Oxford, Miss.--After playing errorless baseball for three straight games last week, Auburn Tigers’ defense faltered on Saturday as the Tigers committed four errors in a 7-4 loss to Ole Miss. That drops Auburn’s record to 18-21 overall and 5-12 in SEC play while the Rebels improve to 30-10, 9-8 in league play.
Once again Justin Camp pitched better than the numbers show after a terrible day defensively behind him. Going five innings, the senior allowed five runs on 10 hits but only three of the runs were earned. Of the 10 hits allowed only one went for extra-bases as Ole Miss played small ball and took advantage of mistake after mistake to take game two.
“That was our deal about trying to turn the page and it goes back to a couple of tough plays,” Coach Butch Thompson said of the defense. “It just extends innings and that’s where big innings come from. You look at the ingredients of a big inning and it’s walks, a hit batter, a defensive play, and then a good team getting a couple of hits. You start giving up gifts and freebies and we start having to get four or five outs an inning and that’s been a challenge for us.”
One of the few bright spots on the day for the Tigers was the pitching of true freshman Daniel Sprinkle coming out of the bullpen. Pitching two and one/third scoreless innings, he showed some good things and kept the Tigers within striking distance late in the game.
At the plate Melvin Gray led the way with three of Auburn’s nine hits on the day. Auburn’s top two hitters in the lineup on Saturday in terms of average, Anfernee Grier and Jordan Ebert, were the only two Tigers not to get a hit.
It didn’t take long for Ole Miss to jump on the Tigers Saturday as the Rebels scored a run in the first inning thanks to a pair of walks, but it was the second inning that Camp ran into serious trouble. With one out a Cody Nulph error opened up the floodgates for the Ole Miss offense and set the tone for the rest of the day for the Tigers.
Coming up after the error, Kyle Watson doubled to put runners on second and third for Errol Robinson and the third walk of the game from Camp loaded the bases for Olenek. Getting a pitch to hit, he singled up the middle to score two runs and advanced to second on a throw to the plate. A sacrifice fly and a two-out single scored both Robinson and Olenek to finish off the four-run inning for Ole Miss as they took a commanding 5-0 early lead.
Auburn had a chance to get right back in the game in the top of the third as walks to catcher Jonathan Foster and Grier and a single by Gray loaded the bases with one out for the Tigers with the heart of the order coming to the plate. It wouldn’t matter on this day however as Ebert popped up and Niko Buentello struck out to leave them loaded.
The Tigers finally broke through in the fourth thanks to Damon Haecker as his triple set Jackson Burgreen up with an RBI opportunity and his groundout scored the Auburn shortstop to break up the shutout for Ole Miss starting pitcher David Parkinson.
Auburn added another run in the sixth on a Kyler Deese two-out single, but Ole Miss would do one better with runs in both the fifth and the sixth to push the lead back to five runs. The Tigers wouldn’t go down quietly however as Blake Logan got things started with a one-out walk in the eighth. Following a Haecker strikeout, Burgreen reached on an infield single before a walk to Deese loaded the bases.
Coming to the plate with a chance to do some damage, freshman Jonathan Foster delivered in a big way against Ole Miss closer Will Stokes as he fought off an 0-2 pitch and lifted it into left field for a single. Two runs scored on the play to cut the lead down to three and bring Grier to the plate with the tying run. It wouldn’t matter as Grier struck out to leave two more runners on base. That would be the last challenge for the Tigers as they went down quietly in the ninth.
Auburn will try to salvage game three of the series on Sunday with the Tigers expected to start freshman Casey Mize (1-2, 3.63 ERA) on the mound. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.