Diamond Hogs nip Auburn 1-0 for 14th-straight victory

Hagen Smith (Arkansas Athletics)

Arkansas starting pitcher Hagen Smith struck out 12 Auburn batters and Razorback shortstop Wehiwa Aloy smashed a first-inning home run that held up for a 1-0 victory over the No. 23 Tigers Thursday in SEC play at Auburn.

“I’m going to state the obvious,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said after the game. “We pitched really well. Hagen got out of a couple of jams. One of them was because we didn’t make a play in the outfield, and he got out of them. Amazing.”

The victory lifts the No. 1 Razorbacks to 18-2 on the season and 4-0 in SEC play. The Hogs have won 14-consecutive games. Smith went six scoreless innings for the Hogs and pushed his record to 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA. Fifty-six of his 87 pitches were strikes on a night where he gave up just 3 hits and 2 walks.

Smith’s night wasn’t easy. He had to work his way out of jams in the fourth and sixth inning.

“Some of it was experience,” Van Horn said of Smith’s performance. “There really was no panic. He made some pitches. Bottom line, (he was) making really big pitches with good stuff.”

Smith got two innings of excellent relief by Will McEntire in the seventh and eighth with him retiring all six batters, and freshman Gabe Gaeckle garnered a key SEC save on the road, setting down three straight batters.

Auburn fell to 14-7 overall and 0-4 in SEC play.

Coupled with last weekend’s results against Missouri, the Hogs have three shutouts in four SEC games.

Aloy’s homer was his fourth of the season and one of six Razorback hits on the night. Catcher Hudson White belted three of them going 3 for 3, all singles.

First baseman Ben McLaughlin, and center fielder Ty Wilmsmeyer were the only other Hogs to get a hit in the taut battle that saw the Tigers get runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings, but Smith worked his way out of trouble, making up for an outfield error in the sixth that could have been costly.

Up next for the Razorbacks

Opponent: at Auburn
When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 22
Where: Auburn, Ala.
TV: SEC Network+

Next few games:

March 23 – at Auburn, 2 p.m. (SEC+)
March 26 – Little Rock, 6:30 p.m. (SEC+)
March 28-30 – LSU

The error probably kept Smith from returning for the seventh inning, but McEntire and Gaeckle closed the door on the Tigers.

Van Horn lamented that the Razorbacks put enough runners on base, but that his team couldn’t come up with the big hit to make the game less interesting.

“It was a really good win for our team, finding a way to win when things really weren’t going our way,” Van Horn said. “…We missed putting the game away a couple of times, but I’m proud of the guys and the way they hung in there.”

Van Horn said Auburn deserved credit for their pitching as well, tying up the Hogs with their defensive effort in the field.

“It was a tough ballgame,” a pleased Van Horn said.

Right-hander Brady Tygart (3-0, 0.73 ERA) is expected to start on the mound Friday against Auburn’s Chase Allsup (1-1, 7.15 ERA). First pitch is at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed by SEC Network +/ESPN +. Saturday’s game will also be streamed on SEC Network +/ESPN + at 2 p.m.

Van Horn said Gaeckle, who threw 14 pitches in relief, would be available to pitch again, mostly likely on Saturday.

Rain is expected in the Auburn area on Friday. There is a possibility of wet weather forcing two seven-inning games on Saturday if the teams are unable to play Friday.