By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss, steadily climbing in the rankings in the non-conference season, will have to wait at least another week for its first SEC series win.
Sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers came within a strike of a complete-game win, but Auburn got back-to-back doubles to tie the game against Mayers, then singled against closer Brett Huber and stunned Ole Miss with a two-out rally to win 3-2 before 7,112 fans at Swayze Field Sunday afternoon.
The 12th-ranked Rebels went into the weekend hitting .334, second in the SEC, but hit just .200 (19-for-95) for the series.
“It was a tough one, one of those days where you felt like you had it, 26 outs and two strikes on the hitter. You thought it was going to be our day, and maybe we out-pitched them just a little bit,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Ole Miss (15-5, 1-2 SEC) was out-hit each game, including Sunday when Auburn (12-8, 2-1) had three hits in the ninth, the doubles against Mayers each well-placed and hugging foul lines.
The first, from three-hole hitter Ryan Tella, was just beyond the reach of Tanner Mathis in left field, the double by teammate Cullen Wacker landed in right field.
Ole Miss scored just eight runs on the weekend.
The Rebels got four of their six hits in the bottom of the third against Auburn starter Daniel Koger but left runners on base in a two-on, one-out situation after ground-out by Alex Yarbrough put Ole Miss ahead 2-1.
The Rebels tied the game at 1 earlier in the inning when Blake Newalu led off with a solo home run.
Mayers would have had more breathing room in the ninth had Wacker, the Auburn left fielder, not pulled an apparent home run from Will Allen back into the park with an inning-ending catch. With a man on board, the Rebels would have led 4-1 in the fifth.
Ole Miss got a lead-off walk from Andrew Mistone to start the bottom of the ninth and a successful bunt to move pinch-runner Senquez Golson into scoring position, but neither Zach Kirksey nor pinch-hitter Sikes Orvis could extend the game.
Mayers (2-2) scattered six hits over 82/3 innings with three runs, no walks and five strikeouts.
Bianco was confident in sending him back for the ninth.
“His stuff was good, his velocity was still there, as you could tell with the first two hitters, and he’d handled their first three hitters very well all day long,” Bianco said. “It was a tough break.”