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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn looks for first SEC series win of season against Ole Miss

Auburn Baseball loses second game in the series against University of Kentucky at home on April 12th 2024
Auburn Baseball loses second game in the series against University of Kentucky at home on April 12th 2024

After capping off its most recent weekend series with a victory, Auburn baseball looks to continue the positive momentum it gained as it hosts the Ole Miss Rebels at Plainsman Park.

This three-game set begins the final month of the regular season for the Tigers. For Auburn, it is another chance to win its first SEC series of the year, trying to improve from a 3-18 SEC record.

“I’m still fighting for three weekends for us to play our best baseball,” Thompson said. “The positives have been all these young guys getting some playing time… Some of this will pay dividends at some point down the road, especially with some of our pitching.”

The Tigers are looking to continue their winning ways in this series between the two squads. In the most recent series in Oxford, Mississippi, in 2023, they swept the Rebels by a combined score of 37-11. 

Ole Miss enters this contest with a 23-21 overall record and 7-14 in conference play. It is looking to bounce back after losing back-to-back games, one to Alabama on Saturday and the other being to rival Mississippi State on Wednesday.

The Rebel pitching is looking to have an improved weekend after having poor performances in the two defeats. In the most recent of the two, relievers Mason Morris and Sam Tookoian gave up a combined four runs in the eighth inning on the way to a 5-1 loss against the Bulldogs.

The run production has not been a strength of the team this season, either, which showed in the defeat. The offense’s only run on Wednesday came in the form of a home run off the bat of Judd Utermark in the top of the second inning. 

Auburn is coming off of a series finale win, defeating the LSU Tigers 7-5 in Baton Rouge on Sunday, April 28. The victory was propelled by a five-run first inning in which Cade Belyeu and Caden Green picked up two RBIs each on singles into left field. 

Ole Miss puts opposing pitchers and defenses in tough situations routinely. Coming into this series, the Rebels rank fourth in the conference in walks, earning 253 free passes on the season and submitting themselves as one of the more disciplined teams in the league. Jackson Ross leads the SEC in this category, drawing 45 walks of his own up to this point.

Despite the recent relieving struggles, Ole Miss also has a strong pitcher in the bullpen that has been responsible for some of the wins that the team has put up this season. Connor Spencer is tied for second in the conference with six saves, so the Tiger offense will have to step up if and when he gets on the mound this weekend.

The approach that the team takes with not only this situation, but every other game situation, is crucial. Thompson understands that, especially at this point in the season, playing your cards correctly is highly important.

“This is our postseason,” Thompson said. “I don’t know if we got 7-2, 8-1 or 9-0 to get to Hoover. It depends on others, and our hole is a little bit deeper than everybody else that we even feel like are in striking distance. We know we have to play way above average baseball and try to hook it up.

“These guys are aware. They see everything out there. They know this stuff before we even can speak it.”

The Rebels will send out junior right-hander Riley Maddox in game one on Friday. Maddox arrives in this contest posting a 2-6 record and a 6.42 earned run average. In his last start against Alabama, he threw for 3.1 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits, while only striking out one. Liam Doyle and Mason Nichols will start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Auburn is choosing to go with the same starting rotation that it threw out last weekend. 

The Tigers will send Dylan Watts to the mound to start game one on Friday. Tanner Bauman is set to make an appearance on Saturday, before Carson Myers closes things out on Sunday.

Thompson has a positive outlook on what this weekend starting rotation can do and feels that this pitching lineup matches up well for this series.

“I think [the pitching rotation] is good again for another weekend where the lefty starters match up pretty good,” Thompson said. “I think Bauman and Myers, hopefully, we think from preparation, can match favorably and be competitive this weekend… Hopefully they can solidify us these last three weeks.”

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At the plate, the Tigers must rely on a player like Cooper McMurray to help propel the team from a momentum standpoint. The first baseman currently holds a .329 batting average with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs on the year.

Auburn has had luck against Ole Miss at home recently. Five of the last six series between the two teams at Plainsman Park have gone in favor of the Tigers. If they want to continue this luck, though, the pitching has to put up good outings consistently and not let the Rebel offense get hot. 

Like many teams have done this season, the way that Ole Miss can win this series is if they penetrate the Auburn bullpen early in each game. There are many instances of the Tigers giving up leads in games after opponents have pushed the starter off the mound, so that will be crucial for the Rebels to do this weekend.

The opening game of this series between Auburn and Ole Miss begins Friday at Plainsman Park at 6 p.m. CST. Game two is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. CST and the game three finale will start at 3 p.m. CST on Sunday. The first game will be broadcast on SEC Network+, while games two and three will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Tyler Raley | Sports Writer

Tyler Raley is a junior from Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in journalism.

Twitter: @traley34

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