Improving to 25-16 overall and 7-11 in SEC play, Auburn answered the call put out by Coach Sunny Golloway to start the week of a must-win situation.
“At some point our kids have to be told that these are games you’ve got to win,” Golloway said. “If you really want to do the things you want to do then you’ve got to win them. Now we’ll look to rest up a little bit because two 18-inning games were hard on this team physically. We’ll let them rest up a little bit, hopefully play well on Tuesday, and then we get pushed up to Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We have Georgia coming in here and it’s another chance to get a series win and we need to do it.”
After winning the first game of the series on Friday night behind a strong performance from starting pitcher Cole Lipscomb, Auburn sent ace Keegan Thompson to the mound in the first game on Saturday looking to wrap up the series. Instead it turned into a nightmare situation as Thompson allowed three runs on three hits in just two innings before leaving the game early with a sore shoulder.
Trey Wingenter came on in relief and pitched four scoreless innings to keep the Tigers in game before the Rebels came through with three runs in the eighth to break open a 3-2 game. Ole Miss added a run in the ninth to take a 7-2 win, but the story was Thompson.
“What we do know is that we already had him checked out,” Golloway said. “We had him checked out prior and he felt a little tendonitis in there. There is no ligament problems so that’s the good news. He wanted to try to go, but we could see very clearly that it wasn’t the normal Keegan Thompson so we got him out of there.
“We went to big Wingenter and I thought we competed well until the last two innings without Keegan,” he added. “It may be good for us because every weekend we know Keegan’s a guy we can all lean on. This weekend we win the two games he doesn’t throw. I think it’s going to be good for our team because Keegan is going to be right back in there and it makes those other two guys step up and makes us a much stronger three now.”
Needing a big performance in game two the Tigers turned to senior Rocky McCord and he got the job done, allowing no runs and five hits in six and two/thirds innings to get his third win of the season. Jacob Milliman, Izaac Yarbrough and Justin Camp allowed just one hit the rest of the way for Auburn as they dominated on the mound to allow the offense to get untracked in game three.
“I think it was really big,” Golloway said of McCord’s performance. “I think the way he went out there in the first inning and put a zero up and we scored one, we had a chance to score more but they run the double play and we don’t get the run at home. We go back and put one up and I really started to see him ease through it a little bit better. I think getting Rocky the lead was important, but remember he put the donuts up there early. Then we got the big inning and you could really see him go to work.”
Damon Haecker is called out on this play in game two as the Tigers won easily 14-0
With McCord cruising on the mound the Tigers broke things open at the plate with single runs in the first and second inning to set up a huge fourth when Auburn scored five runs to break things open. Leading off the inning, Daniel Robert doubled off the wall to put the heat on Ole Miss starter Will Stokes. Following a fly ball out, freshman Austin Murphy tripled to right-center to make it a three-run lead and put Auburn in high gear.
One of his two hits for the game and four on the day, a single by Damon Haecker pushed across Murphy for the 4-0 lead. Even hotter at the plate, Cody Nulph doubled for one of his four hits in game three and just like that it was a five run advantage. Another run-scoring double by Kyler Deese and a Melvin Gray groundout pushed the lead to eight and it was all over but the shouting in this one.
Nulph’s two-run double was part of a three-run fifth for the Tigers before Gray doubled home three as part of a four-run seventh to put the finishing touches on Auburn’s largest SEC win since defeating Ole Miss 18-14 in 2010.
“We know as a team mentally that before this series started we had to take at least two out of three,” McCord said. “Coming into the game as a whole team we knew we had to do it, and we did it. The bats came alive that game and it makes it pretty easy to pitch when you score that many runs.”