*From Auburn Media Relations*
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Auburn baseball team scored in every inning but the ninth in claiming a 12-5 win over No. 13 Arkansas on Saturday. The win, which gave Auburn a third straight series win at Baum Stadium, improved Auburn's record to 28-23, 12-15 SEC while Arkansas fell to 35-17, 13-14.
"I can't be more proud of our guys," Assistant Coach Scott Foxhall said. "Coach Pawlowski gave us a spark there in the early innings (when he was ejected in the fourth) and stuck up for our guys and our guys responded. They battled and didn't back down and took it to another level so we could finish this thing off this weekend."
Auburn finished the game with 18 hits, its most in a conference game since collecting 20 in a 15-8 win over Kentucky on April 9, 2011. Leading the attack was Jay Gonzalez, Ryan Tella and Bobby Andrews, who each had three hits, while Creede Simpson Justin Bryant, Patrick Savage and Mitchell Self each drove in two runs as Auburn won its fourth series over a SEC West team this season.
"We went long-ball, we used the short game and we stole bases," Foxhall said. "One through nine contributed and it was a true team victory today."
Reliever Slade Smith (4-5) picked up the win out of the bullpen, entering in the bottom of the fourth with two outs and runners on first and second with the game tied at 5-5. Slade got a fly out from three-hole hitter Dominic Ficociello to end the threat and then recorded the next six outs of the game without allowing a run.
Smith would turn things over to Bryant in the sixth with the bases loaded and two outs with Auburn ahead, 8-5. Bryant needed just one pitch to induce a pop-out from Ficociello before retiring nine of the next 10 hitters he faced to record his fifth save of the season.
Gonzalez led off the game with a double, just as he did on Friday, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Bryant's RBI groundout as Auburn gave Auburn starter Dillon Ortman the quick 1-0 lead. Ortman, who was making his first career start, would work two-plus innings before leaving with a man on first and none out in the third and Auburn ahead 4-2. By the time it was over he was charged for three runs on four hits and a walk.
"It felt good to be back in the leadoff role. I was just trying to get on base any way possible," Gonzalez said. "Last night was a rough game. We knew we had a simple job. We wanted to keep rolling to have a chance at post-season and that's what we did. We stayed aggressive and jumped on them as soon as possible."
Ficociello evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first with his second home run of the series, a shot over the Auburn bullpen in right. The home run followed a double play, keeping the damage to just a run.
Self's bases-loaded single back up the middle made it 2-1 Auburn in the second and ended the day for Arkansas starter Nolan Sanburn. Reliever Ty Wright came in and issued a walk to Gonzalez before getting Simpson to strike out looking and inducing a double play out of Ryan Tella to end the frame with Auburn up, 3-1.
"I have been working hard all year and I finally got my opportunity and I wanted to do everything I could to put our team in position to win," Self said. "In the field I just tried to knock it down and at the plate I just did what I could to get the next run in."
Arkansas's Sam Bates doubled to lead off the bottom of the second and scored on a Jake Wise sac fly, cutting the Auburn to 3-2 after two.
Savage's second home run of the weekend gave Auburn a 4-2 lead in the third only to have Arkansas get a run back in the bottom half of the inning on a Matt Reynolds sac fly, making it 4-3.
"They had been throwing me a lot of first-pitch fastballs so I was just trying to jump on those," Savage said. "We knew today was big, especially in climbing up the SEC standings. It is crunch-time and we knew we had to come out here and compete and take a series win back to Auburn."
Simpson's two-out double gave Auburn a 5-3 lead in the fourth as he drove in Gonzalez, who singled and stole second. The steal was the 25th of the year for Gonzalez, tied for 10th all-time for a single-season at Auburn with Dominic Rich from 2000.
Arkansas tied it at 5-5 off of Jay Wade in the bottom of the fourth as Bo Bigham singled and Wade hit Wise. A wild pitch advanced the runners into scoring position for a successful safety squeeze by Jacob Morris and a Jacob Mahan RBI single, signaling the end for Wade and the start of Smith's turn on the mound.
Andrews singled home Glevenyak from second in the top of the fifth after he drew his third walk of the afternoon to give Auburn the lead back at 6-5, a lead it would not relinquish.
Auburn increased the lead to three, 8-5, in the sixth with a pair of two-out RBI. Bryant singled in Gonzalez from second after he walked and Savage drove in Tella with a single of his own.
Auburn scored three times in the seventh to take an 11-5 lead. Caleb Bowen doubled to start the inning and went to third on an Andrews infield single. A successful safety squeeze by Self scored Bowen and allowed Self to reach first. Gonzalez then legged out an infield single on a bunt to load the bases for Simpson, who also legged out an infield single to score Andrews. Tella's RBI fielder's choice scored Self to cap the scoring in the inning.
Auburn's eighth-inning run came as Glevenyak singled, went to second on a groundout and scored on two separate wild pitches by Michael Gunn, making it a 12-5 advantage.
Auburn now needs just one more league win of its own or a loss by Tennessee in any of its last five SEC games to clinch its third straight SEC Tournament berth, which begins on Tuesday, May 22 at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
Auburn returns to Plainsman Park for its last five games of the season, which begins Monday at 6pm against Florida A&M. The game was added to the schedule to replace a rain-out and admission is free.