Arkansas vs. Auburn

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ resilient Razorbacks overcame 4-0 and 5-0 deficits to Auburn Friday and Saturday for 6-5 victories, Saturday’s on Christian Franklin’s 10th-inning RBI single past third, to win two of their 3-game SEC West baseball series at Baum-Walker Stadium.

“Just another great win by the team,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said of Saturday’s success not only overcoming a 5-0 deficit but overcoming hitting into four doubleplays and stranding 13 runners. “Very resilient. Very rarely do you leave 13 runners on and hit into four double plays and still win. Great job by our team hanging in there.”

Franklin hit into three doubleplays for the series with two on Saturday.

Auburn Coach Butch Thompson set up another DP situation in the 10th inning ordering reliever Trace Bright intentionally walking Robert Moore to face Franklin after Zack Gregory’s 1-out double.

Did it cross Franklin’s mind they dared him to hit into yet another doubleplay?

“It didn’t really cross my mind,” Franklin, unable to keep a straight face, stated then recanted, ‘Well yeah it did cross my mind when they put him on. I knew exactly what they were doing. Honestly, I expected them to put him on in that situation because there was only one out. But once I got to the plate all those thoughts kind of cleared my mind. I was just trying to square the ball up and put a good swing on it. That third baseman almost snagged it. My heart stopped for a second but I saw it got by and that was pure excitement and happiness for my team.”

And himself.

“I’ve never had a walk-off hit,” Franklin said. “It was awesome!”

Van Horn wasn’t surprised his junior Preseason All-American center fielder came through.

“I was excited about it,” Van Horn said of seeing Moore walked preceding Franklin. “I felt like Christian Franklin had hit six balls right on the nose this weekend. The shortstop (Ryan Bliss) backhanded one of them and turned a double play. He hit a ball on Thursday night with a runner at second, and the shortstop picked it. The ball was hit 107 miles an hour, something like that.

The center fielder (Kason Hall) robbed him last (Friday) night. Sometimes the law of averages catches up. I felt like if anybody deserved to get a hit, it was Christian.”

Other than Braydon Webb’s solo home run, the Razorbacks couldn’t dent Auburn Tigers pitching in Thursday night’s 2-1 loss squandering a superb combined pitching effort by Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander, the hard-luck loser on an unearned run, for six complete, and Kevin Kopps finishing with three scoreless, 1-hit innings while striking out eight.

Van Horn fretted opening the series spending Kopps three innings in a losing cause.

Kopps determined that finish was just the start to his weekend relief. The senior right-hander pitched a 1-2-3 ninth while striking out two saving Friday’s 6-5 victory for reliever Jackson Wiggins after a sterling 4 1-3 innings long relief by Benton’s Peyton Pallette on behalf of struggling Friday night starter Zebulon Vermillion.

Saturday inheriting Arkansas down 5-4 to pitch the ninth, Kopps survived a leadoff walk to keep the Tigers scoreless before Webb, running for Matt Goodheart who walked leading off Arkansas’ ninth, was singled to third by freshman Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier then scored the 5-5 tying run on Brady Slavens’ sacrifice fly.

Kopps, 65 pitches and five innings for his three games in three days, turned it over to Wiggins for Saturday’s scoreless 10th.

“That was an incredible effort,” Van Horn marveled of Kopps’ series. “To me, he’s worthy of an SEC Pitcher of the Week type award. He’s our MVP of the weekend, I’ll tell you that.”

Pallette on Friday night also praised Kopps.

“The craziest stuff I’ve ever seen going coming up with strikeouts,” Pallette said. “Everybody in the dugout whenever he comes in is he’s going to get three outs really quick.”

Van Horn praised Pallette Friday night.

“Give Peyton Pallette for coming in and giving us three or four quality innings,” Van Horn said after Auburn jumped on Vermillion. “ I think they scored one run on him and he gave us a chance.”

Gregory, a pinch-hit triple during Friday’s 5-run seventh- inning which tied it before Arkansas won it 6-5 scorning on an eighth-inning wild pitch, and delivering the big ninth-inning double Saturday, and Wallace, 6 for 11 against Auburn, logged pivotal at bats.

“A great performance by Wallace,” Van Horn said. “He was kind of fearless. I can’t say enough for Zack Gregory this series.”

Arkansas takes 22-4 overall and 7-2 SEC records into nonconference games Tuesday and Wednesday at Baum-Walker vs. the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans at 6:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. then plays Ole Miss in a 3-game SEC West series Friday through Sunday in Oxford, Miss.

Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3, Sports Action

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