Donaldson's Blast Propels Tigers To Saturday Win

<b>Josh Donaldson</b>

Auburn won its first home series since defeating Ole Miss late in the 2003 season.

Auburn, Ala.–-Auburn third baseman Josh Donaldson's three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be the game-winner for the Tigers as they held on for an 8-7 victory over number seven Arkansas at Plainsman Park Saturday. The win gave the 21st-ranked Tigers (21-9, 5-3) the series victory, the first for Auburn at home against a SEC opponent since the 2003 season, a fact that Coach Tommy Slater says he didn't realize until earlier this week.

"On Thursday Arnold Hughey said something about needing to win a home series because we haven't done it in over a year," Slater says. "I said ‘what?'. I had no clue. I didn't know that. I said ‘are you kidding me?' and he said ‘no coach, we didn't win a home series last year'. I said let's change that this weekend.

"I gave them a little incentive and our wonderful marketing have this ‘All Orange' Tuesday (Georgia Tech) and we've got some very ugly orange hats in the locker room. I told the guys that if we could win the series this weekend that I would let them wear the ugliest hats in America on Tuesday against Georgia Tech. Fortunately we're going to wear the orange hats Tuesday night."

In a coming out party of sorts for several players in the league, the Tigers pounded Arkansas starter Charley Boyce for 13 hits and eight runs in six and one/thirds innings Saturday. Donaldson had three hits along with right fielder Clete Thomas and designated hitter Russell Dixon. Slater says the day was a good one for his team at the plate with several players coming up big in clutch situations.

"I thought we had a lot of quality at-bats up and down the line-up," Slater says. "Even our outs seemed loud tonight. We really had great approaches tonight at the plate against a quality senior pitcher in Charley Boyce. The running game was working well for us tonight. We created some offense with some stolen bases. Sully gave us what we needed. He limited the damage early and got us into the game well. I told Sully we were going to score for him and Nix was just tremendous.

Josh Sullivan improved his record to 5-2 with a victory over Arkansas in Saturday's game.

Auburn starter Josh Sullivan picked up his fifth win of the season as he allowed six runs on four hits in five and two/thirds innings. Reliever Jared Shore gave up one run on one hit in his one inning of work and Michael Nix came on to shut the door once again. Nix pitched two and one/thirds innings of perfect baseball to earn his sixth save of the season on a day when both teams were able to score almost at will from the get-go.

The big inning for Auburn came in the bottom of the fifth. Leading just 4-3 following a run by the Hogs in the top half of the frame, the Tigers jumped out to the big lead thanks to the middle of the order. Leading off, Thomas singled to left field for his first hit of the weekend. Being careful with Karl Amonite, Boyce walked him to bring Josh Bell to the plate. Continuing his hot hitting, Bell singled through the left side to score Thomas and put Auburn up 5-3.

Following a fly out by Dixon to left field Donaldson would come up with the biggest play of the game. Getting behind 0-2, he fought back to even the count before jumping on a fastball. Lifting it in the air, he drove the pitch over the monster in left field for his first home run of the season. The blow gave Auburn a 8-3 advantage, but the Hogs would not lay down on this day.

"It was a great feeling in SEC play to help the team out," Donaldson says. "When I get my opportunity I just want to make the best of it. It was 3-2, the pitch that I hit out. Earlier on my first at-bat he jammed me on an inside two-seam fastball. I was thinking the middle of the field, but luckily he threw me something in and I just turned on it."

With Sullivan tiring on the mound at that time the Razorbacks got a big bomb of their own to keep the game close. Left fielder Clint Arnold led things off by earning a walk from Sullivan. It was just the third walk of the game issued by the junior, but just like the first two it would come back to haunt him. Following a fly-out by Clay Goodwin, Danny Hamblin singled to left field to score Arnold, who had stolen second. One out later the Hogs got the big shot they were looking for as Blake Parker jumped on a fastball and put it over the center field wall for a two-run home run. With the lead cut to 8-6 Auburn had some work to do over the last three innings to earn the victory.

Arkansas cut into the lead even further in the seventh off Shore. Scott Hode led off the inning with a long double off the wall in center field to get into scoring position. Two ground balls later and the lead was down to one, but Nix came on to record the final out of the inning and give the Tigers a slim lead with just two chances remaining for the Hogs. Auburn came close to extending the lead in the bottom of the inning, but a diving grab by Arnold in left of a Joey Huskins line drive kept two runs off the board heading to the eighth. Nix dominated the ninth inning to shut the door on the Hogs and give Auburn its second consecutive series win against a Top 10 opponent.

Early on it was a struggle for Sullivan on the mound. Facing his home-state school, Sullivan walked the first two batters he faced and both eventually came around to score to give Arkansas the early two-run lead. Auburn answered back as Tyler Johnstone led off with an infield single and Thomas reached one out later on a walk to bring Amonite to the plate. The big first baseman singled through the left side to score Johnstone and cut the lead in half. A Dixon double moments later off the wall in left field scored Thomas to tie the game at two after just one inning of play.

In the second Auburn extended the lead as Adam Stacey led off the inning with an infield single and moved to second on a single by Ben Sprague into right field. After a failed attempt by Johnstone to bunt the runners over, Bruce Edwards ground out to the first baseman to push the runners to second and third with two outs. Thomas was up next and he hit a ground ball that Arkansas shortstop Hode dove to his left and snared. Coming up throwing, Hode may the play close at first, but Thomas beat it out for the single. On the play Stacey scored easily and Sprague kept running from second and scored as well. Leading 4-2 Auburn remained ahead as the Hogs scored a single run in the fourth, setting the stage for the Tiger victory.

"It feels real good," Thomas says. "Hopefully we can put another win together tomorrow and stay on a roll here and stay hot. It looks like we're getting hot at the right time. Hopefully we can stay like that."

For Arkansas Hamblin was the only player with two hits while Parker led the way with three runs batted in. Reliever Lee Land came on to pitch the final one and two/thirds innings, allowing just one hit. The loss drops Arkansas to 21-6 overall and 3-5 in conference play.

Box Score

The two teams play the final game of the series Sunday morning at 10:30 when sophomore Josh Blake takes the hill against Shaun Seibert for Arkansas. Blake is 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA this season while Seibert enters at 3-1 with an earned run average of 1.98.

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