FAYETTEVILLE – After scoring 21 runs in Tuesday night’s nonconference rout of the University of Central Arkansas, the Arkansas Razorbacks mustered but one in Thursday night’s SEC West game against Auburn.
That left them one short and squandering a great combo pitching effort by Patrick Wicklander and Kevin Kopps in a 2-1 loss at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Coach Butch Thompson’s Auburn Tigers, only 12-11 overall and 1-6 in the SEC but beating the Baseball America No. 1 ranked Razorbacks behind winning starter Cody Greenhill and one-inning relievers Carson Skipper and Mason Barnett, and Arkansas, 20-4, 5-2 in the SEC, continue their 3-game series at 6:30 Friday night and 2 p.m. Saturday.
Other than Braydon Webb’s fourth-inning solo home run, and two singles by freshman right fielder Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier, the Razorbacks couldn’t get to first base against Greenhill.
For his 3-hit seven complete innings, the right-hander struck out five and walked none.
“We just did not do much against Greenhill,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “That was the bottom line. He put it on us. He gave them seven solid innings. Seven quick innings. Defense made two or three really nice plays behind him and obviously we didn’t do anything.”
What made Greenhill so effective?
“He got ahead of every hitter,” Van Horn said. “He walked none. He spotted it up and away and then would bust you in, a little breaking ball, pitch anywhere from 86 to 92 changing speeds and pitched, He did a great job.”
So did Auburn relievers Skipper, stranding Charlie Welch upon Welch’s pinch-hit single, and Barnett with a scoreless inning each. Barnett gave Arkansas brief hope walking Zack Gregory leading off the ninth then dashed it. He induced Matt Goodheart grounding into the second doubleplay that Auburn turned.
Arkansas converted one with left fielder Webb catching a fly and gunning down a Tiger trying to score from third.
However the normally flawlessly fielding Hogs committed three errors including the throwing error by usually pristine shortstop Jalen Battles eventually providing Auburn’s sacrifice fly go-ahead, unearned run off Wicklander in the fourth.
Auburn’s first run came via Brody Moore’s third-inning home run.
Wicklander took a hard-luck loss but the junior left-hander keeps winning his coaches’ confidence. Scattering seven hits with eight strikeouts vs. one walk through six complete, Wicklander followed last week’s winning start at Mississippi State impressing again.
“That was exciting to see that he came out and threw a lot of strikes,” Van Horn said. “He mixed in a few breaking balls and a few changeups and gave us an opportunity. They had him on the ropes there in the second or third inning and he really worked out of a couple of jams. It was really good to see and something we can build on.”
The only bad thing to see from Kopps was him going three innings in a losing cause likely sidelines him Friday night and perhaps Saturday, too.
For his three scoreless innings with 39 pitches, Kopps was touched but for one hit and one walk while striking out eight.
“His performance was great,” Van Horn said. “We had three innings left and we were down a run and we felt like we could score a run or two and Kevin was the right one to bring in at the time. We didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, we gave up a run here or there and we should have just gone to Kevin.’ We felt like we were going to score but we didn’t obviously.”
How do they bounce back Friday?
“We need to swing the bat better and we need to play defense better,” Van Horn said. “That’s what I saw tonight,. Give Auburn credit. They came in here needing a win and they got one right there. They played inspired baseball.”
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3, Sports Action