Colin Kuhn doubled home the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning, and Arkansas hung on to beat Auburn 6-5 Friday night at Plainsman Park in the SEC opener for both teams.
“When you look at the job (relievers) Slade Smith and Ethan Wallen did, that was very encouraging,” said Auburn coach John Pawlowski, “but obviously a disappointing loss and a frustrating loss for our club. We just couldn’t come up with that hit to put us over the top and win the ball game.”
Game two of the three-game series is set for 3 p.m. today with Arkansas (15-2, 1-0 SEC) expected to pitch freshman right-hander Brandon Moore (2-0, 3.27 ERA). Auburn (12-6, 0-1 SEC) will counter with junior right-hander Will Irvin (2-0, 3.93 ERA).
The bullpens came up big for both teams Friday night.
Smith and Wallen combined to hold Arkansas to two runs over seven and two thirds innings in relief, but the Razorbacks outpitched them.
Randall Fant, Trent Daniel and Nolan Sanburn held Auburn scoreless on three hits over the last 6 and a third innings.
Auburn trailed at one point 4-1, but rallied to tie it and a solo homer to center in the fifth inning by Casey McElroy put the Tigers ahead 5-4.
Arkansas tied it 5-5 in the top of the seventh on a run-scoring groundout by James McCann.
From there, the relievers from both teams settled in, until Kuhn ended it with his clutch hit in the 11th.
Casey McElroy’s run-scoring double in the bottom of the first got the Tigers off to a good start, but Arkansas rallied with a run each in the second and third innings and two more in the fourth for a 4-1 lead.
Auburn tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Kevin Patterson’s three-run double.
“We dug ourselves a hole there early in the game, but our guys battled back,” Pawlowski said. “Kevin Patterson comes up with the big hit and gets us back in it. I’m encouraged by what he did and obviously what Slade and Ethan Wallen did. We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.
Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star.