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May 18, 2013- -
AUBURN | Mitchell Self isn't a slugger.
That wasn't a problem Saturday afternoon. The senior's fifth-inning safety squeeze bunt wasn't placed well, but Arkansas pitcher Trent Daniel's throw home was late. Then Self got himself in a run-down between first base and second base, which allowed Blake Austin to score to tie the game.
Those shenanigans ignited an eight-run rally that helped Auburn earn an 11-6, series-clinching win.
"That's the way we scripted it," coach John Pawlowski said of Self's bunt and the madness that ensued. "We made that play and the floodgates opened up. It's a tough play to make. There are a lot of things that have to go right to make that play."
The most amazing part of Self's play? Austin, the Tigers' catcher, scored the tying run from first base on a bunt.
"That's huge," Austin said with a laugh.
The massive rally wasn't all about Arkansas mishaps, though. Auburn registered six hits during the fifth inning, bringing 12 batters to the plate. Austin singled with no outs and later with two outs.
"We just found different ways to score runs today," Pawlowski said.
Once Auburn jumped out to the 8-3 lead, the pressure was on reliever Trey Cochran-Gill to throw strikes and move the game along. He handled that responsibility credibly, working 5 2/3 innings despite handling a four-inning workload against Jacksonville State earlier in the week.
Though Cochran-Gill wasn't exactly dominant, he didn't run into significant trouble until the eighth inning. Three singles allowed Arkansas to score two runs. Still, closer Terrance Dedrick finished the inning without incident and retired the Razorbacks in order during a quick ninth inning.
Austin finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs while second baseman Jordan Ebert added a homer and two RBIs. Patrick Savage also knocked in a pair of runs.
The win clinched for Auburn (33-22, 13-17) the No. 10 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament, which begins Tuesday morning. The Tigers will play seventh-seeded Alabama around noon.
That's a significant development for the Tigers, who opened SEC play 0-7. Closing out the regular season with wins over Florida, No. 18 Ole Miss and No. 11 Arkansas now has Auburn in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth.
"I think we've put ourselves in very good position, but there's still a lot of work to do," Pawlowski said.