Tigers Take Opener From Rebels

Auburn beat Ole Miss 6-3 and has now won six of its last seven SEC games to improve to 8-8 in the league.

Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers needed it most a pair of freshmen came up big in the series opener Thursday night against Ole Miss as outfielder Bobby Andrews had four hits and three RBI and Dillon Ortman slammed the door in the ninth inning as coach John Pawlowski's club won 6-3 at Plainsman Park.

Trailing 3-2 in the seventh Auburn scored four runs in its final two at-bats to secure the sixth win in seven SEC games since being swept on consecutive weekends by Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. With the win the Tigers improve to 21-16 overall and 8-8 in SEC play and find themselves a half-game back of Alabama and Arkansas for first place in the Western Division.

"One of the things we talked about was making sure our guys had a lot of passion and a lot of energy in the dugout," Pawlowski said. "There was a huge difference today. I thought right from the get-go even when we were down 2-0 there was a lot of energy coming out of that dugout. To get a win in the first game of a three-game set is important. Our guys did a really good job with that tonight."

A lot of that energy came in the form of the invited walk-on Andrews. Playing for legendary Columbus (Ga.) High, Andrews entered the program ready to play and he's shown that since being inserted into the lineup. In the last 10 games he has 14 of his 20 hits for the season and they were all needed on Thursday as he struggled in left field with a pair of errors, but made up for it at the plate.

"I didn't have the best day in the outfield and I thought I needed to make up for that with my bat," Andrews said. "I just try to get on base any way I can."

Sitting out last weekend with a sore arm, Auburn starter Derek Varnadore had a very good night back on the mound for the Tigers. Pitching six innings, he allowed just three runs on two hits and struck out five Ole Miss hitters. Ethan Wallen got the win out of the bullpen to improve to 4-3, allowing a run on three hits in two innings. Ortman didn't allow a base runner and struck out two in the ninth to earn his third save.

"It just feels great," Ortman said. "Coming in I know I've got the defense behind me. I just come in and throw strikes. It's a big role that coach has put me in. It's a big challenge because I'm not used to closing like that."

Ortman celebrates the win on Thursday.

Ole Miss (23-16, 8-8) took advantage of a shaky start by Varnadore in the first inning to take the early lead as a one-out walk to Blake Newalu and a two-out walk to Matt Smith gave Matt Tracy the chance to put the Rebels on the board. Getting a pitch to drive he connected with a double that scored both runners for the 2-0 Ole Miss advantage.

With one swing of the bat the Tigers cut into the lead in the second inning as Dan Gamache connected with a solo homer to right field with one out to make it 2-1. It was the third of the season for the junior from Rhode Island.

As Varnadore continued to settle in on the mound Auburn evened the score in the third, but missed a golden opportunity to break the game open. Leading off Creede Simpson doubled to left field and moved to third on a Zach Alvord ground ball. Collecting his second hit of the game, freshman Bobby Andrews' infield single scored Simpson to tie things at two.

Showing his speed, Justin Fradejas put down a perfect bunt single and a walk to Casey McElroy loaded the bases with only one out for the heart of the Auburn order. Working the count full, senior catcher Tony Caldwell popped up on the infield for out number two. Needing a two-out hit Auburn nearly got a lot more as Gamache drilled one deep to the 385 mark in center field but Tanner Mathis tracked it down for out number three.

With Wallen on in relief Ole Miss took the lead back in the top of the seventh thanks to some help from a very shaky Auburn defense. On the first pitch of the inning Matt Snynder singled to right field. He moved to second on an error by Alvord at second base that put two on for Miles Hamblin.

Putting down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, Ole Miss then got more help from Auburn's defense as Preston Overbey's fly ball to left field was misplayed by Andrews allowing the run to score from third. The Tigers got fortunate on the play however as pinch runner Jordan King got caught rounding third too far and was thrown out by McElroy. Wallen recovered to get Mathis on the groundout, but the damage was done.

Now trailing 3-2 the Tigers responded in the bottom of the seventh off Ole Miss reliever Brett Huber. Leading off the inning Simpson singled to get the inning started. Coming up to pinch hit Cullen Wacker executed the hit and run to perfection as his ground ball to left put runners on first and third with nobody out.

Getting his third hit of the night with a single to center, Andrews pushed across Simpson to tie the game at three. That was followed by an error by Overbey at third on a slow roller by Fradejas loaded the bases with McElroy due up. Driving a pitch to left, the junior got the job done with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3 Tigers. That's how things would end though as a pair of groundouts brought the inning to a close. Despite getting the lead back Auburn had just two hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position through seven innings.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth Patterson gave the Tigers an insurance run as his solo homer to right field put Auburn up 5-3. It was his sixth of the season and third of his career against the Rebels. Following the homer Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco was ejected after arguing balls and strikes.

Batting with two outs pinch hitter Justin Hargett lifted a shallow fly ball to right field that glanced off the Ole Miss outfielder's glove. He raced all the way around to third for a triple and it proved to be a big play as Andrews singled off Huber to score Hargett for the 6-3 lead.

Wallen allowed a pair of runners to reach with nobody out in the top of the ninth but Ortman shut the door to seal the win for the Tigers.

In addition to Andrews Gamache, Patterson and Simpson all had two hits for the Tigers. Tracy had two of the six hits for Ole Miss on the night.

Auburn will send junior Zach Blatt to the mound on Friday. He will face off against hard throwing David Goforth for Ole Miss. Goforth is 2-5 with a 4.37 ERA this season. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Plainsman Park.

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