On Friday evening, Ole Miss and Auburn squared off for the second time in the SEC Tournament–this time with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
Usual game-three starter James McArthur took the mound and looked to propel the Rebels to Saturday’s semis. The junior from New Braunfels, Texas was fantastic, providing a strong foundation on which the Rebels could build.
McArthur had outstanding control of his fastball, pitching 5 ⅓ innings and giving up only five hits. He allowed no runs and struck out six Tigers.
(Click here for box score.)
Ole Miss pitching coach Carl Lafferty praised McArthur, saying: “He can make outs disappear quickly and he did that tonight.” McArthur, known as “Big Tex,” improved to 6-0 on the season.
Max Cioffi entered in the sixth with one out and Auburn runners at first and second base. He worked out of the jam, inducing a fly out and a getting a third-out strikeout.
Cioffi threw three innings of no-hit baseball in middle relief–the freshman’s second longest outing of the year.
Austin Miller closed the game for Ole Miss, getting the final two outs of the game and preserving the shutout. It was Ole Miss’ first shutout in the SEC Tournament since 2012 and first shutout since April 4 against Memphis.
Ole Miss bats get hot
After being held scoreless for the first three innings, Ole Miss plated two runs in the fourth inning when Thomas Dillard homered deep to center field, scoring Nick Fortes who led off the fourth with a single.
“He threw me a fastball over the middle of the plate, and I put a lot of barrel on it,” Dillard said.
In the sixth inning, the Rebels scored two additional runs. Cole Zabowski doubled to score Dillard who had drawn a walk. Zabowski subsequently scored on a fielder’s choice.
In the top of the seventh, second baseman Jacob Adams tagged a 1-1 pitch into the Auburn bullpen for his third home run of the year.
The ninth inning saw the Rebels add two more runs. Chase Cockrell led things off with his ninth home run of the year. Then with two outs, Ryan Olenek singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single to center field by Nick Fortes.
“For the opposing pitching staff, there’s no easy part of our lineup.”
Ole Miss asst. coach Carl Lafferty
Lafferty was obviously pleased with the effort of his Rebels. “They’re competitors. They show up. They answer. They answer the bell. They care a lot about one other and they play hard.”
Next Up for Ole Miss
As the SEC Tournament moves to the semifinals, it also moves to a single-elimination format. The Rebels will take on Texas A&M at 12 noon on Saturday.
Earlier this season, Ole Miss defeated the Aggies two out of three games in College Station. Head Coach Mike Bianco announced freshman Jordan Fowler will be the starting pitcher for Ole Miss in the semis. As the typical mid-week starter, Fowler sports a season record of six wins and no losses.