By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Starting pitching was dominant for Ole Miss on Saturday as the Rebels won twice to complete an SEC sweep of Auburn.
Christian Trent set the tone with a complete game five-hit shutout in Saturday’s opener as Ole Miss won 6-0.
Sam Smith left with a 5-1 lead in the seventh in the second game, and the No. 23-ranked Rebels got strong bullpen work to win by the same score much to the delight of a Swayze Field crowd of 10,523.
It’s the second SEC series win for Ole Miss (25-8, 7-5 SEC), the third time in four conference weekends the Rebels have been involved in a sweep and the second time they’ve been on the good side.
Ole Miss lost three games at Alabama last weekend.
“It’s almost 180 degrees difference today than walking off the field at Alabama, and that’s what this league will do,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “You have to be careful not to get too down on yourself.”
By the time the Tigers scored against Smith with Jordan Ebert’s RBI single in the seventh they’d gone 22 innings without scoring against Ole Miss pitching.
After Auburn (19-14, 5-7) took a 5-2 lead on Friday with a three-run sixth inning it scored just one run over the final 25 innings of the series.
The Tigers nearly broke through in the eighth in Saturday’s second game, loading the bases with no outs, but Josh Laxer got three straight strikeouts then pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
Smith scattered seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.
“We talk about toughness. That’s the kind of team we are,” Smith said. “We came out to practice last week after getting swept, and you could tell by the looks on people’s faces. We weren’t going to back down.”
The Rebels scored all their runs in the fifth. The big hits were a two-run double by Auston Bousfield and a two-run single by Sikes Orvis.
Trent’s previous season-long was 7 1/3 innings against Central Florida. He went 6 1/3 innings and left with a two-run lead in a 6-5, 10-inning Ole Miss loss at Alabama last week.
Against Auburn, he felt stronger as the game progressed.
“Earlier on I wasn’t finding great fastball command. Later on the fastball command picked up, and the off-speed was still there,” he said.
Trent threw 113 pitches, scattering five hits, none for extra bases. He walked two and struck out seven.
Bianco was inclined to let Trent stretch his wings against the Tigers. When it was clear Trent was in a groove, there was little conversation between coach and player.
“By the Gatorade cooler he just said, ‘You good?’ I said, ‘Yep.’”