By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Auburn took Game 1 against Ole Miss with timely hitting Thursday night and had timely hitting again in Game 2.
Time after time after time.
No. 16 Auburn defeated No. 18 Ole Miss 18-4 before a Swayze Field crowd of 7,192 Friday, clinching its first SEC Western Division title since 1995 and dealing the Rebels their second-worst SEC loss under coach Mike Bianco. Ole Miss lost 24-5 at Florida in 2002.
Ole Miss has not been swept since 2006 at Kentucky, but that will change today if the Rebels (36-19, 16-13 SEC) can’t slow the Tigers’ (37-18, 19-10) bats. First pitch is 4 p.m.
As Arkansas won at Vanderbilt and passed Ole Miss in the standings, the Rebels’ first-round opponent in next week’s SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala., was set. No. 6 seed Ole Miss will face No. 3 seed South Carolina at 1 p.m., in the second game of opening day at Regions Park.
“I don’t know what to say after that,” Bianco said. “You hate it for your fans who have come out to support you when another team wins the Western Division on your field, but you have to say congratulations to them. They earned it.
“Tomorrow is another game toward our RPI and all those things, but the biggest thing is it’s another game to help us get back on track for postseason.”
Auburn chased Ole Miss starter Aaron Barrett (7-3) with a seven-run third inning that included two doubles and two home runs. The second bomb belonged not to Barrett but his relief help, Matt Tracy.
The Tigers began the series as the only team with more than 600 hits and are on pace to have more than 700 when the regular season ends today. They have 29 in the series, just one shy of that mark. Friday, Auburn pounded four different Ole Miss pitchers with 20 hits and five home runs.
The series loss will likely put the Rebels on the road for the NCAA tournament. They could possibly work themselves back into the regional host discussion with a deep run in the SEC tournament.
Complicating the deep run theory is the fact that Ole Miss had averaged just 2.87 runs in its last eight SEC games, a span in which it is 2-6.
The Rebels were down 10-0 before getting their first hit in a four-run fourth. They did not score in any other inning.
Barrett’s last outing at Swayze Field lasted 2 2/3 innings. He gave up eight runs on seven hits, and they were rockets, not cheapies.
Barrett was especially hurt by the bottom of the order. Seven-hole hitter Ryan Jenkins doubled in the second inning and homered in the third.
Eight-hole hitter Dan Gamache homered in the second and doubled in the third.
Jenkins’ blast to left-center scored three runs and made it 5-0. Before Bianco got Matt Tracy warmed and ready, the Tigers added Gamache’s double and an RBI double by Trent Mummey.
Before Tracy could bandage the gaping wound Auburn added another tape-measure shot, this one from Brian Fletcher that scored three runs to make it 9-0.
Ole Miss had nine hits for the game, two of them by designated hitter Matt Snyder, who was 2 for 2 with an RBI double. Snyder is 4 for 6 in the series after not playing for two weeks because of his injured shoulder.
Zach Miller also had two hits for Ole Miss.
Auburn 18, Ole Miss 4
Auburn 027 135 000 - 18 20 2
Ole Miss 000 400 000 - 4 9 0
WP: Cole Nelson (7-3). LP: Aaron Barrett (7-3). Multiple Hits: (A) Justin Fradejas, Trent Mummey, Brian Fletcher 3, Hunter Morris 3, Ryan Jenkins 4, Dan Gamache 3. (OM) Matt Snyder, Zach Miller. 2B: (A) Fradejas, Mummey, Jenkins, Gamache. (OM) Matt Smith, Snyder. HR: (A) Fletcher 2, Patterson, Jenkins, Gamache. DP: Auburn 1. LOB: Auburn 16, Ole Miss 9.T: 3:37. A: 7,192.
Records: Ole Miss 36-19, 16-13; Auburn 38-17, 19-10