FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ biggest heroes Saturday came from the most unlikely of places.
Jake Wise’s sub .200 batting average didn’t hurt him in the late innings. Josh Alberius’ five previous at-bats on the season seemed to belie his confidence at the plate. And Tyler Spoon’s cold streak finally snapped.
Wise collected the game-tying RBI with a single in the eighth and Spoon knocked in Alberius with a walk-off single to right-centerfield in the 10th inning to provide the Razorbacks with 4-3 extra-innings win over Auburn in the first game of a doubleheader.
Arkansas dropped the second game, and the series, however, falling 7-2 in the nightcap.
Jacob Stone, who pitched 3 1/3 innings of no-hit ball in the opener to keep Arkansas in position to tie and eventually win, commended his hitters.
“To get up and rally behind Jake is something special and something we really needed as a team,” Stone said. “Josh, he hadn’t had a lot of reps all year, so that’s common for him and our team, but (we know) we can have him come off the bench and have him do something like that.”
“Spoon … he’s clutch. He’s been clutch all year. He’s just been struggling a little bit, but that kid’s a stud.”
Spoon had but two hits in his previous 17 at-bats until he knocked in the game-winner. Alberius was 0-for-5 on the season and had seen time in just six games. Wise, who also walked and knocked in the Razorbacks’ first run, entered Saturday with a .174 batting average.
Eric Fisher started the 10th with a double off the right field wall that hit inches below the yellow-line marker on top of the fence that signifies a home run. Alberius singled him to third and Wise was intentionally walked. Auburn closer Terrance Dedrick, who collected the save in Auburn’s 2-1 win on Friday, induced a Michael Bernal forceout to third, as Auburn threw to home and eliminated Fisher.
That set the stage for Spoon’s walk-off. It was Arkansas’ first of the year.
It was also the Razorbacks’ first extra innings game all year, but their 16th one-run contest. Arkansas is 6-10 in one-run games, including Friday’s 2-1 loss in the series opener.
“We definitely needed to come back strong after that disappointing loss last night,” Stone said. “It’s funny, before the game coach Van was talking about how we haven’t had an extra-inning game all year or a walk-off win and they both just happened to happen today.”
Arkansas led 2-0 after the third inning thanks a Wise sacrifice fly and a Blake Baxendale RBI single in the second and third, respectively. Auburn trimmed the lead to one on a Blake Logan RBI single in the fourth and then scored two more in the sixth to go ahead.
Stone relieved Jalen Beeks in the seventh after the Arkansas starter hit Auburn’s Ryan Tella with a pitch. Stone subsequently walked Anfernee Grier but recorded nine straight outs after that to give Arkansas a chance.
Auburn’s freshman starter Keegan Thompson pitched seven innings, struck out six, walked two and allowed seven Arkansas hits and two runs. His replacements, Jay Wade and Terrance Dedrick, allowed the same amount of runs, walks and just one fewer hit in a total of 2 1/3 innings.
All of them had better nights than Arkansas’ Game Two starter Chris Oliver.
Oliver lasted just three-plus innings in the second game. It was his shortest outing since March 16 at Florida.
Saturday, Oliver allowed five hits, walked five batters and surrendered four runs before leaving the bases loaded for his replacement Dominic Taccolini in the third. All three of runners eventually scored as the Tigers put up a four-run fourth inning and took a 7-0 lead.
Baxendale knocked in Arkansas’ two runs with a two-run double down the left field line in the sixth.
The paid attendance of the second game was 11,742, the highest in school history. The actual attendance — 10,217 — was sixth-highest.
Arkansas has not beaten Auburn in a series since 2009.