While the pitching of Sullivan and Madden was very good, the story of the night was Auburn's offense against one of the league's top pitchers in Ole Miss starter Matt Maloney. Coming into the game Maloney was 5-1 with a 1.83 ERA, but Auburn scored its most runs in a SEC game this season to get the victory and keep its hopes alive for the SEC Tournament.
"I was really proud of our effort tonight," Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said. "Sully went out and gave us a great quality start. He had a rough first, but settled in after that. We did a nice job of answering them and putting up some runs. Maloney hadn't been hit all year. His numbers coming in were just tremendous. I thought our guys did a real good job and had a great approach at the plate. It was just a complete and pretty good ballgame for our club."
Sullivan allowed eight hits and two earned runs in six innings to improve his record to 7-4 on the season. Madden earned his sixth save of the season as he didn't allow a hit in three innings of work and only threw 21 pitches. At the plate both Josh Bell and Karl Amonite had three hits on the night and both Tyler Johnstone and Ben Sprague came through with three runs batted in on two hits. Amonite said the victory was a huge one for the Tigers and keeps them in the running for the SEC Tournament in Hoover.
"Today's win is clutch, especially with wins back-to-back," Amonite said. "Tomorrow we're playing for the sweep. We're going to come out focused tomorrow and give it all we've got to get three from Ole Miss because they're a good team. It should be a dogfight."
Tyler Johnstone had three RBI and two hits for the Tigers in Saturday's victory.
Ole Miss got on the board first Saturday night thanks to the top of the order once again. Cooper Osteen led things off with a sharp one-hopper to Adam Stacey at shortstop that he couldn't handle. The error allowed Osteen to reach base safely with nobody out and he quickly stole second to get into scoring position. Third baseman Chris Coghlan followed with a single to left field to give the Rebels some early momentum.
Sullivan then had his work cut out for him with Stephen Head coming to the plate. Following an 0-5 night on Friday Head again was shot down, this time grounding into a double play. It did allow the run to score though and Ole Miss took the early lead. Unfortunately for Auburn the inning wasn't done as powerful Brian Pettway hit his second home run of the weekend, this one a solo shot, to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead after one half-inning of play.
It didn't take long for the Tigers to take the lead though as they got to Maloney in the second for three big runs. Leading off the inning Amonite singled to right field and he moved to second on a wild pitch during Jeff Boutwell's at-bat that ended in a ground out. Third baseman Josh Donaldson reached on a walk to put runners on first and second with one out for Friday night's hero Ben Sprague. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity in the field, Sprague ripped a double into right-center that scored both runners to tie the game at two. One out later Stacey came through with a two-out single to center that scored Sprague and just like that Auburn was ahead 3-2.
With Sullivan settled on the mound the Tigers went back to work in the third off Maloney. With one out in the inning catcher Josh Bell singled to center to bring Amonite back to the plate. Continuing his hot night he drilled a double into right center that gave Auburn second and third with nobody out in the inning. Taking a night off from left field, designated hitter Jeff Boutwell came through as he blooped a double just inside the right field line that scored both runners to give Auburn a 5-2 lead.
The lead would increase in the fifth as Sullivan kept the Rebels at bay on the mound. Leading off the inning once again, Bell singled to center field. Following the script Amonite doubled to right field and with nobody out Coach Chris Finwood wisely held Bell at third to give Auburn a pair of runners in scoring position with nobody out. He got the first out of the inning on a Boutwell strikeout, but that's when things unraveled for Maloney. First he stepped off the mound with the wrong foot and was called for a balk. The play allowed Bell to score and moved Amonite up to third. Donaldson then did his job by lifting a fly ball into center field that easily scored Amonite to give the Tigers a commanding 7-2 advantage.
Ole Miss cut into the lead in the top of the sixth thanks to another solo home run, this time from Mark Wright. With the score 7-3 the Rebels made a bid to make it a game in the top of the seventh. Leading off Osteen doubled and Coghlan followed with a single to center field. In front 0-2 on Head Sullivan hit him with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out and Pettway coming to the plate. That would be all for Sullivan as Madden came on in the tough situation to face the SEC's leading hitter. Madden quickly got Pettway to fly out to Bruce Edwards in center for the inning's first out and then Wright hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. After escaping the situation and giving up just one run the Tigers were ready to put the game away in the seventh.
Leading off once again Bell singled. Amonite followed by earning a walk to bring Boutwell to the plate. He singled sharply to left field to load the bases with nobody out and the bottom of the order coming to the plate. Donaldson continued his good hitting as he reached on an infield single that scored Bell. A Sprague fielder's choice followed to score Amonite and later with the bases loaded Johnstone doubled down the left field line to score three and put the final nail in the Rebel coffin and make it 12-4 Auburn. Madden closed the door on the game and gave Auburn the series win.
Heading into Sunday's action Tennessee has jumped into the overall lead in the SEC with a 14-8 conference record. Florida and Alabama are tied for second in the league with identical 14-9 records. LSU is next at 13-10 while South Carolina comes in at 12-11 along with Ole Miss. Auburn and Vanderbilt are currently tied for seventh at 11-12 along with Arkansas while Mississippi State is 10th and one-half game back at 10-12. The top eight teams make the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met on May 25-29.