Auburn scores early and often, sweeps DH of Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. - No. 23 Auburn swept Friday's doubleheader at Ole Miss to secure its fourth straight series and win its first series in Oxford, Mississippi, since 2012. The Tigers run-ruled the Rebels 16-4 in eight innings in game one before claiming the series with an 8-2 win in game two.
"All-in-all it was about as good of a day of baseball as we've had, especially in a doubleheader," head coach Butch Thompson said. "Instead of results, we're just trying to play this process game. We were fortunate today. Somedays it just goes your way, and it feels like today was one of those days."
Cole Foster and Kason Howell highlighted a SEC-high 16 runs on 17 hits in the opener, going a combined 8-for-9 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. Foster homered twice while Howell doubled three times, and both collected four hits with four RBI.
"It was a long day at the field, but what a great day," Howell said. "Coach Thompson told us before the series there is no reason we shouldn't be the hungrier team. We kept that mindset. We should be hungrier. We have a lot to play for and a lot of pride in what we do. We just wanted to come out and be the same team that we've been, and that's what we did. It was just a very professional day from our whole team."
Tommy Vail turned in a masterpiece on the mound in the nightcap, pitching a career-high 8.0 innings and allowing just one run on two hits. The outing was the longest by an Auburn starting pitcher this season.
"It just felt good to get in there and do my job," Vail said. "I knew that the first couple of innings were going to be crucial. We got them down early and were able to finish them.
"It's getting down to crunch time, so I'm giving it everything I have every pitch. Right from the get-go I knew it was going to be a good one today," Vail added.
The Tigers (29-19-1, 13-13 SEC) scored in 12 of 17 at-bats on the day, which marked Auburn's first doubleheader sweep in SEC play since doing so at Alabama on Apr. 21, 2018.
Auburn scored in six of its eight at-bats and secured its second straight run-rule win in the first game Friday. The Tigers' 16 runs and 17 hits were the most in league play and the second most in any game this season.
Foster, Bobby Peirce, Howell and Caden Green accounted for 13 of the team's 17 hits. Howell, who sits one double behind Todd Faulkner for the program record, finished game one 6-for-7 with five extra-base hits and nine RBI in his last two contests.
Ole Miss started the scoring after a leadoff walk and error began the game. The run came in to score on a two-out, two-strike single back up the middle.
Rebels starter Xavier Rivas (5-4) struck out four of the first five batters he faced, but four straight Tigers reached and scored with one out in the second to take a 4-1 lead. Howell hit a double down the left-field line to score Ike Irish from first and tie the game. Green was hit by a pitch and Nate LaRue gave the Tigers the lead with a no-doubt, three-run homer to left, marking his fourth in the last four weeks of SEC play.
The Rebels made it a three-run game with two runs on a RBI single and sacrifice fly to end Chase Allsup's outing in the third. However, Auburn got one of the runs right back when Foster hit a one-out home run in the top of the fourth. The home run was Foster's eighth of the year.
Senior lefty Konner Copeland entered in relief of Allsup and retired the last two batters of the third inning before ultimately turning in 2.1 frames. Ole Miss again cut its deficit to three with a two-out RBI single in the fifth, and Tanner Bauman entered in relief of Copeland after a walk loaded the bases. The junior lefty kept the damage to a minimum with an inning ending groundout.
Auburn extended its lead back to four when Peirce hit a two-out double with nobody on in the sixth and came in to score on a passed ball and wild pitch. The double was Peirce's 100th career hit in just his 75th start. The inning ultimately marked the Tigers' second four-run frame of the game as Howell delivered a two-out, bases-clearing double to left center to extend the lead to 11-4. Howell's double tied him with hitting coach Gabe Gross for second in Auburn history with 69 career two-baggers.
Auburn scored in its fifth frame of the game in the top of the seventh. Foster hit a one-out double, advanced to third on a single from Peirce and came in to score as the redshirt senior extended a rundown between first and second to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the game.
After Howell doubled for the third time and scored on Green's single to right, Foster put the finishing touches on the run-rule win with a no-doubt, three-run homer in the top of the eighth. The game was Foster's first multi-homer effort of the year.
Bauman (4-1) put up his third straight zero in the bottom of the eighth and ultimately earned the win in 3.1 scoreless innings of relief. The win marked Bauman's team-best third of SEC play.
Riding the momentum Bauman ended game one with on the mound, Vail retired the first six batters he faced and 18 of his first 21 pitches through two innings were for strikes.
Auburn struck first in the nightcap as Howell stepped to the plate in the second with runners on the corners and one out and drove in Bryson Ware on a ground ball to third. The RBI was Howell's fifth of the day.
The Tigers added a pair of runs in the top of the third on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch and bases-loaded walk. The team then extended the lead to 4-0 on a perfectly executed double steal with Cooper McMurray and Foster on the corners and two outs in the fourth.
Ole Miss got on the scoreboard on single, wild pitch and RBI double in the bottom of the fourth, marking the first two hits Vail had allowed in the game. However, the graduate lefty minimized the damage by retiring the next two batters on a strikeout and flyout.
Auburn added to its lead on a solo home run from Irish in the top of the seventh, marking the freshman's fourth home run of the season, including his third of SEC play.
After allowing the RBI double in the bottom of the fourth, Vail retired the next 14 Ole Miss batters he faced and worked a career high 8.0 innings, allowing one run on two hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Vail's outing was Auburn's longest in SEC play since Joseph Gonzalez pitched 8.0 innings at Mississippi State on Apr. 16, 2022.
The Tigers added two runs to make it a 7-1 game on RBI singles from McMurray and Irish in the top of the eighth and scored for the third straight inning after a two-out error in the top of the eighth.
Ole Miss put its first baserunner aboard since the fourth inning to start the ninth and ultimately scratched a run across to make it 8-2, but Will Cannon closed the door on the doubleheader sweep with a strikeout and groundout to end the game.
The series finale between the two teams is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.