Ole Miss (25-8, 7-5 SEC) finished off a sweep of Auburn (19-14, 5-7) by taking both games of Saturday’s twinbill at Oxford-University Stadium. Pitching ruled the day as the Rebels got a complete-game shutout from sophomore Christian Trent in a 6-0 win in the opener before junior Sam Smith pitched into the seventh before giving up a run in a 5-1 win in the nightcap.
It’s the second sweep in league play for Ole Miss, which won all three games against Missouri March 21-23 before being swept at Alabama last weekend. Auburn went 22.2 consecutive innings without scoring going back to Friday’s game until Jordan Ebert’s two-out RBI single in the seventh chased Smith.
Smith improved to 4-2 with the win and lowered his ERA to 2.22. He scattered seven hits and struck out five while walking one. The Rebels allowed two earned runs all weekend.
“Even though we talk how many low-scoring games there are, there’s not a lot of shutouts where the pitcher can go all nine and not give up a run. That was a great start to the day,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Eighteen innings, one run. Really proud of the pitchers.”
The final victory didn’t come without a couple of tense moments late.
Left-hander Wyatt Short relieved Smith and struck out the only batter he faced in the seventh before Preston Tarkington and Matt Denny walked three straight batters to load the bases in the eighth. But right-hander Josh Laxer came on and fanned Dan Glevenyak, Damon Haecker and pinch hitter Dylan Smith to preserve the four-run lead and pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fourth save.
“Going in after three walks, basically coach just told me to pound the strike zone,” Laxer said. “He also told me their hitters were taking, which they were. They just got up there and took fastballs. I threw it to them, and I’m glad I got outs for my team.”
Smith was matched by Auburn starter Michael O’Neal pitch for pitch through the first five frames until the Rebels finally broke through in the sixth. Errol Robinson led off with a check-swinger blooper, J.B. Woodman’s bunt got past O’Neal for a hit, and Auston Bousfield brought them home with a double down the left-field line two batters later to put Ole Miss on top 2-0. Back-to-back walks then loaded the bases for Sikes Orvis, who laced a two-run single to right.
Pinch hitter Holt Perdzock made it 5-0 before the inning ended with an RBI single against Tiger reliever Trey Cochran-Gill.
“Sam Smith seems to not get a lot of runs scored when he pitches,” Bianco said. “Looked like another one of those days, but we were able to put a big inning together. … We were able to do that this weekend, to have some multiple-run innings and get some clutch hits.”
O’Neal (2-3) took the loss, giving up all five runs on five hits while walking three and fanning one. Brantley Bell had the only other hit for Ole Miss. Ryan Tella had two of Auburn’s seven hits.
The Rebels will play a pair of midweek games at Memphis on Tuesday and at home against Murray State on Wednesday before traveling to Starkville for a weekend series against Mississippi State on Friday.
See Monday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage from Saturday’s games. (April 5, 2014)