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Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Rebels drop series to Auburn with extra-inning, game three loss

Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Rebels drop series to Auburn with extra-inning, game three loss

With the halfway point of the season in the rearview mirror, Ole Miss sported a record of 26-12, 9-6 (Southeastern Conference) going into this weekend.  After a midweek victory over Memphis, the Rebels hit the road to take on the No. 23 Auburn Tigers at Plainsman Park.  The Tigers entered the series 24-13 overall, 8-7 in the SEC.  The similar records foreshadowed a competition that literally came down to the last inning of the final game to decide the series. 

Game One: Ole Miss 4, Auburn 7

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss jumped out to an early 4-1 lead through the first two innings.  Three singles in the first allowed the Rebels to take a 1-0 lead when left fielder Thomas Dillard scored shortstop Grae Kessinger.  Auburn answered the run in the bottom of the first.  

Two errors by the Auburn defense helped Ole Miss score three unearned runs in the second inning. Right fielder Anthony Servideo singled home second baseman Jacob Adams, and Kessinger contributed an RBI sacrifice fly that scored center fielder Josh Hall.  Hall started at center all weekend for injured senior Ryan Olenek.

Auburn cut the lead to one in the third frame before taking the lead in the sixth. While the Rebels would threaten, the Tigers would lead the remainder of the game as Auburn added insurance runs in both the seventh and eighth innings.

“It just kind of faded away,” head coach Mike Bianco said of the lack of offense from the Rebels after the second inning.

Uncharacteristically, Rebel ace Will Ethridge gave up five earned runs over five innings, dropping his season record to 5-3. Reliever Tyler Myers was unable to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard further, allowing two runs on four hits in two innings of action.

“The ballgame came down to making pitches and getting off the field or being able to answer offensively, and we couldn’t do either,” Bianco commented after the game.

Game Two: Ole Miss 5, Auburn 3

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss looked to even the series in game two, and the Rebels, again, got off to a quick start. Designated hitter Cole Zabowski homered to left center field in the second inning. The home run extended Zabowski’s hitting streak to 14 games.

Auburn answered, however, with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 1-1 heading into the third. 

Two walks and a hit by pitch soon loaded the bases for Ole Miss in the third inning.  Zabowski earned his second RBI of the day when Servideo scored on a fielder’s choice. Kevin Graham’s RBI-single scored third baseman Tyler Keenan and the Rebels took a 3-1 lead. 

In the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers cut the Rebels’ lead to 3-2 as Holland hit a solo home run to left field. Ole Miss and Auburn then traded runs in the sixth inning, with the Ole Miss run coming when Servideo singled home junior catcher Cooper Johnson. 

The defensive play of the day was turned in by center fielder Josh Hall who saved a run with this great catch.

Keenan led off the ninth with a home run to left field that provided the Red and Blue some needed breathing room.  It was Keenan’s team-high 10th home-run and his SEC-leading 50th RBI.

Freshman Doug Nikhazy allowed only three runs in five innings of work, earning his fourth win and improving to 4-3 in his freshman campaign. 

The bullpen combo of Austin Miller and closer Parker Caracci kept the Tigers off the scoreboard for the final four innings as they pitched two innings apiece. Each only faced one over the minimum. Four of the six outs Caracci recorded were via strikeout, and he earned his 8th save this season.

“He’s tough as nails,” Keenan said when asked about Caracci. 

Assistant Coach Carl Lafferty echoed Keenan’s thoughts. “As good as Parker’s fastball is, I think his strength is what’s between his ears and you just saw it out there on display tonight. He has the ‘it’ factor you look for in a closer,” Lafferty added. 

Game Three: Ole Miss 5, Auburn 6 

(Click here for box score.)

Having split the first two games of the series, Saturday’s action would determine the winner of the hard-fought contest.

For the third game of the series — and in the same fashion as Friday night — Ole Miss got on the scoreboard first via the bat of Grae Kessinger.  Kessinger took a 2-1 pitch over the green monster in left field at Plainsman Park.

Ole Miss was up 1-0 going into the bottom of the third, but Auburn responded with three runs that both gave the Tigers the lead and bounced Rebel starter freshman Gunnar Hoglund. In relief, Max Cioffi pitched extremely well, throwing 3 ⅓ innings of scoreless, no-hit, no-walk baseball.

Ole Miss knotted the game at three in the fifth when Kessinger homered for the second time of the day, this time a two-run shot. 

“He had a spectacular day,” Coach Bianco said of Kessinger. He continues to be one of the hottest hitters in the country and really carries us.” Kessinger, an Oxford native, now has a 29-game “on-base” streak.

In the seventh, Auburn regained the lead when Bliss singled home Scheffler.

The seventh inning also saw Johnson, the Rebels’ Buster Posey Award Watch List Nominee, show his defensive prowess on a bunt pop-out that he caught sliding behind the plate. 

Johnson followed that play with yet another fantastic throw out at second. 

Entering the ninth inning, the Rebels were down 4-3 with Johnson, Zabowski, and Michael Fitzsimmons due at the plate. Johnson showed off his offensive abilities when he muscled a 3-0 offering over the wall in left field to tie the game at 4-4.

With the game in the balance, Ole Miss turned to closer Parker Caracci for his second appearance in two days.  Caracci threw 46 pitches in the save Friday night. The redshirt junior took care of the Tiger 1-2-3 in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

Kessinger started a two-out rally in the tenth and scored when Tyler Keenan doubled down the right field line, giving Ole Miss a 5-4 lead. 

Caracci remained in the game to close out Auburn and take the series.  Unfortunately, the win was not to be for the Rebs. Auburn loaded the bases with no outs and tied the game on an Ole Miss error.

With the bases still loaded, somehow, some way Caracci dug deep to strike out the next two Auburn hitters with a pulled-in Ole Miss infield consisting of five infielders. Unfortunately, the Rebels then gave up the game-winning single through the left side.

Even in the loss, Bianco praised his closer. “He’s pitching his guts out.  We just didn’t help him in the field.”

What’s Next for Ole Miss?

The Rebels return to action Tuesday in the annual Governor’s Cup Trophy against State.  First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. from Trustmark Park in Pearl.  

SEC play for Ole Miss rolls on as the Rebels return to Swayze Field to take on Texas A&M this weekend. The early series starts Thursday at 6 p.m., continues Friday 6:30 p.m. and concludes Saturday at 2 p.m.

Hotty Toddy!

About The Author

Chris Muller

Chris is our Director of Baseball Content and Senior Baseball Writer. Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 24 years, Amber, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sophie. Chris is an avid Ole Miss Baseball and Football fan. His hobbies include watching college football and baseball and playing poker with his friends.

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