Oxford, Miss.—Zach Alvord’s grand slam capped a five-run eighth inning for the Auburn Tigers on the way to a 10-4 win over #12 Ole Miss Saturday on the road. Scoring five runs in the first inning, Coach John Pawlowski’s club was clinging to a one-run lead before breaking the game open late. With the victory Auburn improves to 11-8 overall and 1-1 in SEC play while Ole Miss falls to 15-4 and 1-1 in conference action.
“The thing with Zach is that he continues to work hard,” Pawlowski said. “He got a pitch that he could handle and turned it loose. We had scored one at that point so we were up by two and that kind of gave us a huge lift to put four more on the board. It was a big hit, a big home run for him, a big home run for our team, and a great win for our team.”
Clinging to a 5-4 lead in a game that Auburn had seen slipping from its grasp since the first inning, the Tigers needed some insurance as the Tigers came to bat in the top of the eighth. Facing reliever Dylan Chavez, Cullen Wacker walked with one out and moved to third on a single by Garrett Cooper. That was it for Chavez as Ole Miss went to the bullpen once again, this time for Chris Ellis.
With runners on the corners and leading by one, Auburn was looking for at least one run as Justin Bryant put down a bunt that scored Wacker from third to put the Tigers up 6-4. The throw to the plate allowed Bryant to reach first base safely and one out later a walk to Caleb Bowen loaded the bases for Alvord.
Getting a pitch to drive the sophomore launched a ball deep over the wall in left field for a grand slam. It was his second home run of the season and the biggest hit of his Auburn career as it gave the Tigers a commanding 10-4 advantage on the way to the win.
On the mound Auburn got a solid outing from both starter Will Kendall and reliever Slade Smith. Improving to 3-0 on the season, Kendall allowed four runs on four hits in five innings. Pitching very well out of the bullpen, Smith didn’t allow a run in four innings on four hits. Pawlowski said the job they did was a huge part of the victory.
“When you score runs like this, five runs in an inning, we’ve talked about no rebound runs,” Pawlowski said. “We went out there and shut them down in the bottom of the first to keep the momentum in our dugout. That was very important for us. We did that twice with Slade Smith after we scored our next five.
“I thought he (Kendall) did a really good job,” he added. “The only thing we would like to have back is obviously the home run. For the most part he showed three pitches for strikes. I thought he did a good job. Obviously Slade Smith came in and we feel very confident in his ability to throw strikes and get some outs.”
In addition to Alvord’s two hits and four RBI, sophomore Ryan Tella had another big day at the plate with three hits and a run scored. He now has six hits in the series for the Tigers. Cooper also added a pair of hits and two runs scored for Auburn on the day.
After struggling to take advantage of opportunities in a 2-1 loss Friday night, Auburn didn’t have that same problem to open the game on Saturday as five Rebel errors helped the Tigers to a 5-0 advantage. Leading off the game for the Tigers, Jay Gonzalez singled on an 0-2 pitch to put Auburn’s offense in business. Creed Simpson was up next and the senior hit a ground ball back to Ole Miss starter R.J. Hively on the mound. His throw looked to be a good one to the bag at second, but shortstop Blake Newalu missed the ball to allow both runners to reach safely.
The troubles were just beginning for Ole Miss however as Tella put down a perfect bunt that catcher Will Allen fielded and threw away at first. The error allowed Gonzalez to score and put a pair of runners on for Wacker. A catcher’s interference call put the senior outfielder on first base to load the bases for Cooper and the junior college transfer delivered with a single to center field. The hit scored two runners for the 3-0 Auburn lead.
Following a Bryant ground ball that moved both runners into scoring position, Glevenyak bunted the ball back to Hively on the mound, but his throw to the plate was wild. The error allowed Cooper to score for the four-run advantage and when Bowen’s fly ball scored Glevenyak moments later, just like that it was 5-0 Auburn after a half-inning of play.
After sitting down Ole Miss in order in the first inning, Kendall got the first two hitters in the second before running into trouble. Giving up a double to Allen, the sophomore gave up his first earned run of the year when Preston Overbey singled to left field to put the Rebels on the board.
That’s how things would stay until the Rebels added a pair of runs in the fourth on one swing of the bat. First baseman matt snyder led off the inning with a single and moved to second moments later on a throwing error by Simpson at second base. Kendall looked like he would get out of the jam however as Allen hit into a double play to leave Snyder at third with two outs. However Overbey again came up big for Ole Miss as his two-run homer to left field cut into the Auburn lead. Through four innings the Tigers held a 5-3 advantage.
A leadoff walk to Alex Yarbrough in the sixth would be the end of the day for Kendall as Smith came on in relief and promptly gave up a double to Snyder down the right field line to easily score the runner from first. The junior answered the call on the mound however as he came back to get the next three Ole Miss hitters and keep Auburn ahead 5-4.
After blowing up in the first inning, Hively recovered to shut down the Auburn offense the rest of the way as his scoreless seventh inning was the sixth consecutive he kept the Tigers off the scoreboard. Reliever Dylan Chavez came in to replace him in the eighth and keep the pressure on the Auburn offense, but the move would prove to be fatal for the Rebels as the Tigers broke it open to secure the win.
Auburn will go for the series win on Sunday with freshman pitcher Daniel Koger (1-1, 1.82 ERA) on the mound against right-hander Mike Mayers (2-1, 3.43) for the Rebels. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
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