Rebels capture series sweep with walk-off win
OXFORD, Miss. -- No. 16 Ole Miss scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to earn a thrilling comeback victory over Auburn Sunday afternoon at Swayze Field. The Rebels (31-10, 10-8 SEC) rallied from five runs down, scoring six in the last two innings to win 6-5 and complete the series sweep of the Tigers (18-22, 5-13 SEC).
Freshman Ryan Olenek belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth before Henri Lartigue delivered the game-winning hit for the walkoff victory. It was only fitting that Lartigue drove in the winning run. The junior catcher was the Rebels' leading hitter all afternoon, going 4-for-5 to tie his career high in hits. Colby Bortles started the comeback with a two-run homer in the eighth, his fifth blast of the season.
Freshman right-handed pitcher James McArthur saw his first appearance in SEC play, and did not disappoint in a lengthy relief outing. McArthur tossed 4.2 innings and allowed only two hits while striking out four Auburn batters. Andy Pagnozzi (6-2) earned the win after retiring all three batters in the top of the ninth.
The Tigers were plagued by six errors throughout the contest as two led to a pair of Rebel runs. AU starting pitcher Casey Mize turned in a solid performance, allowing one unearned run on four hits through 7.0 innings. Ole Miss tallied four runs off Ben Braymer before collecting another unearned run on Gabe Klobosits (2-4). At the plate, Niko Buentello paced the Auburn bats with a 2-for-3 afternoon.
Auburn used a big second inning to take their first lead of the weekend. The Tigers scored four runs on four hits to force Ole Miss starter Sean Johnson out of the ballgame. With one out, McArthur entered the game and cleaned up the situation, posting back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
The next five innings were quiet for both teams. McArthur held the Auburn bats in check to keep the deficit at 4-0. No runs were scored again until the top of the seventh inning when Auburn increased its lead to five. After the run was surrendered, senior pitcher Matt Denny entered the game with two outs and did not allow another run to score. Denny finished with 1.1 scoreless innings of work, sending down four of the five batters he faced.
Later in the eighth inning, the Rebels fought back. J.B. Woodman reached first on a fielder's choice as Tate Blackman was called out at second. With one out and a runner on first, Bortles stepped up to the dish and raked a two-run home run over the right field wall, cutting the Auburn lead to 5-2. The opposite-field homer gave the Rebels life and shifted the momentum to the home team's dugout.
Pagnozzi maintained the momentum by keeping the Auburn bats quiet and retiring the side in the top of the ninth. The perfect half-inning allowed the Rebels to remain within striking distance, and they took advantage of the opportunity.
Starting off the rally, Cameron Dishon entered the game as a pinch hitter and walked to reach first. Robinson moved Dishon over with a single to left field, putting two Rebels were on base and bringing the tying run to the plate with nobody out. Representing the tying run, Olenek stepped up to the dish and yanked a three-run homer over left field fence, squaring the game on his second home run of the season. With the game knotted at 5-5, the Rebels were ready to shut the door and complete the comeback. After a pitching change, Blackman reached on a fielding error before Bortles singled to left field to put the winning run on second. As the team's hottest hitter approached the plate, Lartigue put together a quality at-bat to work the pitcher to a 3-2 count before ripping a walk-off single to left field. As the Ole Miss dugout sprinted onto the field and the Swayze Field crowd roared with cheers, the sweep was secured with the incredible 6-5 win.
Ole Miss will return to Pearl, Mississippi for a game at Trustmark Park on Tuesday (April 26). The Rebels will battle in-state rival Mississippi State for the annual Governor's Cup. First pitch is schedule for 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast nationally on SEC Network. After the rivalry game, Ole Miss returns home for a conference series versus LSU (April 28-30). The three-game set with the Tigers begins Thursday night at 6 p.m. on SEC Network.