Wow, what a weekend! The Tigers' bats went insane and Auburn came away with yet another SEC series victory.
Game 1: Auburn 15-2.
Auburn's pitching from Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize has been fantastic all season long. Friday night, Keegan was again on fire and boy did he have an offense to back him up.
Thompson pitched six complete innings, allowing 7 hits, 2 runs, no walks, and 7 strikeouts against the Razorbacks. You hate to see any runs on the board, but when the offense puts up double-digits, then 2 runs is nothing.
Most of the runs for Auburn were scored in the 1st and 3rd innings. The Tigers went through the order twice before the 3rd inning was complete. Daniel Robert homered in the first and Josh Anthony hit the first homer of his Auburn career in the 3rd as a part of the run onslaughts. Anthony's home run led to one of the best moments of the night in the team's "silent treatment" reaction.
Josh Anthony celebrated his home run by himself for a minute before his Auburn baseball teammates joined in. AU up 13-2 over Arkansas pic.twitter.com/Pxn2hIiPTw— Lauren Shute (@LShute13) April 22, 2017
The Tigers led 13-2 at the end of that inning and added 2 more in the 5th with a Dylan Ingram home run for the Tigers' 3rd on the night.
Calvin Coker came on in relief of Keegan Thompson in the 7th and allowed 2 hits in 3 innings, striking out 3 and walking none, though he did hit a batter in the 9th.
Over the last few games, we've really seen Auburn's bats come alive. To chase an ace pitcher like Arkansas' Blaine Knight from the game in 2 and a 1/3 is very impressive. The Tigers have knocked out ace pitchers early in multiple games this season. If it all comes together consistently in the 2nd half of the SEC season, then boy this could be a lot of fun.
Game 2: 3-7 Arkansas
Game 2 started in a similar fashion to Game 1, as the Tigers got on the board with 2 runs in the 1st and 1 in the 2nd for the 3-0 lead. Davis Daniel pitched well for yet another game, but Auburn's bullpen woes and at times stagnant hitting once again came back to haunt the Tigers.
Daniel allowed the Razorbacks to tie the game at 3 in the 3rd inning. He was pulled after the 5th inning and replaced with Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell earned the loss for this game as walked 3 batters and gave up 2 runs in the 6th. That was all Arkansas would need, though, as their bullpen did an excellent job of shutting the Tigers down. Auburn had chances to make a mark in the game. At one point thanks to walks and hit-by-pitches, the Tigers had the bases loaded. Unfortunately, they couldn't do anything with it and the Razorbacks took Game 2.
Game 3: Auburn 11-6
Auburn's batters came back with a vengeance Sunday afternoon in a back-and-forth game that ended 11-6 in the Tigers' favor. Josh Anthony went 4-5 with multiple multi-base hits and RBIs to lead the Tigers' offensive explosion. Meanwhile, Andrew Mitchell bounced back from his rough inning Saturday night to pitch 5 innings and only allow a single run.
Arkansas got on the board first in this one with a run in the 2nd inning. Auburn quickly responded with a 2-run Luke Jarvis home run and a 2-run Jonah Todd double to take the 4-1 lead. The teams traded runs in the 3rd before Arkansas tied it up in the 5th. Auburn again took the lead 6-5 in the 4th and held it there until the 7th inning when Arkansas tied the game for the last time.
Auburn blew the game open in the 7th after Josh Anthony scored 2 on a double to left field. A Bo Decker double then scored Anthony for the 9-6 lead. In the 8th, Dylan Ingram hit one off his own face (on the scoreboard that is) for a solo home run. After Luke Jarvis doubled, he was then driven in by yet another Josh Anthony double to reach the final margin of 11-6.
Ryan Watson started the day for the Tigers, pitching 3 innings before being replaced by Calvin Coker. He lasted an inning before being replaced by Andrew Mitchell, who closed out the game. He allowed only 3 hits and 1 run. He really only had one bad inning and shut the Razorbacks down completely in the 8th and 9th to earn the win and get the Tigers the series victory.
The Way Forward
This weekend proved one big thing for Auburn's hitters: when you come against them, you better bring your dirtiest shit. If you give them balls over the plate, they are going to destroy you. That's what happened Friday and Sunday as Auburn exploded for a combined 26 runs on those two days. And, when you're hitting like that, it gives a ton of confidence to your pitchers.
Auburn has now won multiple SEC series against Top 15 competition. They've done it twice without an ace pitcher. They knocked off South Carolina without Keegan Thompson and now Arkansas without Casey Mize. That's downright amazing. It also speaks very highly of Butch Thompson that he would pull an ace pitcher in a series this big in order to protect that pitcher's arm. His confidence in the rest of the team that they can still get the volume done should be a huge boost to the team's morale and confidence in themselves, as well.
At the plate, Jonah Todd, Luke Jarvis, Jay Estes, and Daniel Robert have all been on fire this season. We wondered how they'd replace last year's production, and we've had that question answered definitively. Josh Anthony - whose fielding has been spectacular at 3rd - finding his bat this weekend and increasing his batting average by .40 in what is sure to be a SEC Player of the Week performance makes them even more dangerous.
We've long since realized it, but this series just reinforced it even more: this is a very good Auburn baseball team. They're built perfectly for a deep postseason run, too. We'll see what happens when we get there, but right now we're watching the best Auburn baseball team in nearly a decade. It's at least the best since 2010. It may be the best since Hal Baird was patrolling the dugout.
Auburn will face Troy in a midweek game Tuesday at 6:00 pm before traveling to Starkville for yet another series against the team leading the SEC. We'll see if they can knock off the league leader two weeks in a row as they take on the red-hot Bulldogs who just swept Alabama this weekend.
I have every confidence that it will be an amazing series. Go get 'em, Auburn!