It was a tale of two winning pitchers Saturday as Ole Miss and Auburn split a pair of Southeastern Conference baseball games.
Ole Miss got a complete game from starter Craig Rodriguez and won 14-2 in game one of the three-game series in Oxford before 6,189, while the Tigers' Evan Crawford impressively helped his team even the series in game two in a 6-2 AU victory.
The Rebel junior left-hander in game one was the story of the day for the Rebs, along with an explosive offense. In game two, it was just the opposite for Ole Miss as the Rebs stranded 10 runners to help the cause of Crawford and company.
The Tiger freshman left-hander Crawford, who allowed only one earned run on five hits with three strikeouts and four walks in game two, gave way in the eighth to reliever Johnny Thompson. Luke Greinke then came in to polish the Rebels off in the ninth.
In game one Rodriguez had a bit of a rocky start in the first inning, walking the first batter of the game and giving up three hits in that first frame as the Tigers took a 2-0 lead. After that, however, it was all Ole Miss.
The Rebels pounded out 16 hits on their way to victory, the big inning a five-run seventh which put the Rebs way out front at 11-2, the crushing blow a grand slam by Justin Brashear.
"I came out a little timid," said Rodriguez, who went nine innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk. "My arm didn't feel as great as it has in the past. I just wanted to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win."
That he did and the Rebels took advantage by unleashing an offensive barrage to the delight of the big Grove Bowl day crowd.
"I was a little nervous at first, no doubt," said Rodriguez. "I was a little timid. But after that first inning, things were OK for me. It was awesome out there today. You want to pitch in front of a crowd like this."
It was Rodriguez's first win against no losses this season. Starter Brett Butts (2-5), one of four pitchers used by Auburn, got the loss for the Tigers.
In game two, Rebel starter Brett Bukvich couldn't get any help from the Ole Miss offense in key situations; thus leaving so many stranded runners.
With the game tied 1-1, Bukvich had pitched well but walked the first batter of the Auburn sixth. There ended up being no damage in the inning.
In the seventh, however, the result was different after Bukvich hit the first batter. After a one-out single by Jeff Boutwell put runners at first and third, Bukvich gave way to reliever Garrett White who couldn't hold the Tigers back.
Back to back doubles scored three Tiger runs, and the Rebels were in a heap of trouble in this one, trailing 4-1. A Tyler Johnston RBI single ended the scoring in the frame with Auburn in total control at 5-1.
Each team added a run before game's end.
"It was all about timely hitting (in game two)," said Rebel outfielder Mark Wright. "Their pitcher did a pretty good job. And they swung the bats well that one inning."
No doubt the Rebels were a happy bunch after game one and in not nearly as good a frame of mind after game two.
"It was such a high after that first game winning 14-2," said Rebel shortstop Zack Cozart, who went 4-for-5 in game one as did Wright. "We just couldn't find a way to get any hits in that second game."
Crawford improved to 4-4 while Bukvich fell to 3-3.
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said you hope for carryover from a positive game one of a doubleheader but don't always get it.
"Baseball's like that," he said of one blowout win and a close loss in back to back games on the same day. "We've been swinging the bats well for five or six games. But a good pitching performance can sometimes stop that. Crawford got ahead of hitters and mixed pitches and we couldn't get the timely hit."
Ole Miss is 18-13 overall and 5-6 in SEC play. Coming in, the Rebels had lost three series in a row to the Tigers, last winning two of three games in 2002.
The Tigers are now 15-19 on the season and 4-7 in SEC play. The victory was Auburn's first road win of the entire season.
Saturday's doubleheader was necessary because of rain and storms in the area Friday night. The two teams play the third and final game Sunday at 1 p.m. The Rebs will start Lance Lynn (Freshman RHP, 2-2 record, 4.78 ERA). Auburn will go with Chris Dennis (Junior RHP, 1-2 record, 5.87 ERA).
Ole Miss' only other SEC home series this season was also a doubleheader situation with a Friday night game and two Saturday games with inclement weather predicted for the Sunday game. Vandy won two of three games that weekend.
Ole Miss, Auburn split pair of games
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