After Thursday’s announcement that Friday night starter Casey Mize would miss the Arkansas series, it appeared that No. 10 Auburn would be facing an uphill battle vs. No. 16 Arkansas and its SEC-leading offense. Auburn answered the challenge in a big way.
For the first time all season, Auburn blasted three home runs en route to a 15-2 victory over the Hogs.
Daniel Robert, Josh Anthony and Dylan Ingram each launched a home run for the Tigers.
“The boys just felt good, and came out swinging,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said.
It did not take long for Auburn to jump on the Razorbacks, as the Tigers jumped out to a 5-0 lead after one inning. The inning began with a single by Jonah Todd who came around to score on a RBI double by Jay Estes. Robert followed Estes’ double with a first-pitch, two-run home run to center field. It was Robert’s fourth big fly of the season, tying him for the team lead.
The inning continued with a walk by Ingram and a double by Luke Jarvis. Josh Anthony followed with a single to left field to score Ingram, while Jarvis scored on an error by the left fielder.
After a scoreless second inning, the Tigers exploded for eight runs in the third inning, the most Auburn has scored in SEC play this season.
Anthony began the inning with a walk, and moved to third on a double by Blake Logan. Bo Decker then singled through the left side to score Anthony. After a sacrifice fly by Todd and back-to-back walks, Conor Davis singled up the middle to chase home Decker and Estes. On the next pitch, Ingram lined a base hit off Arkansas’ third baseman to score Robert.
The big blow of the inning came off the bat of Anthony. The junior crushed a three-run home run, the first of his career, off the scoreboard in left-center field to extend Auburn’s lead to 13-2.
“It was more of a relief to finally get it out of the way,” Anthony said about his first-career big fly. “I wasn’t pressing to hit a home run necessarily, and I wasn’t really thinking about my power numbers going towards the end of the season, but it felt good to get it out of the way. I watched it, just to make sure it went out, but I did know it was gone off the bat.”
“The bottom of the third was huge, just the way the guys were linking up,” Thompson said. “Everybody was just connecting. They had a little trouble getting the breaking ball over, and we took enough of them and kept getting elevated fastballs. The guys just kept swinging.”
The final scoring of the night came in the fifth inning on a two-run shot by Ingram to center field. Ingram’s home run also tied him for the team lead.
Keegan Thompson returned to his Friday night starter spot, and shined once again for the Tigers. The junior went six innings, and allowed two runs on seven hits. He struck out seven as he improved to 5-1 on the year.
“I think Keegan can be better,” Auburn’s second-year head coach said. “I thought he competed great today, but I still think he can pitch better. We’ve seen him pitch better and hopefully the six innings he pitched tonight will just help him grow and we can keep learning and keep fighting.”
Calvin Coker pitched the final three innings of the night for Auburn, picking up his first career save. He allowed no runs on three hits and struck out three.
Arkansas entered the series with a SEC-leading 53 home runs. Auburn pitchers kept the Hogs in the ballpark tonight however, and held them to 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Thompson and Coker did not walk a batter.
Anthony finished the night 3-for-4, falling a triple shy of the cycle. He also had a career-high four RBI. Robert, Davis, Ingram and Decker each finished with two hits for Auburn. Estes, Robert, Davis, Ingram and Anthony each scored multiple runs.
Arkansas ace Blaine Knight allowed a career-high eight runs in just 2.1 innings. It was the second-shortest start of his career. Knight fell to 6-2, while his ballooned from 1.89 to 3.13. Carson Shaddy and Eric Cole each had RBI singles for the Hogs.
“The environment, the last four SEC baseball games that we’ve played, it’s a real environment for an opponent. I give our fans a ton of credit for that,” Butch Thompson said. “It’s something for the opponents to compete against.”
Auburn’s 15 runs were the most it has scored since April 9, 2011 at Kentucky. The Tigers have hit nine home runs in the last six games after hitting just 10 in the first 34 games.
“I don’t know where it came from, but I like it,” Keegan Thompson said about Auburn’s power outburst.
The Tigers improved to 29-11 and 11-5 in the SEC while Arkansas fell to 31-9 and 11-5. Game two of the series is set for 1 p.m. CST tomorrow afternoon. Freshman Davis Daniel will be on the mound for Auburn.