Auburn drops pitchers duel to Arkansas, 1-0 - WRBL

Auburn drops pitchers duel to Arkansas, 1-0

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AUBURN, Ala. -

Auburn's Michael O'Neal and Arkansas' Ryne Stanek matched up in a pitching duel for the ages but it was Auburn coming up on the short end, falling 1-0 on Friday night at Plainsman Park.

The loss dropped Auburn's record to 32-22, 12-17 SEC while No. 11 Arkansas improved to 35-18, 18-10 SEC.

"Going into the game when you face guys that have their numbers and the talent that they have on the mound you are going to have to match them pitch-for-pitch," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Unfortunately tonight we had a few opportunities to score but they made some big pitches in big situations."

With the rest of the results on the night, Auburn has solidified its spot as the No. 10 seed in next week's SEC Tournament while Arkansas has clinched the No. 3 seed.

O'Neal (8-4), looking for his first win since April 19 at Mississippi State, was touched for just the one run on four hits in seven-plus innings of work. After allowing a third-inning RBI single to Dominic Ficociello, he sat down 14 consecutive Arkansas hitters before issuing a leadoff walk in the eighth, his third free pass of the day and the last batter he faced on the night. He finished with three strike outs before turning things over to the bullpen.

"I was just throwing strikes," O'Neal said. "I was being careful, thinking I can't give up a run, but once you have given it up you just have to pound it to try and save the bullpen for tomorrow."

Stanek (8-2) threw 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball, scattering six hits and four walks. Auburn was able to put runners on against him but only once had a runner on base with less than two outs and never put a runner in scoring position until there were two outs in the inning.

Colby Suggs earned his 11th save of the season by striking out the side in the ninth.

Arkansas scored the only run of the game in the third, capitalizing on a leadoff walk to Matt Vinson. A Brian Anderson groundout on a hit-and-run put Vinson on second and a Tyler Spoon single to left brought him to third. Ficociello then delivered the game-winning RBI with a single back up the middle.

"You know coming in you are facing one of the best pitching staffs in the nation," O'Neal said. "You can't give up a run. I got a ground ball up the middle and I thought we were going to turn two on it so I tried to make sure I didn't touch it at all. (Jordan) Ebert just barely missed it."

Arkansas threatened to break the game open in the eighth as it loaded the bases with just one out but Reid Carter was able to get pinch hitter Joe Serrano to roll into an inning-ending double play to keep the deficit at a single run.

The 1-0 game was the first for Auburn since it fell to Alabama on May 10, 1996, in the first of a three-game series by the same score.

Auburn will try to win the series on in the regular season finale on Saturday. First pitch is set for 1pm with a Senior Recognition taking place at 12:30pm. Arkansas will start left-hander Randall Fant (5-1) on the mound. Auburn has not determined its starter.

Jonathan Huskey

Jonathan comes to News 3 from Fort Smith/Fayetteville, Ark., where he anchored weekends and reported during the week on some of the best high school sports in the state. More>>

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