Fayetteville, Ark. – The 12th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks overcame their largest deficit of the season to post a 9-7 victory over the Auburn Tigers in front of the largest crowd to ever see a game at Baum Stadium Friday night in the series opener.
Arkansas improved to 36-18 overall and 18-10 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn dropped to 31-23 overall and 11-17 in the SEC.
Jay Sawatski (8-3) earned the win after pitching four innings in relief. Sawatski allowed only one hit, a one-out double in the ninth, and struck out four. Arkansas starter Clint Brannon went three and one-third innings and gave up six runs, all earned, on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
John Madden (1-2) took the loss after allowing three runs, all earned, on two hits with one walk and no strikeouts. Auburn starter Arnold Hughey went four and two-thirds innings and gave up six runs, four earned, on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
The Razorbacks trailed 7-1 after four innings before mounting a rally. The largest deficit this season prior to Friday night’s was a five run hole against Kentucky on April 25. Arkansas won that game 11-10.
The actual crowd was announced at 8,526 while paid was 8,653. The largest previous home crowd was 5,561 on May 17, 2003, against LSU.
The teams combined to score 13 of the total 16 runs with two outs. Arkansas scored seven of its nine runs with two outs, while the Tigers scored six of their runs with two outs.
The Tigers took an early lead when Sean Gamble laced a two-out double to left-center that scored Ben Sprague and Clete Thomas in the top of the first inning. Chuck Jeroloman made it a 3-0 game with an infield single to short that scored Gamble.
Still in the first, Josh Sullivan pushed the lead to 4-0 with a single to center that scored Jeroloman and moved Derek Sain (walk) to third.
Brady Toops put the Razorbacks on the scoreboard with a solo home run to left to open the bottom of the third inning. It was Toops’ third home run of the season and first since April 4, against Alabama.
The Tigers increased their lead in the top of the fourth inning when Sprague plated Sullivan with a single to make it a 5-1 game. That run chased Brannon from the game and brought Ryan Lennerton in to pitch.
Josh Bell greeted Lennerton with an RBI single that made it 6-1. A wild pitch by Lennerton allowed Thomas to score to give the Tigers a 7-1 lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, the Razorbacks began to rally. Casey Rowlett singled and moved to third on Clay Goodwin’s double. Scott Hode then tripled to right-center to score both runners and cut the deficit to 7-3.
Danny Hamblin plated Hode with a double to left-center that cut the Auburn lead to 7-4. Haas Pratt (walk) moved to third on the play. Hughey was lifted following Hamblin’s double.
Madden was brought in to pitch. On a 3-1 pitch, pinch-hitter Brett Hagedorn hit a slow roller to Madden who threw wildly to first allowing Pratt and Hamblin to score and make it a 7-6 game.
The Razorbacks took advantage of an Auburn error to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. Stephen Robison walked and moved to second on a ground out by Jake Dugger. Rowlett then singled to third, but Maitland’s throw was wild after Rowlett crossed the first and allowed Robison to move to third.
A sacrifice fly by Goodwin scored Robison to tie the game at 7-7. Following a pitching change for the Tigers, Hode singled to push Rowlett to third and Pratt brought him home with a single deep in the hole to short to give the Hogs their first lead of the night at 8-7.
Hamblin extended the lead to 9-7 with a single up the middle that plated Hode from second base.
Sawatski allowed only one hit over the final three innings of play to end the scoring and preserve the comeback victory for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas and Auburn continue their series with a 7 p.m. game Saturday. Charley Boyce (7-1) will take the mound for Arkansas. Auburn counters with Steven Register (6-0).