Thursday Night Rejection

AUBURN, Ala. - The final line read Auburn with three errors and Ole Miss with only one. But there are mistakes the statistics don't show as errors. That was the case in the Rebels' 6-3 loss to the Tigers Thursday night.

Arguably the most costly was in the top of the seventh inning when Ole Miss had a chance to go up by two runs but wound up with just a one-run lead. It could have been 4-2 at the time but was only 3-2 at stretch time.

Jordan King was on second base as a pinch runner and Matt Snyder was on third. Preston Overbey hit a ball to the Tiger left fielder, but the ball bounded away. As King watched, the center fielder threw the ball in to the shortstop. King was already halfway to third when the ball wasn't caught. So the senior goes back to tag and then races toward third base.

Snyder scores and King rounds third. But because he had gone back to tag, he wasn't likely to be able to make it home. So he turned back toward third and was tagged out by a throw from the shortstop to the third baseman.

There were other opportunities for the Rebels, but that one seemed to lift Auburn as much as it might have deflated Ole Miss.

"Jordan's not supposed to go back and tag," Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said. "With one out he's supposed to go halfway. When in doubt, with one out, he's supposed to go as far as he can get off the base, and if the guy catches it, still get back without getting doubled off. He ran back to tag. If he doesn't go back to tag, he scores easily. (Matt) Moss(berg) is down the line trying to make a decision. The center fielder, I thought, made a terrific play.

"The left fielder dives, and it kicks off his glove. The center fielder comes up and throws a bullet to the shortstop and the shortstop had the awareness to not throw it home. He saw that King got held up but slipped and threw it to third base and got him."

With Overbey at second base, Tanner Mathis, who had earlier in the contest extended his hitting streak to 22 games, grounded out to end the seventh.

Tanner Mathis' hit streak is now 22 games
Bruce Newman
Bianco said not scoring two runs on Overbey's double was big not just because it didn't give Ole Miss a two-run lead at that point. But also because he felt Auburn had a different mindset in the bottom of the seventh.

"If (King doesn't score), you're still one out and (Rebs on) second and third. Now you have two outs with a runner at second, and you need a base hit. Then some of the stuff that happens (in the bottom of the inning) may not happen, just because they may decide to swing a little more. They're bunting and hit and running and really rolling the dice. With (Ole Miss having) a two-run lead, those things may not happen."

The Rebels weren't able to score again, and the Tigers picked up two runs in the eighth off relievers Brett Huber and Eric Callender.

Matt Crouse went six innings and allowed only two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk. It was Huber that struggled, allowing three runs on four hits.

"Crouse was able to pitch out of some jams," Bianco said. "One time it was bases loaded and one out. We needed him to take control of the game, and certainly he did and put some zeroes up and gave us a chance."

Ole Miss took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a Matt Tracy double that scored Blake Newalu and Matt Smith who had reached on walks.

Auburn cut the lead in half on a Dan Gamache solo homer in the bottom of the second inning.

The Tigers tied it 2-2 in the third on a Bobby Andrews single that scored Creede Simpson who reached on a double.

That's the way things stood until the top of the seventh when the Rebels got only one run and needed more.

Ole Miss had just six hits, while Auburn had 13.

The Rebels are now 23-16 on the season and 8-8 in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers improved to 21-16 and also 8-8.

Fifth-year senior Matt Smith said the Rebels have to play better.

"I feel like we competed pretty good tonight," he said. "I think we're fine."

Even keeping the younger guys on the team focused and about the task at hand isn't a problem, Smith said.

"Halfway through the season now, they know," he said. "They've caught on. They're fine. We've just got to play better."

Game two is at 6 p.m. Friday.

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