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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Justin Bryant’s two out single back up the middle scored Jay Gonzalez from second in the top of the 10th inning as Auburn downed No. 13 Arkansas, 3-2, on Thursday night at Baum Stadium. The win, Auburn’s first series-opening win on the road this season, upped Auburn’s record to 27-22, 11-14 SEC while Arkansas fell to 34-16, 12-13 SEC.
“In this league, it’s tough and it always is. We didn’t have very many opportunities but when we did some guys really stepped up,” Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said.
Tied at 2-2, Derek Varnadore (3-7) entered in the bottom of the ninth inning behind starter Jon Luke Jacobs and shut Arkansas down for two innings to pick up the win. Facing the top of the order in the ninth, he retired the side on 10 pitches. Back on the hill in the 10th with the lead, he allowed a one-out single and allowed the runner to advance into scoring position on a passed ball but a strike out and a fly out to right sealed the win, Auburn’s third straight at Baum Stadium and fifth in its last seven tries.
Auburn rode the arm of starter Jon Luke Jacobs for eight innings as the senior recorded eight strike outs on the night, his most since striking out 11 in a win over South Alabama on March 20.
“Jon Luke saved his best performance of the year for tonight and then Varny came in and shut the door,” Pawlowski said.
In the game, Jacobs and Varnadore combined to hold Arkansas to just four hits and didn’t issue a walk.
Auburn took a 1-0 lead in the first as Gonzalez led off the game with a double, went to third on a Creede Simpson sac bunt, Auburn’s SEC-leading 54th of the season, and scored on a Ryan Tella groundout to second.
Tasked with holding a one-run lead after the first, Jacobs retired 11 of the first 12 hitters he faced before allowing a game-tying home run to Matt Reynolds in the fourth.
Arkansas would take a 2-1 lead in the sixth as Jake Wise doubled into shallow center, went to third on a sac bunt and scored on a Jacob Mahan sac fly.
Simpson then led off the eighth with a single and stole second, his 21st of the year, and scored on a Patrick Savage double to the wall in right center to tie the game at 2-2. Savage had entered the game just an inning before as a defensive replacement for Garrett Cooper at first, who was pulled with a muscle spasm.
“Patrick Savage, what a day. He comes in, makes a nice play at first and comes up with a big hit,” Pawlowski said.
In the 10th, Gonzalez led off with his second double of the game and scored on Bryant’s ball that found a hole between the Arkansas shortstop and second baseman for the game-winning hit.
“I sat on something straight and ended up getting it,” Bryant said of his 10th-inning hit. “It wasn’t the best swing in the world but it squeezed through and that’s just baseball.”
Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale recorded a career-high nine strike outs in a no-decision, allowing a run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Barrett Astin (2-5) took the loss.
Auburn will try to claim a third straight series victory at Baum Stadium on Friday at 6:30pm when it sends Daniel Koger (3-4) to the mound opposite Arkansas’ Randall Fant (2-2). First pitch is set for 6:30pm.