The Tigers bombed the nation's number three ranked pitching staff for 16 hits including home runs from Trent Mummey, Kevin Patterson and Ryan Jenkins to move to within two games of Arkansas (35-10, 14-7) in the race for the SEC Western Division title.
While the offense will get much of the attention, and deservedly so, Auburn's Mr. Sunday did it again for the Tigers as Grant Dayton was on top of his game from beginning to his last pitch in the seventh inning. Earning his fifth win of the year, the junior allowed just two runs on six hits in seven innings and struck out 10 while walking only one.
"Today was obviously a very important game for a lot of reasons," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "We talk about championship Sunday and getting the game to Sunday, in my opinion it starts with the guy you've got on the mound. Grant Dayton was outstanding for us today. Sean Ray came in and threw strikes too. I think we walked two guys today. We kept them off-balance. It's a big win for us in this environment and gives the guys some confidence and something to build on."
Dayton has been the key to Auburn's Sunday success this season as the Tigers are now 6-1 in the final game of SEC series. On a day when he had his off speed pitch working, Dayton said his job was just to allow his offense to do its thing by keeping Arkansas off the board.
"I had heard a lot about how good they are and how good their bats are so I had to keep my plan simple," Dayton said. "I was able to do that. I threw a lot of fastballs and I thought my off speed was good too. That's huge for me to be able to throw my off speed for strikes and to keep them off balance because I usually don't have that going for me. Today I did and I think that was the big difference today."
The home run for Mummey was just a small part of a big day for the junior as he went 3-5 with a pair of runs scored in the win. Brian Fletcher also added three hits on the game as the Tigers did a great job of getting to the Arkansas bullpen after knocking starter Brett Eibner out of the game.
With Dayton pitching well, the Auburn bats finally got going in the fourth inning against Eibner. Leading off the inning, Mummey got a pitch to drive and deposited it over the right field wall for a home run. The solo shot was his ninth of the season and got the offense jump started. A pair of singles from Fletcher and Dan Gamache surrounded a walk to Hunter Morris to load the bases with nobody out. Following a strikeout, shortstop Casey McElroy singled to center field to score two and make it 3-0 Auburn. That would be all for Eibner as Arkansas went to the bullpen for Jordan Pratt and he shut the door on the Tigers to keep the lead at three.
In the bottom of the fourth the Tigers got some relief from Mummey in the field as well. With two outs and a pair of runners on base, Arkansas hit what looked to be a hit into the gap. Racing over from center field, Mummey dove and caught the ball to keep Arkansas off the board. That proved to be a huge play as it kept the momentum in Auburn's favor.
Auburn added to its lead in the top of the sixth as a leadoff walk to Patterson and a sacrifice bunt by McElroy brought Jenkins to the plate with a chance to extend the Tigers' advantage. Getting a pitch away, the senior doubled to right-center to easily score Patterson and make it 4-0 Tigers.
After a strong first five innings, Dayton finally showed a chink in the armor in the bottom of the sixth. Leading off the inning, Zack Cox homered to right field to break up the shutout. One out later Andy Wilkins followed suit with a solo shot to right as well. With the lead cut in half Dayton recovered to get out of the inning with a pair of fly ball outs by the Razorbacks.
The Tigers came right back in the top of the seventh to extend the lead once again. Leading off with a walk, Mummey drew a wild throw from relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger and moved all the way to third on the error. A single by Fletcher easily scored Mummey to make it 5-2 Tigers, but they weren't done yet. Following a Morris strikeout, back to back singles by Wes Gilmer and Patterson added another run to push the advantage to four. Following a wild pitch that moved both runners over, McElroy delivered his second two-run single of the game to make it 8-2 Auburn.
Following a scoreless half from Dayton, the Tigers continued their offensive onslaught in the top of the eighth. A single by Justin Fradejas extended his hitting streak to 26 games to start the inning and he quickly stole second to move into scoring position. A single to left by Mummey put runners on the corners with nobody out and the meat of the Auburn order coming to the plate. Already with a pair of hits on the day, an infield single by Fletcher scored Fradejas to make it a seven-run lead.
Auburn had a chance for more though as Mummey stole third on a strikeout by Morris to put runners on the corners with Gilmer at the plate. Attempting to squeeze a run home, Gilmer's bunt wasn't quite good enough as pitcher Geoffrey Davenport fielded the ball and threw Mummey out at the plate. It didn't kill Auburn's momentum in the slightest though as Patterson got a fastball from the lefty and drilled it over the wall in right field for his 12th homer of the season and just the second with a runner on base.
Now up 12-2, Auburn turned things over to the bullpen to start the eighth inning as Sean Ray came in to pitch. Despite allowing a pair of hits, he got out of the frame without allowing a run. In the top of the ninth Jenkins added his second home run of the series to make it 13-2 Tigers with only three outs remaining, which Ray took care of quickly to seal with win and the series for Auburn.
Now just two games out of first place in the West behind Arkansas, Auburn moves in front of LSU after the Tigers were swept at Florida this weekend. Overall the Tigers move to fifth in the SEC standings after Vanderbilt had the final two games of its series against Georgia lost due to rain.
Auburn will return to action this coming weekend at Plainsman Park as the Tigers play host to Mississippi State and Tennessee the next two weekends at home before finishing the regular season at Ole Miss.