Rebels sweep Auburn in key SEC series

Published 8:52 pm Saturday, May 12, 2018

In building its resumé for a top-eight national seed and all the good things that come with it, there was one big thing that Ole Miss had yet to accomplish — a series sweep of a Southeastern Conference opponent.

The Rebels picked the perfect time and foe to check it off the list.

Tyler Keenan led off the seventh inning with a home run to give the Rebels the lead, and they added six runs in the eighth to beat Auburn 10-3 on Saturday and complete a three-game sweep at Swayze Field.

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Ole Miss (38-13, 16-11 SEC) swept its first SEC series this season and will enter the final weekend of the regular season no worse than a game behind Arkansas for the Western Division lead.

The Rebels also moved into third place in the overall SEC standings, which puts them in control of their own destiny for a top-four seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

Ole Miss will finish the regular season on the road against last-place Alabama in a three-game series that begins Thursday night. It will also travel to play Arkansas State on Tuesday in its final midweek game of the season.

Ole Miss and Auburn (35-17, 13-14) entered the series tied in the standings, but the Rebels used some sharp pitching and timely hitting to win all three games.

On Saturday, Will Ethridge came out of the bullpen to throw 6 2/3 innings. He allowed one run on three hits, one walk, and struck out 10.

It was the second consecutive game an Ole Miss pitcher has finished with 10 or more strikeouts. On Friday, Brady Feigl had a career-high 12 in Ole Miss’ 8-3 victory.

Ole Miss scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 3-2 lead, but Auburn tied it in the fifth with an RBI double by Brandon Venter.

Keenan snapped that deadlock with his home run in the seventh inning, and then the Rebels blew it open in the eighth. They sent 11 men to the plate, with Chase Cockrell and Michael Fitzsimmons delivering back-to-back two-run doubles.

Nick Fortes’ RBI double capped the inning and made it 10-3. Parker Caracci worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to close the game out.

Ole Miss improved its record to 34-0 this season when leading after seven innings.

“I was hoping we would be the one to break the dam instead of our dam breaking,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “Give credit to Ole Miss. Every weekend in the Southeastern Conference, when your best players play the best, you have a great chance to beat anybody. When your best players in key spots don’t play their best, it becomes really tough, especially on the road.”

Grae Kessinger finished the game 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored for Ole Miss. Ryan Olenek and Anthony Servideo also had two hits apiece, while Keenan and Will Golsan each scored two runs.

Auburn’s Will Holland led off the game with a home run and also hit an RBI single in the second inning.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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