Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Hogs start quick, win 12th straight
Arkansas designated hitter Kendall Diggs celebrates a hit during a game against Auburn on Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The No. 6 Arkansas baseball team jumped out early on Auburn with five runs in the first two innings and rode the pitching of Will McEntire and Dylan Carter to cruise past the Tigers 9-3 on Saturday for their 12th straight win.
The University of Arkansas (17-2, 2-0 SEC) clinched the series against Auburn, outhitting the Tigers 9-6 before a crowd of 9,359 on a cold afternoon with a game time temperature of 38 degrees at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas will go for a sweep and its fifth consecutive win over Auburn (13-5-1, 0-2) in today’s 2 p.m. series finale.
McEntire (4-0) was not as sharp as in his 6-1 complete-game three-hitter against Louisiana Tech last week, but he was solid through 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, including a pair of solo home runs by clean-up hitter Bryson Ware.
“I’d say I had a pretty good day,” McEntire said. “I threw like two bad pitches and … I can’t remember his name, but he punished me for them.”
Kendall Diggs was the hitting star for the Hogs with two doubles, four RBI and a run scored, while Tavian Josenberger homered and scored two runs along with Peyton Stovall.
“We fought at the plate, tough conditions and feel great about getting that win,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.
The Razorbacks, aided by a throwing error by Auburn shortstop Cole Foster on a grounder from Josenberger, the lead-off hitter, blew up on left-hander Zach Crotchfelt (0-1) for three runs in the first.
Stovall drew a walk behind Josenberger, and with one out Brady Slavens reached on a hit by pitch on an 0-2 count. Crotchfelt rallied to strike out Jace Bohrofen, but Diggs attacked a first-pitch fastball and drove it the opposite way into the left-center gap to clear the bases.
“That was the biggest swing of the game by far, “Van Horn said. “We load the bases … and Kendall, he didn’t mess around. He got a fastball and he stayed through it, split the gap in left-center, we’re off and rolling. That was big.”
Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said the Razorbacks are performing in the clutch while his team is not.
“Just the difference in the two games here is, and it’s OK to call it out, we’re just not playing at game time,” Thompson said on the Auburn Radio Network. “So Arkansas is playing at game time.
“We had an error on the first batter of the game, a walk, an HBP on an 0-2 count and now it’s right in the middle of their lineup. … He gets it down to one batter and Diggs is just sitting there laying for a first pitch fastball and we absolutely give it.”
Auburn got a run back in the second inning after loading the bases with no outs on walks by Ware and Justin Kirby and a hit by pitch on Ryan Dyal.
However, the Tigers could not deliver a breakthrough hit against McEntire. He induced a ground ball from Chris Stanfield, who just beat the rap on a double play for an RBI grounder. McEntire rallied to get a ground ball out that didn’t score a run and a fly ball from Brody Moss.
Arkansas nine-hole hitter John Bolton singled with one out in the bottom of the second. Then Josenberger hit line-drive two-run homer over the left field wall to make it 5-1 and give the Hogs all the runs they would need.
The Hogs blew it open with four runs in the fifth inning after infield singles by Stovall and Jared Wegner and a walk by Slavens loaded the bases. Diggs drew a one-out walk to force in a run, then Harold Coll followed with an opposite-field RBI single. Pinch hitter Hunter Grimes’ grounder brought in another run, and Bolton capped the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Carter allowed one hit in three shutout innings to post his second save.
The Hogs have employed just four pitchers while outscoring Auburn 16-5 through two games, with starters Hunter Hollan and McEntire throwing six innings each.
Neither coach named a starting pitcher for today’s series finale, but Van Horn said he thought ace left-hander Hagen Smith, who saved Friday’s 7-2 win with 44 pitches over three shutout innings, would be available.
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