Auburn baseball went on the road to Oxford, Mississippi with a chance to make an early statement in the SEC race against the fourth ranked Rebels. However, Ole Miss walked away victorious after a three game sweep over the Tigers. Each game featured a different way to win for Ole Miss. In the series opener, Cody Greenhill and Ole Miss starter Gunnar Hoglund went at it in a pitcher's duel, but a pinch hit home run off the bat of Calvin Harris in the eighth inning against Auburn freshman pitcher Joseph Gonzalez proved to be the difference in a 1-0 game. On Saturday, the Rebels scored six runs over the first three innings against Auburn starter Mason Barnett to get out to an early 6-2 lead. The bullpen trio of Brooks Fuller, Carson Swilling, and Blake Burkhalter worked in and out of trouble to give Auburn a chance. Auburn got a run back in the sixth and two more in the seventh, but the Tigers left the tying run on base in the ninth when Tyler Miller just missed a homer to right center field. In the finale, Ole Miss jumped out to a 14-0 lead through six before Auburn got within five by putting a nine on the scoreboard in the top of the eighth. However, Ole Miss struck right back with five more runs in the bottom of the eighth. The final score was 19-11 after the Tigers plated a pair in the ninth. Top performers on the weekend for the Tigers included Cody Greenhill (7.0 ip, no runs allowed), Ryan Bliss (six hits, four runs, two home runs, three RBIs), Rankin Woley (seven hits, two doubles), and Tyler Miller (four hits, four RBIs, one home run).
Game one (Friday):
Ole Miss 1 Auburn 0
The series opener was a pitcher's duel for the first seven innings as Cody Greenhill (1.27 era) and Gunnar Hoglund (3-0) matched each other for seven scoreless frames. It was an especially encouraging sign for the Auburn faithful to see Greenhill continue to work his way back from an injury sustained in his start earlier this year against Oklahoma. It was also Greenhill's first career SEC start as he continues his transition from closer to starter in his senior season. In his first career SEC start, Greenhill turned in a gem working seven scoreless innings while scattering four hits. The only inning in which Ole Miss was able to get anybody past first base was the seventh when the Rebels put runners on second and third with one out. Greenhill quickly induced a strikeout and a pop fly to get out of his only jam. Unfortunately for Auburn, Ole Miss starter Gunnar Hoglund was just as strong in his eight scoreless frames. Auburn really only had two scoring threats against the right-handed starter. In the first, Ryan Bliss and Rankin Woley both collected singles to put runners on the corners with two outs, but Hoglund struck out Tyler Miller to end the inning. In the seventh, a Woley double, a Miller walk, and a passed ball put two runners in scoring position with nobody out; however, the veteran Hoglund responded with three straight strikeouts to strand both runners. Pinch hitter Calvin Harris broke up the combined shutout in the home half of the eighth with a homer to right off Auburn's reliever Joseph Gonzalez (0-1). Auburn almost got a pinch home run of their own from freshman Ryan Dyal in the top of the ninth, but the ball just curved foul in right field. Bliss and Woley had two hits apiece, as the left side of the Auburn infield collected four of Auburn's five hits in the game.
Game two (Saturday):
Ole Miss 6 Auburn 5
Saturday featured another game and another one run margin of victory for Ole Miss. Auburn took their first, and only, lead of the weekend in the top of the first when Tyler Miller singled home Judd Ward. Ole Miss answered right back with one in the first, two in the second, and three more runs in the third. All six of the runs were charged against Auburn starter Mason Barnett (2-1). Two of the runs were unearned, as a throwing error by Barnett in the third proved costly. Barnett also balked home the only run scored by the Rebels in the first. Auburn had picked up a run of their own in the top of the third when Ryan Bliss led off with a solo home run. The scored remained 6-2 until the sixth when pinch hitter John Samuel Shenker doubled home Brody Moore. Auburn plated two more in the seventh on a pair of solo home runs - one from Bliss and one from Miller. Auburn went to the ninth still only trailing by a run thanks to the combined efforts of Brooks Fuller, Carson Swilling, and Blake Burkhalter. The trio worked out of trouble all afternoon in five innings pitched, as they combined to strand 10 Rebel baserunners, for an average of two an inning. In total, Ole Miss stranded 13 runners in the game, but Auburn stranded eight themselves. Ole Miss brought Taylor Broadway in to work the ninth inning of a one run game for the second straight day, and for the second straight day Broadway managed to close the door despite a just miss on a home run. Rankins Woley hit a two out single to right to bring Tyler Miller to the plate. Miller turned on a pitch and drove it to the base of the wall in right center field where it was caught for the final out. Bliss, Ward, Woley, and Miller all turned in multi-hit games for the Auburn offense, including three from Judd Ward.
Game three (Sunday):
Ole Miss 19 Auburn 11
Ole Miss jumped on Tigers starter Trace Bright (2-2) for seven runs in the bottom of the second and never looked back from there. The Rebels also added three runs in the fourth and four in the sixth to take a commanding 14-0 lead. However, Auburn refused to go quietly as the Tigers' bats exploded for nine runs in the eighth inning highlighted by a three run home run from Brayton Brown. Ole Miss struck right back plating five runs in the home half of the eighth inning. Jack Owen, who was expected to be a weekend starter for the Tigers this year before suffering a dislocated finger right before the season started, made his season debut in the eighth inning and allowed five earned runs while only recording one out. Auburn was able to plate two more runs in the ninth before Ole Miss recorded the final out. While Ole Miss was certainly hitting it well on offense to the tune of 16 hits, the Auburn pitching staff also handed out 12 free passes with 11 walks and a hit by pitch. The walks were an anomaly for the Tigers pitching staff, as before this contest the Tigers had only walked 59 batters in the first 18 games played.
Auburn falls to 11-8 on the season including 0-3 in SEC play. Auburn will look to right the ship when they travel to Montgomery on Tuesday to face South Alabama in Riverwalk Stadium before hosting Kentucky this weekend.
The Auburn baseball team (12-16, 1-11 SEC) was swept this weekend at home by top five opponent Mississippi State. Auburn has now faced three top five opponents in the first four weeks of conference play.