By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – After a first-inning collapse and a 5-0 deficit, Ole Miss was in comeback mode from the outset Saturday afternoon.
The No. 12-ranked Rebels, though, couldn’t do what Auburn did, and that’s score in bunches.
The Tigers got a grand slam in the eighth inning to douse any ideas of late-game drama and took a 10-4 win in the second game of the SEC-opening weekend series before a Swayze Field crowd of 7,467.
The Rebels won 2-1 Friday, and the decisive third game is at 1:30 p.m., today.
Ole Miss (15-4, 1-1 SEC) committed five errors in the first inning, and Auburn’s eighth-inning grand slam courtesy of nine-hole hitter Zach Alvord was preceeded by two walks and a fielder’s choice from Ole Miss relievers Dylan Chavez and Chris Ellis.
Auburn has scored in only three of the first 18 innings of the series, but has recorded five runs twice. On Saturday, those 10 runs came with only five hits.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, is hitting just .206 against Auburn (11-8, 1-1).
“Offensively, we haven’t made enough adjustments. We didn’t do a good job offensively. We weren’t able to string at-bats together,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Ole Miss starter R.J. Hively was ahead in the count to most of the hitters he faced in the fatal first, but his defense failed him.
After a leadoff single from Jay Gonzalez, Hively fielded what appeared to be a double-play ball, but shortstop Blake Newalu missed his throw.
The inning included a catcher’s interference call against Will Allen, awarding first base to Auburn’s Cullen Wacker, and later Hively’s own shoddy fielding when he grabbed a bunt and rushed the throw home to Allen.
His under-hand pass was wide left, and Wacker scored easily.
The dust finally settled after nine batters, five Auburn runs – only one earned – three hits and five Ole Miss errors.
“I thought R.J. pitched great the whole day. His stuff was good. He gave up a couple of hits, but he pitched well,” Bianco said. “After that, he kind of rolled.”
The Rebels regained composure from Hively if not offense from their batting order.
Hively pitched six more innings after the first, all of them scoreless, and didn’t allow a runner to third base.
Offensively, the Rebels got a 2-run home run from Preston Overbey in the fourth, an RBI double from Matt Snyder in the sixth.
Snyder’s double made it 5-4 in the sixth, and he was at second with one out. Had Andrew Mistone been able to bunt him to third – Mistone tried twice – Will Allen’s fly ball to left would likely have scored Snyder to tie the game at 5.
Snyder had three of the Rebels’ eight hits, each of them doubles, but was stung by the lack of consistency.
“Three doubles don’t mean anything if there are not runners on base,” he said. “They’re making good pitches, but we’re not having the focus up there.”