After being down four runs to the No. 13 Auburn Tigers (23-9, 4-7), the No. 5 Arkansas baseball team (23-8, 7-4) rallied and ultimately won game three, 5-4, and completed the sweep at Baum Stadium on April 8.
Auburn entered the game with one goal in mind: avoid being swept. The Tigers lost a defensive battle, 2-1, on Friday night. During the second game, the Hogs’ offense exploded and lit up the scoreboard, 13-2. The only thing that could make the flight to Auburn more painful was a sweep.
Arkansas, on the other hand, was in high spirits. The Hogs had already won the series over a dangerous Auburn team. The last time there was a similar lopsided amount of runs, the Razorbacks were on the wrong side of it. The Razorbacks lost 17-2 to Florida on March 24.
Auburn jumped out to a very early lead, scoring three runs in the top of the second and one more in the third. Freshman left fielder Judd Ward, who led the team with .455 batting average, scored the first run off a double by senior third basemen Josh Anthony, followed by two additional runs by Anthony and senior infielder Dylan Ingram.
A single by senior center fielder Jay Estes and a run by freshman right fielder Steven Williams gave the desperate Auburn fans something to smile about. They were up 4-0 against a top-five team. If the Tigers could win the last game, they could take that momentum into the next series against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
For Razorback fans, they were silent after Williams’ run. After three straight outs in the top of the fourth, the Razorbacks began to rally.
Arkansas junior right fielder Eric Cole brought some thunder back to Baum after his run following a double from freshman third basemen Casey Martin. With two outs, this wasn’t the only run of the inning. Martin scored a run thanks to a single from sophomore center fielder Dominic Fletcher. The Razorbacks cut Auburn’s lead in half.
A single from Cole in the bottom of the seventh boosted Arkansas’ offense even further. This was enough to tie the score at four after runs by junior shortstop Jax Biggers and junior catcher Grant Koch.
After Auburn failed to do anything in the top of the ninth, Arkansas had everything on the line. With just one run, the Hogs would sweep the series. Auburn’s freshman pitcher Cody Greenhill walked senior second basemen Carson Shaddy. Biggers grounded out, and sophomore pinch hitter Evan Lee struck out. The crowd was silent as freshman left fielder Heston Kjerstad took the field with two outs. Kjerstad previously flied out and struck out three times. His shining moment came in the form of a single. This single was enough to get Shaddy home and win the game for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn knew that Kjerstad’s moment was going to happen, he said.
“You’re getting another at-bat in this game, and it’s going to be the biggest at-bat,” Van Horn said. “It’s all about the at-bat.”
Kjerstad knew what he needed to do in the critical moment, he said.
“I was just trying to hit something hard,” Kjerstad said. “I was just getting that winning run for our team.”
Arkansas junior relief pitcher Jake Reindl played seven innings and allowed only one hit and run while striking out nine batters.
“It felt good to get back into the swing of things, to get back to being who I was last year,” Reindl said.
The Razorbacks will travel to Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock on Tuesday to host Grambling State. The next series for the Diamond Hogs will be home at Baum against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The first game is set for April 12 at 6 p.m.