SEC BASEBALL:

Auburn’s resiliency earns series victory

By: RICK HARVEY SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Sunday, April 27, 2014
Arkansas third baseman Bobby Wernes puts the tag on Auburn base runner Ryan Tella as he tries to steal third base in the sixth inning of the first game of Saturday's doubleheader at Baum Stadum in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas third baseman Bobby Wernes puts the tag on Auburn base runner Ryan Tella as he tries to steal third base in the sixth inning of the first game of Saturday's doubleheader at Baum Stadum in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - There was a little foreshadowing in Arkansas’ clubhouse prior to the first game of its doubleheader with Auburn on Saturday.

“During our pregame meeting Coach [Dave] Van Horn mentioned how we haven’t had an extra-inning game or a walk-off win all year,” Razorbacks reliever Jacob Stone said. “They both happened today.”

The Razorbacks used an RBI single from Jake Wise to tie the game in the eighth and won it on a bases-loaded single to the right-center field wall by Tyler Spoon in the 10th as Arkansas beat Auburn 4-3 in the first game of their SEC doubleheader in front of an announced crowd of 10,217, the sixth-largest crowd in Baum Stadium history.

Arkansas’ celebration didn’t last long because Auburn scored seven runs in its first four innings, knocked Arkansas starter Chris Oliver (5-4) out of the game in the fourth and won the nightcap 7-2 to clinch the series. Tigers starter Michael O’Neal (3-4) threw a career-high 129 pitches and went eight innings in the victory.

Arkansas, which has lost five consecutive SEC series to the Tigers, saw its streak of five consecutive series victories at home that dated to last season come to an end.

“Just the way it all went down [in the first game] I thought the second game might be tight, but I figured we would win the ballgame just the way that first game ended,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “Give credit to Auburn and really their starter, who came out and just filled up the strike zone.

“It was a long day, and I’m disappointed we didn’t win the second game.”

The Razorbacks’ game-winning rally in the opening game started when Eric Fisher led off the 10th with a double off Auburn reliever Terrance Dedrick (1-2). Josh Alberius, a freshman from Little Rock Christian who came in as a defensive replacement in the ninth, got his first hit in six at-bats this season with a single to left-center. Two batters later, Spoon hit the game-winner.

“Josh hasn’t had a lot of reps all year, and that’s a confidence-builder for him and for the team to come off the bench and do something big,” Stone said. “Spoon has been clutch all year. He’s just been struggling a bit lately, but give him all the credit in the world.”

Spoon’s game-winner was just his third hit in his past 18 at-bats.

“We would have never even been in that situation if it wasn’t for Jake Wise in the eighth inning, coming through with two outs,” Spoon said. “The guys in front of me just kept getting on base, and bases loaded and one out made it kind of easy on me. I got a pitch to hit and just needed to elevate it.”

Auburn (25-20, 9-12 in SEC) scored two runs in the sixth to go ahead 3-2, and it stayed that way until the eighth when Arkansas (28-18, 10-11) used a lead off single from Brian Anderson and the two-out single from Wise to tie it.

The Razorbacks got two on with one out in the ninth- including a one-out double from Andrew Benintendi - but failed to score when Anderson struck out and Blake Baxendale flew out to right.

Stone, a junior right-hander from Fort Worth, threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit. He retired the Tigers in order in the eighth and ninth innings before Michael Gunn (2-1) relieved him with two outs in the tenth.

“My command was a little off at first, but overall my fastball and slider were working,” Stone said. “I was just trying to pound the zone with those and was able to get the job done.”

Stone relieved starter Jalen Beeks in the seventh. Beeks, a junior from Prairie Grove, allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, and 5 hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out 4.

Auburn, which had lost four consecutive SEC series coming into the weekend, scored 7 runs, 6 earned, and had 5 hits off Oliver in the second game. The Tigers scored a run in the first, got a two-run home run from Blake Austin in the third inning and then put together a four-run, three-hit fourth inning to take control.

“We needed to separate ourselves after losing a tough extra-inning game,” Auburn Coach Sunny Golloway said of Saturday’s second game. “The three runs early were big. Blake Austin’s home run was huge for us, and then the four-run inning, the way we kept it going, we made it a big inning.

Golloway said it was important for his players to come out swinging well against Oliver.

“Oliver is special,” Golloway said. “If you don’t hit him, you don’t hit him, but you’ve got to put a swing on him that’s going to strike some fear, and that’s the part you can control.

“I saw right from the get go our guys were coming out of their shoes swinging it, and that was a lot different than the first game.”

Arkansas got seven hits in the game, three by Serrano. The Razorbacks scored their only runs in the sixth on a two-run double from Baxendale.

Up next ARKANSAS AT MISSOURI STATE WHEN 4:05 p.m. Central Tuesday WHERE Hammons Field, Springfield, Mo. RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY off MONDAY off TUESDAY at Missouri State, 4:05 p.m.

WEDNESDAY off THURSDAY off FRIDAY at Ole Miss, 6:30 p.m.

SATURDAY at Ole Miss, 2:15 p.m.

Sports, Pages 25 on 04/27/2014

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