had a chance to get in the game and keep us in it."
At the plate Morris was the star of the day with his two home runs in the fifth and three RBI leading the Tigers, but he wasn't the only guy as Justin Fradejas, Brian Fletcher and Ryan Jenkins all added a pair of hits as well.
Auburn was hoping to get off to a good start in the top of the first as Fradejas lined the first pitch into left field and raced into second base for a leadoff double. Following a sacrifice bunt by Trent Mummey, Brian Fletcher hit a shallow fly ball into right field. Deciding to test Collin Kuhn's arm proved to be a bad mistake for Fradejas and the Tigers as he was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
It didn't take long for the Kohlscheen experiment as a starter to unravel for the Tigers as he got the first batter he faced, but a hard hit ball by Bo Bigham couldn't be handled by Morris at first base and that started the quick downhill slide for the Tigers. Following a walk to Zach Cox, Brett Eibner came to the plate and worked the count full before getting a pitch to drive. He did just that as he launched it over the left field wall for his 16th home run of the season.
While Arkansas (35-9, 14-6) didn't score any more runs off Kohlscheen, they did work him into a full count two more times with a walk to Monk Kreder thrown in for good measure. Finally getting out of it with 45 pitches thrown, that was all on the day as Smith came in to start the second inning for Auburn hoping to keep his team in the game.
He did just that and Auburn's offense finally got going in the fifth. With just one hit and 32 total pitches faced through four, the Tigers were looking for a spark and it came on a 2-2 pitch as Morris hit a liner over the right field wall to put Auburn on the scoreboard. Following a single by Tony Caldwell and a Casey McElroy flyout, Jenkins hit a bomb to left field for his third homer of the year. That tied the game at three, but Auburn was just getting started.
Third baseman Dan Gamache continue the onslaught as he drilled a solo shot to right field to put Auburn in front 4-3. That would be all for Arkansas starter Randall Fant as reliever Jeremy Heatley came on to try to shut down the Tigers. It didn't work though as, following a Justin Hargett groundout, a Fradejas single and a walk to Mummey brought Fletcher to the plate. Jumping on the first pitch, Fletcher doubled to left field to score both runners and make it 6-3 Auburn. That meant Morris would get another swing in the inning and he made it pay off with a long home run to right field. His second four-bagger of the inning put Auburn up 8-3 and gave Smith a chance for his first SEC win.
"The first at-bat leading off the inning, I was just looking to get on base and have a quality at-bat," Morris said. "Their pitcher had done a good job of getting ahead of us and working early in the count. Fortunately I was thinking double out of the box, but it got up an extra foot or so.
"The second at-bat I didn't have to think about it very long," he added. "I hit that ball and I pretty well knew it was gone."
Arkansas came up with a pair of hits to get one back in the bottom of the sixth, and again threatened in the seventh. Getting the first two outs, Smith gave up a single to Kuhn and walked Eibner to bring his day to a close. With the lefty Wilkins at the plate, Auburn went to Sean Ray. Working the count to full, Wilkins singled past Hargett at second to make it 8-5 Auburn. Hubbard then came on and immediately threw a wild pitch that scored Eibner and moved Wilkins to second. Another wild pitch moved him to third, but a groundout brought the inning to a close with Auburn now leading just 8-6.
Following a scoreless eighth by Hubbard, he had three more outs to finish it off. After getting a strikeout to open the ninth, once again Auburn's defense would cost the Tigers as an error by Hargett brought Eibner to the plate and he delivered with a single to left field. That brought the winning run to the plate in the form of the big lefty Wilkins. His single to center field scored a run to make it 8-7 Auburn and the throw to third by Mummey allowed Wilkins to advance to second with still just one out. A shallow fly ball from Kreder to right wasn't deep enough to score the tying run bringing pinch hitter Tom Hauksey to the plate. Getting ahead 0-2 Hubbard struck Hauksey out on a check swing to seal the victory for the Tigers with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.
"It's a huge win," Hubbard said. "Us being down three and scoring those eight runs in the fifth inning was a huge momentum change from the second half of yesterday's game. This is a huge win. We're still right in the thick of things in the SEC. They are a few games in front of us I think. Tomorrow will be a huge game and a lot of fun for us."
Auburn will send junior lefty Grant Dayton to the mound on Sunday looking for the series win while the Razorbacks will counter with Eibner. Game time for Sunday is 1 p.m.