Hoover, Ala.--Pitching for just the third time since April 13 with only 10 total innings in his last two starts, Auburn sophomore Casey Mize allowed just a run on three hits in six innings and senior catcher Blake Logan had a big solo home run as the Tigers beat Ole Miss 5-4 on Tuesday night to advance in the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met.
Auburn (35-22) will now face top seed Florida in the late game on Wednesday following the postponement of Tuesday night’s final game between Mississippi State and Georgia.
Coming on in relief of junior Keegan Thompson, who wasn’t a sharp after pitching on just four days rest, Mize was in control from start to finish with the only hiccup a solo home run in the ninth inning.
Earning his seventh win of the season, Mize struck out nine on 77 pitches and controlled things with just two pitches against an Ole Miss lineup that swung the bat well for most of the night.
“Yeah, I mean, I threw fastballs and splitters,” Mize said. “I didn’t throw one slider tonight. I stayed away from that just because I could. Luckily it worked out and my stuff was shaping like I wanted it to.
“We know it’s a big game and that’s a good ballclub we just got done playing. We knew it’d be tough; we’re used to each other. Putting us into double-elimination play was big. Winning this game was big for us, and I think we set ourselves up nicely for the rest of the tournament.”
Failing to deliver early in the game with the bases loaded, Logan had already singled before stepping to the plate in the sixth inning with the game tied at three. Getting a fastball from ace Ole Miss reliever Will Stokes, he drove it over the left field wall for his third home run of the season and first since April 8.
“I was kind of kicking myself after my first at-bat,” Logan said. “I felt like I let some of the guys down. It was a big situation with the bases loaded. I was saying that I was going to get another chance to do something. I was a little more patient than I was the first at-bat and worked myself into a hitter’s count. I took a really good 3-1 pitch right down the middle and he came back with it and I was able to put a pretty good swing on it.”
Blake Logan celebrates his home run
Looking for some insurance runs in the eighth, Auburn got a single up the middle from Luke Jarvis, and a great bunt from Sam Gillikin and when Ole Miss couldn’t find the handle it put runners on first and second for Logan.
Doing his job, the catcher bunted the runners into scoring position for Holland. Before he could swing the bat however, Ole Miss closer Dallas Woolfolk uncorked a wild pitch to score Jarvis and give Mize a two-run lead to work with.
It would be huge as Ole Miss got a solo home run in the top of the ninth, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Talking about the importance of the SEC Tournament all week, Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said he stressed how big of a deal playing in Hoover should be for the Tigers and he thought his team responded on Tuesday night.
“I just think it is important for Auburn University as we try to build a program,” Butch Thompson said. “I think the SEC Tournament is huge for our school and our baseball program. I just want these guys to leave a legacy on how important this tournament is to our fans. I’m going to try and keep building it up but also this is a good time for us to be playing really well. This is big for our program, not just this year. With where we’re located in our fan base, I want this tournament to be important to all of these guys.”
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Auburn finally broke through against Ole Miss starter Brady Feigl and it all happened with two outs. With Sam Gillikin on first following a fielder’s choice, Logan singled to left to keep the pressure on and bring Will Holland to the plate. Getting a pitch to handle, the freshman shortstop pulled a ball just inside the bag at third for a double to score Gillikin and put runners on second and third for the top of the order.
Facing Ole Miss reliever Hudson Roth, who retired him both times when they faced each other last weekend, center fielder Jonah Todd jumped on a pitch and drove it deep to center field. The ball sailed over the head of Rebel center fielder Ryan Olenek and by the time Todd was done running he was standing at third with a two-run triple.
Getting a pair of scoreless innings from Mize, Auburn still led 3-2 in the sixth when Ole Miss got a leadoff double from Will Golsan to put the Rebels in business. Attempting to sacrifice, Nick Fortes put down a bunt that Dylan Ingram fielded and threw away at first. The error allowed Golsan to score and put the go-ahead run on second with no outs.
Coming back strong, Mize got a groundout, a strikeout and a pop up to end the threat and keep the game tied. It would be a big moment in the game as the Tigers came back looking to retake the lead in the bottom of the inning and got the blast from Logan to propel them to a victory.
Auburn will face Florida on Wednesday night in game four on day two of the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are listed as TBA on the mound.