#24 Tigers Rally, Nail Down Series Victory, 8-7, Over #9 Arkansas
March 20, 2011
Casey McElroy drove in four runs, including two in Auburn's four-run eighth, and Justin Fradejas threw out the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth as the No. 24 Auburn baseball team rallied to defeat No. 9 Arkansas, 8-7, on Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park. The win improved Auburn's record to 14-6, 2-1 SEC while Arkansas fell to 15-4, 1-2 SEC, losing its first series of the season.
"Twenty-seven outs are tough to get in college baseball," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "It doesn't matter who you are playing, where you are playing, the games are never over."
Down 5-4 heading to the bottom of the eighth, Auburn batted around on three different Arkansas pitchers to build an 8-5 lead. McElroy's bases loaded, two-run single with one out gave Auburn a 6-5 lead, scoring pinch runner Bobby Andrews and Justin Hargett (2-for-4, BB, RBI, R), and put runners on the corners. A single by Dan Gamache (1-for-4, RBI) followed, bringing Fradejas (1-for-3, 2BB, R) home to put Auburn up 7-5. McElroy scored what proved to be a necessary insurance run on Tony Caldwell's (1-for-4, BB, RBI) single to left to take the three-run lead.
"In my last at bat I was just trying to put the ball in play and get one run in," McElroy said. "The way things have been going for me this weekend (.615, 8-for-13, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI), it just had eyes and found its way through the infield. It all started off with (Cullen) Wacker getting hit by the ball to get runners on base and we just found ways to knock it out and that's what did it for us."
Arkansas would not go away easily in the ninth, reaching on an error, a walk and a single to load the bases with one out off of Auburn closer Ethan Wallen. A single by Kyle Robinson (2-for-5, RBI, R) brought Arkansas to within two runs, 8-6, and kept the bases loaded for Dominic Ficociello. Ficociello (4-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI) singled through the right side of the infield, scoring Jacob Morris (0-for-4, BB, R) from third but Fradejas' throw to the plate nailed Matt Reynolds (1-for-4, BB, R) trying to score from second, maintaining Auburn's one run advantage. Wallen then induced a groundout with runners on the corners to end the game and secure Auburn's second consecutive series win over Arkansas and the first at Plainsman Park since 2005.
"I knew he was the tying run so I just wanted to make a good throw and I did," Fradejas said. "It's awesome that Tony held onto the ball. It's always tough when you got a runner coming in and you have to hold onto the ball and put the tag on him as well but Tony did a great job."
"Justin made a great throw right to me, a strike," Caldwell said of Fradejas' throw to the plate. "I had a death-grip on the ball."
Wallen (1-2) threw the final 1 2/3 innings to pick up the win while Nolan Sanburn (1-1) took the loss for Arkansas, allowing three runs in 1/3-of-an-inning.
"I thought Ethan Wallen, considering what he did on Friday night (4 2/3 IP), he battled through and came back and made some big pitches. It wasn't easy but certainly he got the job done for us," Pawlowski said.
McElroy finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs scored, singling and scoring in the first, homering to start the third and singling in the eighth. The first-inning single extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games.
Wes Gilmer finished the day 1-for-5 with a RBI, extending his hitting streak to a career-long 14 games.
Lost in the wild final two half innings was the outing of Auburn starter Derek Varnadore, who worked into the seventh, allowing three runs on five hits without issuing a walk while striking out seven. The junior had left with two on and none out in the seventh, having allowed just one run.
Auburn built a 4-1 lead over the first four innings as Gilmer and Hargett each drove in runs with RBI singles in the first and second innings, respectively, while McElroy homered in the third and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth.
Auburn returns to the diamond on Tuesday for the first of four straight road games. Auburn heads to Jacksonville State for a 6:30pm first pitch on Tuesday before traveling to Starkville, Miss., for three games at Mississippi State over the weekend.
Auburn 8, Arkansas 7 (Mar 20, 2011 at Auburn, AL)
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