Key takeaways, box score from Arkansas' Game 1 win at Auburn
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Arkansas slugged its way to a comeback victory in the first game of its SEC West showdown with Auburn on Friday.
Jace Bohrofen hit a two-run home run and Kendall Diggs and Robert Moore added three-run blasts to help the Razorbacks overcome an early 5-0 deficit and beat the Tigers 11-8 at Plainsman Park.
After nearly rallying for a ninth-inning win over Missouri State on Tuesday, Arkansas finished just its fifth win in a game it trailed by at least three runs. A hallmark of last year’s team, which had 13 such wins, Friday was the first time the Razorbacks did it against an SEC opponent this season.
“Last year’s team would fight you and do whatever,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “This year’s team, maybe we haven’t been behind a lot like this, but we had a little fight the other day. It wasn’t much, but we showed a little bit in the ninth.
“Today, once we got to the fifth inning, we scored a couple runs, I think guys started believing.”
The Razorbacks scratched across a pair of runs in that fifth inning to cut into Auburn’s 5-0 lead, only to give one back in the form of a solo home run by Brody Moore off of reliever Kole Ramage in the bottom of the inning.
Luckily for them, they weren’t done. Braydon Webb worked a leadoff walk in the sixth and Bohrofen followed by crushing Carson Skipper’s 0-1 pitch. The ball traveled 430 feet, according to the SEC Network-Plus broadcast, easily clearing the right field wall to pull Arkansas within 6-4.
“I felt like that when Jace hit that home run — he absolutely crushed it,” Van Horn said. “We were down by a run and I really believed we were gonna win the game.”
In the seventh, Michael Turner led off the inning with a double and eventually scored on an error to pull Arkansas within a run. With the tying and go-ahead runs on base with no outs, Auburn once again turned to its bullpen, bringing in Konner Copeland.
The left-hander entered the weekend with an impressive 2.61 ERA and was particularly tough on lefties, who were just 2 for 13 against him this season. Instead of trying to move the runners with small ball, Diggs came up swinging and sent Copeland’s third pitch well over the right field wall for a three-run homer that gave the Razorbacks their first lead of the game.
Despite it being a left-on-left matchup and Copeland’s success against left-handed hitters, Van Horn said he never considered pinch hitting for — or bunting — Diggs because he has hit well against left-handers in a small sample size (3 for 8).
“I walked up to them right outside the dugout and said, ‘We’re not bunting. We’re going to continue to swing away,’” Van Horn said. “I’m nervous, thinking ‘don’t hit into a double play,’ but I just felt good about Kendall, and maybe they thought we were going to bunt. … I wasn’t playing for one run there.”
That gave Arkansas an 8-6 lead and, after another perfect inning by Evan Taylor, it got some much-needed insurance from its scuffling superstar.
Moore, a preseason All-American by virtually every outlet, came into the weekend hitting just .230 and hadn’t homered in his last 13 SEC games. That drought ended when he took Copeland deep in a 2-2 count. After fouling off three pitches, Moore hit a home run over Auburn’s “Green Monster” in left field to make it 11-6.
“He just missed some pitches early in the game and we’re thinking, ‘Man, just break loose, Robert,’” Van Horn said. “When he hit the home run, the whole team was really excited because it gave us a five-run lead, but they were excited for Robert.
“Robert was super excited in the dugout. … I think it was a little bit of a relief for him, too, just to really help the team and get a big hit like that.”
That proved to be a big swing for the Razorbacks because Auburn ended up scoring a couple of runs in the eighth.
Here are several other key takeaways from Friday’s comeback victory…
Tigers Chase Noland Early
The reason Arkansas found itself in the early hole to begin with is because it didn’t get the usual performance from ace Connor Noland.
One of the top pitchers in the SEC this season, the senior right-hander struggled and failed to go at least five innings for the first time in 2022. He ended up allowing five runs — three earned — on six hits and four walks while striking out four.
“Just didn’t have the command,” Van Horn said. “Didn’t really command his fastball or his breaking ball. He’s had so many good outings for us, it’s not like we didn’t expect it to happen.
Noland nearly worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, but an error by Jalen Battles on a tough play that would have been the third out allowed two runs to cross the plate.
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