Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Auburn wins low-scoring opener
Auburn second baseman Brody Miller runs toward the dugout after hitting a home run during a game against Arkansas on Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Auburn used baseball’s winning formula to snap a long SEC losing streak at Baum-Walker Stadium on Thursday.
Led by strong pitching and defense, the Tigers upset No. 2 Arkansas 2-1 to take the opening game of the three-game series. The teams are scheduled to play again Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Auburn (12-11, 1-6 SEC) won for the first time since a road victory at Lipscomb on March 16. The Tigers were swept by Ole Miss and Kentucky the past two weekends.
Arkansas (20-4, 5-2) had an eight-game win streak snapped.
Cody Greenhill (3-0) earned the win with a seven-inning start for the Tigers. The right hander allowed one run, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five. Greenhill asked to pitch a day earlier than originally planned.
“I think every one of these players and coaches just respected him by wanting to move up a day, wanting the ball tonight,” Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said on the Auburn Sports Network postgame radio show. “This was another outing where he gave us a chance. We finally made it happen for him.
“It was a great win for us when we needed it the most.”
In his only previous trip to Fayetteville as a freshman in 2018, Greenhill gave up a game-winning hit to Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad.
“I was coming in with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder this time,” he said on the postgame show.
Greenhill and Auburn relievers Carson Skipper and Mason Barnett were backed by solid defensive play. Second baseman Brody Moore turned double plays in the seventh and ninth innings, and center fielder Kason Howell made a diving catch to rob Casey Opitz of a leadoff hit in the eighth.
“Their defense, whenever they had the opportunity, they came through and made a big play,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “Maybe the play of the game was [Howell] … He dives for a ball and if it gets by him, it’s a double or a triple. He made a tremendous play.”
Moore turned his second 4-3 double play in the ninth inning to erase Zack Gregory, who led off the inning with a pinch-hit walk. Moore fielded a ground ball off the bat of Matt Goodheart, tagged Gregory who was running on contact, and threw out Goodheart at first base.
Barnett induced a fly out from Cayden Wallace to end the game and record his first save.
Moore also turned a double play to end the seventh inning. Wallace led off the inning with a single to left field, but after Brady Slavens struck out for the first out of the inning, Christian Franklin hit a grounder to Moore. The junior ran five steps to his right, stepped on second base, then made a leaping throw to first base.
Moore also had one of the game’s biggest swings — a one-out solo home run to right field in the third inning to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Auburn extended its lead to 2-0 with an unearned run in the fourth inning. Howell hit a leadoff single, advanced to third base on a throwing error by Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles and scored on Nate LaRue’s sacrifice fly.
The Razorbacks, who entered the game with an SEC-best fielding percentage of .983, committed three errors.
“They played a lot better defense than we did,” Van Horn said.
Arkansas’ Braydon Webb hit a leadoff home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the Tigers’ lead to 2-1, and from his position in left field threw out Tyler Miller at home plate to end the top of the fifth.
But Arkansas was unable to capitalize on the momentum. Two days after scoring 21 runs on 20 hits in a blowout victory over Central Arkansas, the Razorbacks recorded just four hits against Auburn.
“We just did not do much against Greenhill, bottom line,” Van Horn said. “He just put it on us.”
Patrick Wicklander (1-1) suffered his first loss of the season with a 6-inning start that included 7 hits and 1 walk. Wicklander and reliever Kevin Kopps each struck out eight batters.
Wicklander worked out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve a scoreless tie in the second inning, and stranded one runner in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
“He gave us an opportunity to get into the game,” Van Horn said. “They had him on the ropes there in the [second inning] and he worked out of it — really worked out of a couple of jams. It was really good to see. It’s something we can build on.”
Kopps struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced in 31 pitches. He extended his streak to 14 2/3 innings of consecutive scoreless relief.
“His performance was great,” Van Horn said.
Like they did against Alabama two weeks ago, the Razorbacks must win the final two games to win an SEC series at home.
“We need to swing the bat better and we need to play defense better from what I saw tonight,” Van Horn said.
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