SEC West Champs! Tigers Clinch With 18-4 Win

Auburn wrapped up the SEC Western Division title with a convincing win over Ole Miss Friday night in Oxford.

Oxford, Miss.--Needing one win to secure the SEC Western Division Championship, Auburn did it in convincing fashion Friday night against 18th-ranked Ole Miss as the Tigers pounded the Rebels 18-4.

The #16 Tigers pounded out 20 hits on the way to the victory after winning the first game of the series 5-3 on Thursday night. It was the 11th win in the last 14 SEC games for Auburn.

With the win Auburn improves to 38-17 overall and 19-10 in SEC play. Ole Miss falls to 39-19, 16-13 in league play. The Tigers will be the second seed in the SEC Tournament next week in Hoover and will face either LSU or Alabama at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The Rebels are the sixth seed and will face South Carolina at 1 p.m.

The title is the first for an Auburn team since 1995 and the 19 conference wins are most in school history for a regular season, surpassing the 18 in both 1995 and 2003. Catcher Ryan Jenkins has been around for five years and said there is no better way for his senior year to unfold.

"It's a great feeling," Jenkins said. "To take a step forward for Auburn baseball, and to be here to witness it, and to play that kind of game to do it, is pretty special. I can't say enough about how well we played today. Everybody hit well. Cole came out and threw well and Slade came out and shut it down.

"Everybody was locked in," he added. "Everybody was real excited to come out and play today. You could tell that by the time we got to the bus today. You could tell everybody was locked in and ready to go. You could see it in BP, you could see it in pregame."

Auburn players thank the fans that had crowded down the first base line at the end of the game.

At the plate the Tigers pounded out five home runs with Brian Fletcher bombing his 19th and 20th. Jenkins added a homer and a pair of doubles as well while Kevin Patterson and Dan Gamache also went deep.

"Coming into this game we had the West in the back of our minds," Fletcher said. "A lot of the guys wanted to keep it simple and just play and not think too much. (Aaron) Barrett has done a good job for Ole Miss. He struggled a little bit early and we were able to get out early and get to their bullpen. Players stepped up and got some big hits and we were able to produce some runs and pull away."

On the mound starter Cole Nelson dominated the Rebels through three innings, holding them hitless with five strikeouts. He lost it just as fast though as he didn't get out of the fourth and allowed four runs on four hits in three and one/third innings. The story was the pitching of freshman Slade Smith. Coming on in relief, the freshman earned his third win of the season with a solid performance out of the bullpen. Pitching the final five and two/thirds innings, he allowed no runs on five hits and struck out five.

"I was glad I got to come in," Smith said. "Cole started off the game great and they started to rally. It was my job to come in and shut them out and try to get us back in the dugout to score more runs. That's what we did.

"It's a great experience," he added. "In this environment and against a great team like Ole Miss, just to come in is everything I've dreamed of. When I signed the papers to play for Auburn this is what I wanted. It's great to see us at this level."

Auburn wasted an opportunity to get on the board in the first as Justin Fradejas led off with a double down the left field line and Trent Mummey followed with a walk to bring the power of the Tigers' order to the plate against the hard-throwing Barrett. Auburn was unable to make it pay off though as Fletcher popped out to left field before Hunter Morris and Kevin Patterson struck out to end the threat.

The Tigers didn't waste the opportunity in the second though. With one out Jenkins laced a double to right-center field to bring Gamache to the plate. With a home run in the series opener on Thursday, the sophomore jumped all over a fastball and launched it deep over the right field wall. His seventh home run of the season gave Nelson a 2-0 lead to work with, but it would balloon just one inning later.

Dan Gamache is welcomed to the plate following his two-run home run in the second.

In the third things started innocently enough as walks to Morris and Patterson and a sacrifice bunt by Casey McElroy brought Jenkins to the plate with a chance to drive in a run. Getting ahead 3-0 in the count, Jenkins got a fastball and swung away. The result was a good one for the Tigers as he hit a bomb to left field for a three-run homer. That put Auburn up 5-0, but the Tigers were just getting started.

Continuing his hot hitting, Gamache roped a double to right field. Following a walk to Justin Hargett and a Fradejas pop up, Mummey doubled to right field to score Gamache for a six-run advantage. That was all for Barrett as he excited after giving up six.

Reliever Matt Tracy came on to face Fletcher and the junior was happy about that after struggling against Barrett. He celebrated with a long home run to left field, the third of the game for the Tigers. It was his 19th of the year and pushed his RBI total to 69.

Auburn pushed the lead to 10 in the top of the fourth on a single by Hargett, but Ole Miss would answer that run back in the bottom of the fourth. With one out in the inning Matt Smith doubled to right-center for the first hit of the game for the Rebels. Designated hitter Matt Snyder followed with a ground-rule double to left field that put Ole Miss on the board and made it 10-1 Tigers.

A Zach Miller single followed to put runners on the corners with still just one out and Taylor Hashman at the plate. A walk loaded the bases to put the pressure on Nelson. Facing Alex Yarbrough, Nelson allowed a single to left to score two and the throw to the plate by Fletcher allowed both runners to advance.

Another walk, this one to first baseman Mike Snyder, loaded the bases to bring Nelson's day to a close. A true freshman, Smith came on in a huge situation for the Tigers facing catcher Miles Hamblin. Getting behind 3-0, the Fort Payne native worked his way back to 3-2 before getting a fly ball to left field to score a run. That brought the top of the order and Tim Ferguson to the plate. Smith recovered to get the ground ball out and end the inning with Auburn up 10-4.

Fletcher immediately got a run back for the Tigers with a solo shot to open the fifth. It was the ninth multi-homer game of his career to set the Auburn career record.

Auburn proceeded to load the bases thanks to a pair of walks to bring Hargett to the plate with a chance to extend the lead. Working the count full, the junior fouled off a pitch before earning an RBI with a walk. With the top of the order at the plate Ole Miss went to the bullpen for reliever Jordan Cooper. He immediately uncorked a wild pitch to score Jenkins from third before walking Fradejas to load the bases for Mummey. His pop up to left brought the inning to a close, the second straight inning Mummey left the bases loaded.

Holding a 13-4 advantage, Smith went back out in the bottom of the fifth hoping to keep the Rebels at bay. He accomplished his feat, giving his offense a chance to extend the lead. Consecutive singles by Fletcher and Morris brought Patterson to the plate and working the count full, the junior delivered his second three-run shot in two games off the batter's eye in center field. A single by McElroy and a double by Jenkins led to a pair of runs and before the inning was done the Tigers led 18-4. Smith would cruise the rest of the way as Auburn finished off their fifth series win in a row.

The Tigers will go for the sweep on Saturday as junior Grant Dayton takes the mound against TBA for Ole Miss. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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