FAYETTEVILLE – For the second time in three starts, Drew Smyly tossed a complete game to lead the No. 7 University of Arkansas baseball team to a 9-4 win over Auburn Friday night at Baum Stadium. Arkansas (35-8, 14-5 SEC) fell behind early but Brett Eibner jumpstarted the Razorback offense in the fifth inning with his 15th home run of the season and Collin Kuhn drove in the game-winning run in the sixth. Despite the threat of rain, an announced-crowd of 7,246 fans witnessed the come-from-behind victory.
"Smyly did an excellent job," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I feel lucky that we didn’t give up more than two runs in the inning that we gave him five outs, but he was definitely the key from the fourth inning on."
Facing the Southeastern Conference’s most potent offense, Smyly held Auburn to four runs-two earned-and struck out nine, including the last hitter of the game. The left-handed sophomore was strong late in Friday’s ballgame, allowing just two hits over the final four innings of play. Smyly also benefited from two inning-ending double plays, one in the seventh and the other in the eighth, to overcome four errors by the Hogs’ defense.
Auburn (28-15, 10-9 SEC) jumped out to an early lead in Friday’s ballgame with two unearned runs in the top of the third. Ryan Jenkins and Justin Hargett each reached on errors to lead off the inning. With two out, Hunter Morris made use of the extra opportunities and knocked in the first two runs of the game with a single to left field.
The Tigers added two runs in their half of the fifth. Justin Fradejas led things off with an infield single, reaching the bag just ahead of Smyly. Trent Mummey followed with a high two-run shot into the visitor’s bullpen. Smyly shook off the long ball and got out of the inning without further damage. He picked Tony Caldwell, who reached with a single, off first for the third out. Auburn led, 4-0.
The Razorbacks responded and pulled to within one on Eibner’s blast in the bottom of the fifth. Matt Reynolds led off the inning with a single to right field. At that point, Auburn turned to its bullpen as Michael Hurst came in to relieve starter Cory Luckie. With two down, Zack Cox extended the frame with an opposite-field single and Reynolds moved around to third. Eibner belted the first pitch he saw from Hurst to deep left field for a three-run shot, his eighth long ball during conference play.
"We started out real slow," Van Horn said. "I thought their pitcher did a great job of mixing it up. Then we started making good adjustments and started hitting the ball better. We had a couple of big hits and then Eibner hit the two-out, three-run homer to get us right back in it. When the ball left the park, the demeanor of our dugout took off and I knew we were going to make a good game out of it."
Riding the shift in momentum, Smyly retired the Tigers in the sixth on 12 pitches to get the Arkansas hitters back up to the plate. He struck out Casey McElroy and Wes Gilmer before getting Jenkins to fly out to right.
Monk Kreder drew a walk to open the sixth and James McCann added a one-out single to put runners on first and second. Reynolds stepped to the plate and doubled down the line in right field to plate Kreder with the game-tying run. Kuhn put Arkansas on top with a two-run single up the middle and the Razorbacks led, 6-4, after six innings.
With Smyly holding the Auburn offense at bay, the Hogs tacked on three insurance runs in the eighth. With Reynolds and McCann on ahead of him, Kuhn laid down a two-strike sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, respectively. McCann came in to score on a passed ball and Reynolds charged down the third-base line on a bunt by Bo Bigham. An errant throw allowed Bigham to move into second. Cox picked up his second base hit of the game to drive in Arkansas’ final run; he was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double.
With the five-run cushion, Smyly came out of the dugout to close the game and pick up his seventh win of the season. He worked around a two-out single by Jenkins to seal the victory with his ninth strikeout of the game. Smyly has won his last five starts.
Game two of the Arkansas-Auburn series is scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. first pitch Saturday at Baum Stadium. Prior to the ballgame, Arkansas’ 1985 College World Series Team will be recognized on the field in a pre-game ceremony. The Razorbacks will go with LHP Randall Fant on the mound while Auburn has yet to name a starter for the contest.