AUBURN, Ala. - Ole Miss got six runs in the top of the second inning for Sunday starter Eric Fowler, and the veteran left-hander took advantage as he pitched the Rebels to a 9-1 win over Auburn.
"What Eric has done for the past three or four weeks has just been really good," said Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco after Fowler went eight innings with four hits, a run, a walk and six strikeouts. "We needed that from him today with the situation we were in. We needed a win today, and he was able to help us get that."
The Rebels had lost the first two games this weekend, but Fowler said he really felt no more pressure today than usual.
"I just basically go try to do my thing no matter the situation," said Fowler, for the fourth Sunday in a row the Rebels' starting pitcher. "Then we went out and got six runs early and that was so big. All I had to do then was throw strikes and the defense was going to take care of things."
The Rebels had the opportunity to jump on Tiger left-handed starter Mike Felix in the top of the first but had nothing to show for it after he walked two Rebels in the first frame. A fly out sandwiched between two strikeouts in addition to the walks got him out of the early jam. But it wouldn't last long.
In the Rebels' productive top of the second, Felix walked his third batter of the frame with two outs, but he had already given up a run on a wild pitch when Barry Gunther scored from third after reaching on a fielder's choice.
After Miles Franklin and Cooper Osteen walked, Felix was pulled and replaced by right-hander Jared Shore. But the Rebels were just getting cranked up.
Chris Coghlan singled up the middle scoring Franklin and Osteen who had already reached second and third repsectively on the wild pitch from Felix that scored Gunther.
Stephen Head, 2-for-5 Sunday with an RBI, then hit a ball hard which the second baseman could not come up with as he moved in the hole to his left. That moved Coghlan to third. With Head at first and Coghlan at third, Brian Pettway, 2-for-4 with three RBI, sent a blast that hit way up on the scoreboard in left center field to make it 6-0.
Mark Wright then struck out and the Rebels actually had a hard time getting anything off Shore from then on until after the Tigers had cut the lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth. In that inning, Fowler gave up three singles, including an RBI base hit by Jeff Boutwell, before getting a strikeout and a line out to end it.
The Rebels got something going in the top of the seventh. Osteen singled to left and then stole second and third on back to back pitches. After Coghlan popped up to the shortstop, Auburn brought in Michael Nix to pitch. Head, who had sent one to the wall for a long out in the ninth against Nix in the 4-3 AU Friday night win, was up.
On the first pitch from Nix, Head popped one just over the first base bag fair for a double which scored Osteen. Pettway followed that with a seeing-eye single to left as Head moved to third and then scored on a Mark Wright sac fly to left.
With an 8-1 lead, Fowler could basically cruise home with the victory. But the Rebel offense got him one more in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Franklin after a leadoff triple from Gunther.
Head came in to pitch in the ninth and gave up a hit before getting a lineout to center field and striking out two Tigers.
Coghlan said Sunday's win was almost a must if the Rebels were to stay in the chase for all their goals.
"After losing two we slavaged something today," he said. "It's never good to lose two games, but we're still in the hunt. Today we came up with the big hits, the two-out hits. And Fowler just kept pitching well. We need to close things out the next two weekends and win big."
The Rebels, 35-15 overall and 13-11 in SEC play, take final exams this week and host South Carolina Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m., and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Sunday's game has been changed from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. because of the men's tennis NCAA Regional Saturday hosted by Ole Miss.
With the loss Auburn fell to 30-20 and 11-13.
Fowler pitches Rebels to 9-1 win over Auburn
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