Timely hits continue to elude the Auburn offense.
After going 2-0 to start the SEC Tournament, the Tigers' hopes of a conference championship run ended in disappointment Friday night, getting shut out 7-0 by No. 2 Ole Miss at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
“I thought from a pitching standpoint we could piece together enough to be super-competitive in a regional,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “I thought defensively we did enough. There were a couple of well-above average plays we can make, but didn’t. I thought overall our defense was on par and ready. I did think the offensive approach slipped as we moved through the games.
“If we’re going to win a championship we’re going to have to finish strong in all three of these categories. That’s the area as I’m sitting here talking to you for us not to continue to play tomorrow is from an offensive approach.”
The Rebels, who lost to Auburn 9-3 on Wednesday, were led by starting pitcher James McArthur who blanked the Tigers for 5.1 innings, allowing only five hits and striking out six, to remain undefeated on the season and improve to 6-0.
McArthur, who lasted only 1.1 innings into the series finale against Auburn in Oxford a few weeks ago, issued just one walk and one extra-base hit before exiting the game. Max Cijoffi came in for relief and threw 3.0 more innings of scoreless ball to carry the Rebels the rest of the way.
Senior Andrew Mitchell had no room for error in Friday night's elimination game, as it has been for most Auburn starters of late. Mitchell wasn't great, but he kept the Tigers within striking distance for most of the night.
The left-hander looked dominant early, striking out four consecutive batters on 12 pitches in the second and third innings, but gave up a two-run home run to Rebels' cleanup hitter Thomas Dillard with one away in the third. He was pulled for Cody Greenhill in the sixth inning after a walk and a double made it 3-0.
Mitchell (2-2) tied a career-high with nine strikeouts, but walked three and allowed four runs in 5.1 innings of work. With no margin for error and no run support, Mitchell never had a chance.
The offense just couldn't pick him up.
After being no hit for seven innings Thursday night against Texas A&M, the Tigers only got five hits against Ole Miss pitchers and left nine on base. Seven-seeded Auburn finished 0-for-9 with RISP, and 2-for-14 with runners on base.
Josh Anthony had the lone extra-base hit for the Tigers, a one-out double in the fifth, but was stranded at third.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, capitalized on their chances. The Rebels doubled the Tigers in the hit column, racking up 10 hits and launching three home runs to build a five-run lead and put the game out of reach early on.
The Rebels were led by Dillard, who was 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs, and Cole Zabowski, who finished 2-for-5 with an RBI double.
Auburn, who is in its third year with Butch Thomson at the helm, hasn't been in the semifinals of the Sec Tournament since 2003.
“I just told the team I wanted our goal for Auburn baseball to be part of this SEC Tournament on the weekend,” Thompson said. “I think we would all agree that the goal was to continue on. We just didn’t do enough today to get that opportunity, but man, this is a special tournament. Outside of Omaha, there’s nothing like it. Hoover is a goal. The destination is something our program will continue to build around and build up for it to be a meaningful event for us.”
Auburn falls to 39-21 on the season and will await the decision their destination in the NCAA Regionals, while Ole Miss improves to 43-15 and will face Texas A&M in Saturday's semifinals.
The NCAA will announce the host sites for the 16 Regionals Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. CT.