By John Franklin Thomas
AUBURN, Ala. – The ninth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks and 15th-ranked Auburn Tigers split their doubleheader on Friday, but it took 15 innings to decide game two as Arkansas won a marathon, 9-6, salvaging a day that started with a 6-3 loss in game one.
Sophomore Heston Kjerstad, who was 0-for-7 in the game before leading off the top of the 15th inning, smashed a solo home run over the right field wall to break a 6-6 tie. The home run was his team-leading seventh of the year and was his second of the day as he homered in game one as part of a 1-for-4 performance.
Arkansas went on to score two more runs in the 15th as sophomore Matt Goodheart smacked a two-run double off the left field wall to complete a three-hit game of his own. The three-run lead was large enough for Kevin Kopps to hold in the bottom half as he set down the Tigers in order, giving the Hogs the 9-6 win.
After weather forecasts called for rain throughout the evening on Thursday, the Razorbacks (23-8, 7-4 SEC) and Tigers (23-8, 7-4 SEC) were forced to play two nine-inning games on Friday at Plainsman Park and as a result of the 15-inning game two, both teams spent almost 10 hours at the ballpark.
The 15-inning game was Arkansas’ longest in terms of innings since a 16-inning loss to Southeast Missouri State in 2004 and Friday’s total game time for the extra-inning affair was five hours and 40 minutes.
Arkansas’ epic win Friday night snapped a four-game losing streak that started back in the second game of its series with Ole Miss last weekend, which was its longest losing streak since 2016. However, the win was the Hogs’ seventh in conference play, keeping them a half game back of division leader LSU.
Game 1 | Auburn 6, Arkansas 3 (Box Score)
Earlier in the day, Arkansas had a 3-0 lead going into the sixth inning, before allowing six unanswered runs to the Tigers. Redshirt junior right-hander Isaiah Campbell was cruising until the sixth inning, holding Auburn to only three hits and one walk through five innings.
Auburn broke through for three runs in the sixth and Campbell was unable to finish the seventh inning, marking his first outing of less than seven innings since March 8.
Campbell finished the game with three earned runs allowed in 6.2 innings and seven hits scattered. He did walk three and only tallied three strikeouts, his lowest total of the year.
Arkansas’ bullpen failed to hold the lead in the late innings as the Tigers got an RBI double in the eighth inning from Conor Davis. They added two more runs on a single from Ryan Bliss and a double by Matt Scheffler, making it 6-3.
Kevin Kopps was saddled with the loss, dropping his record to 1-3, but he would rectify it later that night with some clutch innings for the Hogs in game two.
Goodheart was the only Razorback hitter with two more hits on both ends of the twin bill. He went 2-for-4 in game one with two singles. Combine that with his game two performance, the sophomore went 5-for-9 (.556) on Friday and has nine multi-hit game since the start of SEC play.
Game 2 | Arkansas 9, Auburn 6 (15 inn.) (Box Score)
Arkansas and Auburn traded leads four times in the marathon contest, including twice in extra innings. Four different Hogs had multi-hit performances, led by junior Dominic Fletcher, who went 4-for-6 with an RBI, two walks and two runs scored. The four hits ties a career-high for Fletcher and marks his fourth game this year with three hits or more.
Trevor Ezell, Christian Franklin and Goodheart combined for seven of Arkansas’ 14 hits in the game. Ezell drove in two of the Razorbacks’ first three runs in the game, but did not record a hit until the ninth inning. The redshirt senior brought in Arkansas’ second run of the game on a sacrifice fly in the second inning and later brought in the third run on a fielder’s choice.
With the game tied at 4-4 in the 12th inning, Ezell corked a two-run home run over Auburn’s left field green monster for his fourth home run of the year. Unfortunately, Arkansas was unable to hold the lead in the bottom half and stayed tied at 6-6 until Kjerstad’s home run in the 15th.15th.
Freshman pitcher Connor Noland had one of his strongest outings of the year as he held Auburn scoreless until the fourth inning with just one hit allowed. The Tigers did score a lone run in the fourth inning and then got a two-run home run by Will Holland in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3 and force Noland out of the game.game.
Noland ended up with five hits scattered and three earned runs allowed, but did not allow a walk and struck out two.two.
Over the remainder of the game, the combo of Cody Scroggins, Matt Cronin, Kole Ramage and Kevin Kopps held Auburn to only one earned run allowed over the final 10.2 innings and six hits.
Kopps redeemed himself over the final 1.1 innings, striking out two and retiring four in a row to earn his second win of the year.
Arkansas and Auburn will face off in a rubber match on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park. The original game time of 2 p.m. was moved up one hour due to the chance of inclement weather later in the day. The game will still be televised on SEC Network+.