LIVE UPDATES: Game 1 of Arkansas vs Auburn Presents Hagen Smith’s Last Box to Check

Hagen Smith, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs Auburn
photo credit: Baumology

The No. 1 team in the country is taking the show on the road for the first time this weekend in the Arkansas vs Auburn showdown on the Plains.

Sure, the Razorbacks faced a trio of teams in Arlington, Texas, last month, but Globe Life Field might as well have been Baum-Walker Stadium South the way Arkansas fans packed the building.

When Peyton Stovall steps to the plate against the No. 23 Tigers at Plainsman Park for the 6 p.m. CT first pitch Thursday, it’ll be the Razorbacks’ first time playing in front of a hostile crowd — although it’ll be interesting to see just how hostile it is with both the Auburn men’s and women’s basketball teams playing in March Madness.

Needless to say, Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn isn’t too concerned about the team playing on the road for the first time.

“I think our guys are excited,” Van Horn said. “I’m fine. I like playing on the road. I think it kind of bonds the team a little bit. … If it goes great, great. If it doesn’t go good, I don’t think it’s because we’re on the road as much as we just didn’t play good or Auburn played really good.”

It certainly helps that Arkansas has Hagen Smith on the mound.

The left-hander has been arguably the best pitcher in all of college baseball five weeks into the season. In 23 innings, he has a 1.57 ERA with 50 strikeouts to only eight walks and opponents are hitting just .108 against him. Smith leads the country in strikeouts per nine innings at 19.6 and hits allowed per nine innings at 3.1, plus ranks fifth nationally in WHIP at 0.70.

In its first mock draft of the season released Monday, Baseball America has him going fifth overall in this summer’s MLB Draft.

Smith has already shown drastic improvement since last season, when he was used as both a starter and a reliever. His control is much better, allowing him to be more efficient and work deeper into games, plus he’s seen an uptick in velocity and his slider is virtually unhittable.

What remains to be seen, though, is how he’ll fair on the road. He passed his first test away from Baum-Walker Stadium with flying colors, racking up 17 strikeouts in six scoreless innings against an Oregon State team now ranked No. 2 in most polls. But again, that wasn’t a true road game.

Pitching on the road is perhaps the last thing Smith really needs to cross off his checklist of areas for improvement, as that’s been a bit of a struggle the last two years. Here are his road vs. home splits in SEC play in 2022 and 2023:

SplitInningsERAWHIPK/9 IPBB/9 IP
2023 Home19.11.400.9812.63.3
2023 Road24.24.381.3813.95.5
2022 Home27.24.231.2310.44.2
2022 Road17.28.662.047.67.6

Granted, Smith’s role varied from week to week last season, but he was incredible at home and only solid on the road in conference play. Of course, his ERA is skewed a bit by what was probably his best road outing of the season.

Facing the vaunted lineup of No. 1 LSU, Smith allowed only one run in four innings of relief before giving up a two-run home run to Dylan Crews — which was meaningless because Arkansas had just scored eight runs in the top of the 10th. Take out those two runs and his road ERA drops from 4.38 to 3.65.

It’s also worth noting that Smith was great in the postseason as a freshman, when he posted a 3.38 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in five outings — all away from Baum-Walker Stadium. That is significantly better than the 8.66 ERA and 2.04 WHIP he had in SEC road games that year.

We’ll get an idea if Smith can further close the gap in those splits when he takes on an Auburn lineup with a team OPS of .952 — which is 76 points higher than that of Arkansas.

Follow along below for updates from Game 1 of the Arkansas vs Auburn series…

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Auburn (Game 1)

Pregame Tidbits

Junior right-hander Conner McBride is set to start for Auburn. He has been the Tigers’ midweek starter this year, compiling a 2.41 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 18 2/3 innings.

T-1st: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Stovall was hit by a pitch to start the game.
  • In a full count, Diggs swung at a bad pitch in an apparent hit-and-run and Stovall was thrown out trying to steal second for a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play. Had just taken the full-count pitch, it would have been a walk to put runners on first and second. Instead, no one is on and there are 2 outs.
  • That stung even more when Aloy followed with an opposite field home run. Instead of a three-run homer, it’s a solo shot.
  • McLaughlin grounded out to second to end the inning. It was a 20-pitch inning for McBride.

