A little bit of rain at Plainsman Park was not enough to dampen the Auburn (33-23, 13-17 SEC) offense, and Trey Cochran-Gill (1-1) turned in a 5 2/3 inning relief performance as the Tigers grabbed a third straight conference series win Saturday afternoon over #11 Arkansas (35-19, 18-11). The first SEC tournament game for Auburn will be around 12:30 pm on Tuesday at the Met in Hoover against Alabama, who Auburn went 2-2 against this year.
After the first two games of the series were pitcher dominated affairs, ending 3-0 and 1-0, this game had offense from the beginning. Arkansas got an early run on the board in the top of the first with a Dominic Ficociello RBI double. Auburn tied the game when Jordan Ebert continued his hot, hot ,hot streak with a bomb cranked to left.
The Hogs would pull ahead 2-1 in the next half-inning on a Brett McAfee leadoff bomb that chased Auburn starter Justin Camp after just two hits and nine batters. Coach John Pawlowski went with Trey Cochran-Gill in relief and he did not disappoint. After Arkansas added one more in the fifth, it was 3-1 but that was the last lead of the day for the Razorbacks.
The huge Auburn half of the fifth opened like many big frames seem to, with a leadoff walk to Ryan Tella. He stole second, held at third on a Blake Austin single and scored on a wild play after a Mitchell Self bunt. Self was caught in a rundown following his bunt between first and second and while the defenders were paying him too much attention, Austin went ahead and scored on the heels of Tella to tie the score, 3-3. Self eventually was safe at second on a throwing error by the pitcher, his last throw of the game.
Patrick Savage eventually plated Self, and Dan Glevenyak's HBP drove in another run, pushing the score to 5-3 and forcing the first UA reliever from the game. Ebert singled home Garrett Cooper and the lead grew to 8-3 on Austin's second hit of the inning, a two-run, two-out single. Self reached again with an RBI single but was thrown out in between first and second to end the inning.
Both sides added single runs over the next two innings, before Arkansas closed the gap to 10-6 and finally pushed TCG from the game after 5 2/3 IP and allowing four runs on six hits and getting five strikeouts. Terrance Dedrick recorded the final four outs for the Tigers, the top of the ninth coming after the Tigers' bats tacked on one more run, making it 11-6.
Three Auburn players grabbed three hits on the day (Savage 3-5, Ebert 3-5, Austin 3-4) against one of the top pitching staffs the conference, if not country, has to offer. Arkansas used seven different relievers, gave up 14 hits, and the 11 runs off the Hogs were a season high for UA opponents. We'll hope the hot bats (ignoring Friday) that date back to the end of the Ole Miss series can continue into next week for the Tigers as they play the biggest games of their season, and careers to date.