After splitting a series with Middle Tennessee, The Auburn Tigers (14-6) (1-2 SEC) came home to Plainsman Park to take on their toughest challenge yet, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation the Ole Miss Rebels (15-4) (2-1 SEC). The series would also be the first in SEC play for both teams, and would be split 2-1 in Ole Miss’s favor, thanks to what was an up and down weekend from the Tigers.
The first game that was played on Thursday March 17 2022, was dominated by the Ole Miss Rebels as they won 13 to six, even though both teams had 14 hits in the game. The difference maker was the five errors that Auburn committed, as well the four wild pitches and five pass balls, which led to seven of the 13 runs scored by Ole Miss to be unearned.
When asked about how he felt about the game, head coach Butch Thompson replied, “We have had six errors in 17 games, and we are charged with five tonight, you are not going to be able to do that against any team in our league much less the number one team in our league.”
One positive from the first game was the hitting, as they did tie Ole Miss in the hitting column at 14 thanks to great days from Sonny DiChiara and Blake Rambush who hit in five of the six runs produced by the Tigers, Sonny DiChiara got two of his RBIs from the first inning where he hit one of what feels like routine, home runs, that scored two.
Pitching had an ok day, that was hurt badly by the errors and mishaps behind the plate with Mason Barnett taking the loss after three innings pitched with six hits five runs and six strikeouts. Carson Skipper, John Armstrong, and Carson Swilling finished the rest of the day with a combined 14 hits, three earned runs and seven strikeouts.
The second game that was played on March 18 2022, was totally different story for the Auburn Tigers ending in a dominating 19-5 win, this time thanks to an very much improved total defensive effort stranding 11 Ole Miss Rebels on base, Auburn also had an explosion of bats with one more than the previous day with 15.
A Freshman by the name of Mike Bello got his first start of his career and played a total game as he was able to get on base each time, he was up to bat for a total of five times, either by the conventual single or double, or by a walk or hit by pitch.
In his post-game interview, he thanked his teammates first and foremost, and cited “knowing his approach” for the increase in hitting production.
Hayden Mullins played fantastically on the mound for the Tigers as he was able to produce a win while only allowing two hits and one run through five innings of work, Tyler Drabick, Chase Allsup and Nate Larue all came into the game from the bullpen and finished the game with a combined four hits and four runs given up.
The Tigers had to fight pray for conditions to even be well enough to pray as it had rained most of the day, but although some seats where still damp, they were allowed to play, and brought in one of the biggest crowds seen in quite some time, when asked about how much that meant to his players and himself Coach Butch Thompson replied.
“This fanbase has been behind them when we needed them most, I don’t know how I can express it enough” and “Everybody is all-in.”
The fans showed up in droves the next day on Friday March 19, 2022, as the Tigers and the Rebels played in front of a capacity crowd of 4,096 producing the first sell out since February 16 2019. However, the Tigers would go on to be defeated by the Rebels, as Ole Miss took the series 15-2.
The Tigers got the game started fast, as Trace Bright struck out the side to start the game, and through his four innings of work gave up five hits and three earned runs, the bullpen trio of Blake Burkhalter, Tommy Sheehan, and Jordan Armstrong combined for 14 hits and nine earned runs.
The Tigers’ dipped a little bit in batting performance stranding 12 runners on base and only recording nine hits, but Blake Rambusch extended his hitting streak to ten games. However, the only two players with RBIs in the game where Kason Howell, and Ryan Dyal, both of which came from singles.
Overall, Auburn played a very up and down series against the No. 1 team in the nation, but showed if they do not shoot themselves in the foot with errors and leaving runners on, this Auburn team can play with anyone in the SEC or nation as evidenced by the second game win by the score of 19-5.
Auburn will be looking to continue getting themselves better, against South Alabama in Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery Alabama on Tuesday March 22 at 6 p.m.