B-1st: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Smith fell behind 3-0 against Weiss, but responded with three straight strikes. Weiss went down swinging. 1 out.
  • Irish jumped on the first pitch he saw for a single through the right side.
  • Peirce chased a slider nowhere near the zone for strike three. However, the ball got away from White, allowing Irish to take second.
  • McMurray followed with another three-pitch strikeout. After starting the game with three straight balls, Smith threw 10 straight strikes for 13 total pitches.

T-2nd: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Sprague-Lott hit a slow roller to third, but Fabian made a nice play to field it and throw him out at first. 1 out.
  • Lovich chased a pitch above the strike zone for strike three. 2 outs.
  • White slapped a single the other way to keep the inning alive.
  • Souza goes down swinging to end the inning. McBride is up to 38 pitches through two innings.

B-2nd: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Stanfield lined out to left. 1 out.
  • Maners grounded out to first. 2 outs.
  • Smith thought he had strike three looking against Fabian, but it was called a ball. It took a couple more pitches, but he struck ended up striking him out when White caught Fabian’s foul tip. That was an 11-pitch inning for Smith, who’s at 24 through two innings.

T-3rd: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Wilmsmeyer blooped a single to right to put the leadoff man on. All three of Arkansas’ hits have been the other way so far.
  • Stovall followed with a four-pitch walk.
  • Diggs fouled off several two-strike pitches and worked the count full before looking at strike three. He appeared mad at himself for not swinging. 1 out.
    • A wild pitch moved Wilmsmeyer to third, but Stovall stayed put at first.
  • Aloy drew a walk on the next pitch to load the bases. That also prompted a mount visit by Auburn.
  • With the bases loaded, McLaughlin hit a fly ball to shallow right. It was caught and Peirce made a tremendous throw home to get the speedy Wilmsmeyer trying to turn it into a sac fly. That ends the inning. McBride has thrown 61 pitches through three innings.

B-3rd: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Hall managed to check his swing on a would-be strike three, but then Smith blew a 96 mph fastball by him for a strikeout. 1 out.
  • Hernandez bounced a single through the middle for a single.
  • Weiss swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded into a 5-4-3 double play that ended the inning. Smith is at 36 pitches through three innings.

T-4th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Sprague-Lott poked a slow bouncer the other way that seemed like it’d beat the shift, but Hernandez – the second baseman – covered a lot of ground and got him. 1 out.
  • Lovich swung at the first pitch and flied out to left. 2 outs.
  • White singled through the left side for Arkansas’ first pulled hit (out of four) of the game. He’s 2 for 2.
  • Because the first baseman was holding White at first, he was able to easily field Souza’s grounder at step on first to end the inning. McBride is at 70 pitches because that was just a nine-pitch inning.

B-4th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Smith walked Irish on five pitches to start the fourth.
  • Peirce singled up the middle and Auburn has something going.
  • McMurray fouled off a couple of pitches and then swung and missed at a slider for a three-pitch strikeout. 1 out.
    • With two strikes, Irish and Peirce pulled off a double steal to put runners on second and third.
  • Stanfield couldn’t check his swing on a slider and it’s a big strikeout. 2 outs.
  • Maners looked at a fastball down the middle for strike three. Smith is fired up as he comes off the field. He’s at 58 pitches through four innings.

T-5th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Right-hander Cam Tilly is now pitching for Auburn.
  • Weiss just made a nice play on a sharp grounder by Wilmsmeyer. He then threw out the speedster. 1 out.
  • Stovall made solid contact, but his line drive was tracked down by the center fielder. 2 outs.
  • Diggs went down swinging for his third strikeout of the night.

B-5th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Fabian looked at strike three. That’s nine strikeouts for Smith. 1 out.
  • Hall hit a high fly ball to shallow center and Wilmsmeyer caught it. 2 outs.
  • Hernandez can’t check his swing. That’s 10 strikeouts for Smith, who is at 69 pitches through five innings.

T-6th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Aloy was hit by a pitch to start the inning.
  • McLaughlin followed with a fly out to center. 1 out.
    • A wild pitch moved Aloy to second.
  • Sprague-Lott hit a grounder to the left side and for some reason, Aloy took off for third. The shortstop threw to third and got Aloy in a rundown. Aloy stayed alive long enough for Sprague-Lott to get to second. He also made it to second and with both guys standing on the bag, Auburn tagged both and Sprague-Lott was called out on a 6-5-4-6 fielder’s choice. 2 outs.
  • Lovich struck out swinging to end the inning.

