Last Inning Heroics Lift Tigers Over Rebels

Cullen Wacker

Auburn scored a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth inning to beat #12 Ole Miss on the road and take the series from the Rebels.

Oxford, Miss.—Down to its last out in the ninth inning, the Auburn Tigers scored two runs on doubles from Ryan Tella and Cullen Wacker and a single from Garrett Cooper and then held off the #12 Ole Miss Rebels for a 3-2 win on Sunday to take the series on the road. With the win Auburn improves to 12-8 on the season and 2-1 in SEC play. Ole Miss falls to 15-5, 1-2 in conference action.

"The whole weekend was back and forth," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. "One pitch and one play could have made the difference. What a great comeback for our guys after we score early when Cullen hits the double and Gonzo (Jay Gonzalez) gets them in. They stuffed us for the major part of the game.

"We're down to two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning and everybody is on their feet thinking the game is over," he added. "My goodness, the guys just kept battling. We had some quality at-bats when we really needed it the most."

In a game that Auburn struggled against Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers from the start, the Tigers finally got something going in the ninth trailing 2-1. Already with two hits on the day and the defensive play of the day in the field when he robbed Ole Miss of a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth, Wacker would come up with one of the biggest hits of the day for the Tigers in the ninth inning to keep them alive.

With two outs and nobody on, Tella doubled to left field off Mayers to breathe life into the Auburn offense. It was just the fifth hit of the day for Auburn, but started a rally for the Tigers.

Instead of going to the closer, Ole Miss left Mayers in and Wacker made him pay by ripping a double off the wall in right field to score Tella and tie the game. That was it for Mayers as the Rebels turned to closer Brett Huber, but the result would be the same as Cooper singled up the middle to score Wacker from second and put Auburn up 3-2.

"We were just looking for anything to spark our offense and Tella's big two-out double down the line sparked everything," Cooper said. "Wack (Wacker) had all three good at-bats today and got another double. I came up looking to put a ball in play and got a ball up and hit it up the middle. It's the best feeling you can have out there."

After two strong innings of relief for the second time on the weekend, Cory Luckie walked number Andrew Mistone to lead off the bottom of the ninth. That would be all for him as Justin Bryant come on to try to close things out. Auburn's DH in the game, Bryant faced Austin Anderson with nobody out and his bunt moved Mistone into scoring position with one out.

That brought the powerful Zach Kirksey to the plate for the Rebels. With eight home runs on the season the left-hander struck out looking. Pinch hitter Sikes Orvis would be the last chance for Ole Miss, but Bryant got him on a pop up to finish off the win for the Tigers.

It was another good outing for Daniel Koger as the freshman allowed just two runs on six hits in six innings and got a no-decision in a starting role. Luckie earned the win out of the bullpen as he pitched two scoreless innings of relief, setting Bryant up to finish things off and send the Tigers home victorious.

"We wish we could have gotten the win Friday night, but this team we stick around," Luckie said. "In the late innings just give us a chance. The mentality of this team is very good for coming back late in the game. We're proud of each other.

"My job coming out of the pen is to just hold it and give our guys a chance," he added. "They showed today that when you give them a chance they can do it."

Scoreless in the first two innings, Auburn struck first on Sunday thanks to senior Caleb Bowen. Starting for the second consecutive day behind the plate, Bowen ripped a double down the line in left field to start off the third. Following a sacrifice bunt by Zach Alvord, Bowen scored on a Jay Gonzalez sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 Tigers.

It didn't take long for Ole Miss to answer back however as number nine hitter Blake Newalu led off the bottom of the third inning with a long home run to left field. It was the first of the season and have the Rebels some energy on offense. Tanner Mathis then followed it up with a triple to right field. A ground ball from second baseman Alex Yarbrough pushed across Mathis to give Ole Miss the 2-1 lead.

That was still the score in the fifth when Koger again ran into trouble. Walking Mathis to lead off the inning, the freshman recovered to get the next two hitters on pop ups before falling behind 3-0 to catcher Will Allen. Cutting loose, Allen lifted a fly ball deep to left that Wacker robbed of a home run against the wall in left field. It would prove to be a huge play as the Tigers came back to take the win in the ninth.

"It was a 3-0 count and I didn't know if he was going to be swinging or seeing a pitch," Wacker said. "He took a hack and I was surprised at first. The ball just kept on going. I got back to the wall and felt the wall and the ball just dropped in my glove when I jumped."

Wacker led the way at the plate for the Tigers with three hits as Auburn finished the day seven hits for the game.

Auburn will return to action Tuesday night at 6 p.m. as the Tigers take on South Alabama at Plainsman Park.

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