Sun March 24, 2024

By Lance Hawley

Hogs Drop Series Finale to Auburn 8-6
By Otis Kirk

No. 1 Arkansas saw its winning streak snapped on Saturday with an 8-6 loss to No. 23 Auburn.

Arkansas (19-3, 5-1) took the series winning both Thursday and Friday. For Auburn (15-8, 1-5) the win was its first in SEC play. Dave Van Horn missed Friday's game due to his daughter giving birth, but returned for Saturday's contest. A six-run sixth did his team in.

"Yeah, tough loss," Van Horn said. "We let a lead slip away. It’s hard to recover when you give up six in one inning. We had plenty of chances to score today. We left a lot of runners on. We are swinging the bats better in my opinion. We did swing at too many pitches out of the zone. We’ve got to clean that up a little bit before this week. Yeah, just too many little missed opportunities to get one here, maybe two there. Runners at first and second or second and third, one out, things like that. We just didn’t drive people in all the time."

The Razorbacks, as noted by Van Horn, had a big inning of their own putting four runs on the board in the fourth inning. Auburn got one of those back in the bottom of the fifth, but then the Hogs went on top 5-1 in the top of the sixth.

"Credit to Auburn," Van Horn said. "They fought back after we had them on the ropes. But it really probably boiled down to a couple of free passes here and there and pitch counts getting up and a big swing. You know the home run that went over the big left field wall. He hit it good but it was a fly ball, just barely cleared the wall as it was coming down. That’s the way it works when you’re playing with quirky parks and it got us today."

Auburn Coach Butch Thompson was relieved to see his team finally get a win in SEC action. They were swept at Vanderbilt last weekend had to rally to avoid the same fate at home against Arkansas.

“It was perfect,” Thompson said of the day’s weather and the win. “I think that was the largest crowd we have ever had here at Plainsman Park and I think that is unbelievable, especially considering the last two weeks.

“But I have to tell you, the emotions of our team and the effort, I could just see it all week and it’s been tough.  We have been hurting, but they absolutely stayed in it, especially after not getting what they wanted in two one-run ball games."

The 5,087 fans in attendance were treated to a nice win and hopefully one that provides momentum in coming weeks. Van Horn was asked about what happened to the bullpen in the sixth inning?

"Just a couple of mistakes," Van Horn said. "Cooper Dossett comes in and man, he throws two really good pitches. The count’s 1-2 and then he threw it right down the middle and the guy hit it out of the park. Kind of shocks you a little bit. Then he might have given up another hit. I don’t know exactly what happened. He just didn’t locate the finish. I think (Gabe) Gaeckle, he just got behind in the count and walked a couple of people. He hadn’t been doing that. He only threw a few pitches the other day and he had a couple of days to rest. He was ready to go. It just didn’t happen for him today. I thought (Colin) Fisher came in, tough situation. He just gave up a fly ball that turned into a three-run homer. Kind of a tough-luck pitcher on that swing. But he gave us a chance to get back in it. 

"We came back in the next inning and had, I don’t know, runners at first and second, one out? Maybe we already had one run in. And we didn’t score. That was a chance for us to really maybe gut punch them little bit after they score six and take the lead. At a minimum we should have tied it there and we didn’t. One big hit and we’re ahead. So, typical game 3. It got a little crazy."

The Hogs took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Jared Sprague-Lott belted a three-run home run. Will Edmunson then reached on a single and scored on a double by Kendall Diggs.

Diggs plated Peyton Stovall in the top of the sixth for a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead. 

The big blast in the bottom of the sixth was a three-run shot over the fence by first baseman Cooper McMurray, who was having a rough series prior to Saturday's game.

"He did a really good job. He had to get his hits off left-handed pitching today for the most part and drove in four runs," Van Horn said. "The big swing was that three-run homer. It looked like we might get out of that inning with a one-run lead and then a fly ball blew out of the park and all of a sudden we’re down a couple. But he had a good day. He was the difference for them."

Thompson was pleased to see his clean-up hitter have a big day against the Hogs.

“McMurray really had a tough two days,” Thompson said. "He really carried us 10 days before that. To see him at the end of the series come and have a couple of at bats, a hit early and the backside (opposite field) homer just knocked the door down and kind of created the big sixth inning. That wa the huge in the outcome of today’s game.”

Arkansas cut the lead to one, 7-6, in the top of the seventh when Hudson White singled and scored on a double by Edmunson. Auburn managed to add an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth on a solo shot by Ike Irish.

Arkansas used five pitchers on the day. Mason Molina got the start and worked five innings. He allowed three hits and one run. Gaeckle (0-2) took the loss. Parker Carlson (2-0) picked up the win and Will Cannon earned his first save.

Arkansas will return home to host Little Rock (12-10) on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.