B-6th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Weiss struck out swinging to start the inning. 1 out.
  • Irish – the only Auburn player who hasn’t struck out tonight – was hit by a pitch.
  • Peirce hit a deep fly ball to left, but Lovich was camped out under it on the warning track. However, it popped out of his glove for an E7 that put runners on second and third.
  • McMurray struck out on three pitches again. 2 outs.
  • Stanfield walked on four pitches, loading the bases and prompting a visit from White.
  • Smith got out of it by getting Maners to ground out to first. He’s at 87 pitches now.

T-7th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • White hit a fly ball to right-center and the center fielder tracked it down. 1 out.
  • In a full count, Souza fouled off a couple of pitches before drawing a walk.
    • Souza swiped second.
  • Wilmsmeyer grounded out to second, but it moved Souza to third. Without the stolen base, that likely would have been a double play. That leads to a pitching change.
    • Now pitching for Auburn is left-hander Tanner Bauman.
  • Stovall got ahead 3-0, but after taking a strike, hit a lazy line drive back to the pitcher and Bauman easily caught it to end the inning.

B-7th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Smith’s day is done. Now pitching for Arkansas is right-hander Will McEntire.
    • Smith’s final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K, 1 HBP, 87 pitches (56 strikes)
  • McEntire fell behind 2-0, but then threw three straight cutters to strike out Fabian. 1 out.
  • Hall also went down swinging. 2 outs.
  • Wow. What a play by McLaughlin to get to a chopper down the line by Hernandez and managed to throw to McEntire covering the bag. Auburn challenged the call out out, but it was confirmed. It’s a perfect 13-pitch inning for McEntire.

T-8th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Diggs hit a grounder to first and McMurray fielded it too far away from the bag, so he had to toss to the pitcher covering. The throw was slightly behind him. Bauman tried to barehand it and dropped it, allowing Diggs to reach on the E1.
  • Aloy smoked a line drive 112 mph off the bat, but it was right to the center fielder. 1 out.
  • McLaughlin fouled off a few pitches before beating the shift with a single to left. It went right where a third baseman would normally be playing. That prompts a mound visit by Auburn.
  • Sprague-Lott flied out to deep right, allowing Diggs to tag up to third. 2 outs.
  • With runners on first and third, Peyton Holt pinch hit for Lovich. He chased a couple pitches to fall behind 1-2 and then chased another to end the inning.

B-8th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Weiss grounded out to second to start the inning. 1 out.
  • Irish – who had reached each of his first three times up – went down swinging. 2 outs.
  • Peirce grounded out to second to end the inning. McEntire has thrown just 22 pitches in two innings.

T-9th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Right-hander Will Cannon is now pitching for the Tigers.
  • With two strikes, White ripped a leadoff single into left.
  • Auburn pulled off another strike ’em out, throw ’em out, as Souza looked at strike three and White was caught stealing. 2 outs.
  • Wilmsmeyer popped out to first to end the inning.

B-9th: Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

  • Freshman right-hander Gabe Gaeckle is in to try to close it out.
  • In a full count, McMurray swung and missed at a 97 mph fastball that might have been out of the zone. 1 out.
  • Stanfield grounded out to second. 2 outs.
  • Maners struck out on a 96 mph fastball to end the game.

FINAL – Arkansas 1, Auburn 0

Starting Lineups

Auburn BaseballArkansas Baseball
1. Cooper Weiss – SS1. Peyton Stovall – 2B
2. Ike Irish – C2. Kendall Diggs – RF
3. Bobby Peirce – RF3. Wehiwa Aloy – SS
4. Cooper McMurray – 1B4. Ben McLaughlin – 1B
5. Chris Stanfield – CF5. Jared Sprague-Lott – 3B
6. Mason Maners – LF6. Ross Lovich – LF
7. Deric Fabian – 3B7. Hudson White – C
8. Christian Hall – DH8. Nolan Souza – DH
9. Javon Hernandez – 2B9. Ty Wilmsmeyer – CF
Pitching: RHP Conner McBridePitching: LHP Hagen Smith

How to Watch Arkansas vs Auburn (Game 1)

Date: Thursday, March 21

Location: Plainsman Park (Auburn, Ala.)

First Pitch: 6 p.m. CT

TV/Stream: SEC Network

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Check out what Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn had to say ahead of the Arkansas vs Auburn series:

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More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS… 

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