AUBURN, Ala. (Ole Miss Athletics) – No. 11 Ole Miss came out on the wrong end of a terrific college baseball game Saturday, falling 6-5 in 10 innings at No. 23 Auburn.
The day saw several spectacular performances for the Rebels, including a two-homer day for Grae Kessinger, a clutch game-tying home run in the ninth inning by Cooper Johnson, and a clutch go-ahead RBI in the 10th by Tyler Keenan. But it all wasn’t quite enough as Auburn secured the walk-off victory to win the series.
Kessinger got the Rebels going in the first with a towering solo home run over the green monster in left field. Gunnar Hoglund carried that momentum into the bottom half, striking out the first two batters he faced as part of a three-up, three-down inning.
Hoglund sat down the Tigers in order once again in the second and retired the first two batters in the third. After the torrid start for Hoglund, the Tigers got to the freshman with two outs in the third. A walk, a base hit and another walk loaded the bases for Edouard Julien, who knocked a double off the wall in left to clear the bases and make it a 3-1 Auburn lead. That brought Max Cioffi out of the bullpen, who immediately delivered a strikeout to end the inning.
Cioffi turned in a one-two-three frame after that, setting up the Rebel bats to tie the game. Josh Hall started the inning with a perfect push bunt past the Auburn pitcher. He was later retired as Anthony Servideo reached on a fielder’s choice. That brought up Kessinger, who worked to a 3-1 count and sent his second home run of the day off the scoreboard in left-center field to knot it at three.
In the sixth, Cioffi continued his strong outing. He hit the leadoff batter in the inning but quickly retired the next three to escape the frame without any damage.
Tyler Myers relieved Cioffi in the seventh and quickly got a first out when Auburn’s Rankin Woley popped a bunt straight back, and Johnson hopped up to make the exceptional play. Tiger catcher Matt Scheffler then doubled off the wall in left-center to bring Austin Miller out of the bullpen. Miller gave up a soft base hit back up the middle, but it was enough to score Scheffler and put Auburn ahead, 4-3.
Kessinger led off the following inning with a walk to bring Cody Greenhill out of the bullpen for Auburn. The Tiger closer promptly induced a flyout and a double play to escape the inning. Miller did his job in the bottom half, retiring the Tigers in order to set the stage for a wild finish.
Johnson opened the ninth inning by working a 3-0 count, where the Rebel catcher launched a fastball from Greenhill high over the left field wall to tie the game at four. Parker Caracci then came on for the Rebels and picked up right where Miller left off, sending three straight Tigers back to the dugout to send the game to extra innings.
In the 10th, the Rebel offense delivered the go-ahead run. Kessinger started the two-out rally with a base hit through the left side, then Keenan chopped a double down the right field line to send the Rebel shortstop home, wheeling all the way around from first for the go-ahead run.
Ole Miss was right where it wanted to be with the lead and the ball in Caracci’s hands. Before the 10th inning against the Tigers, Caracci hadn’t given up a run since March 2, a streak spanning eight outings and 14.1 innings. However, a single, a walk and a bunt single loaded the bases with no outs.
It looked as though the Rebels would get the first out of the inning at the plate on a ground ball to Cole Zabowski, but Zabowski’s throw pulled Johnson just off of home plate, allowing a run to score. Caracci came up with two gutsy strikeouts to keep the game knotted at five, but just when it looked like the Rebels would escape the stickiest of situations, Auburn’s Conor Davis poked a base hit through the left side to give the Tigers the walk-off win.
Ole Miss will return to action on Tuesday. The Rebels will play the role of the home team in a neutral site meeting with Mississippi State for the Governor’s Cup at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss.
– Ole Miss fell to 27-14 overall and 10-8 in SEC play.
– Grae Kessinger extended his reached-base streak to 29 games with a solo home run in the first inning. He has hits in 14 of his last 16 games.
– Kessinger recorded his first ever two-home run game, doubling his season total on the day.
– Kessinger notched his 18th multi-hit game of the season, which leads the team. In his last 16 games, Kessinger has 10 multi-hit performances.
– Cole Zabowski had his 14-game hitting streak snapped. It ended just one shy of Thomas Dillard’s 15-game streak from earlier this year, which stands as the Rebels’ longest this season.
– Tyler Keenan went 3-for-5 and recorded his 51st RBI of the season.
– Parker Caracci had an eight-outing, 14.1-inning scoreless streak snapped on the mound.
– Austin Miller continued his run of scoreless performances on the hill. Miller has now gone five outings without allowing a run, a span of 9.1 innings. During that streak, Miller has allowed just two hits with three walks and 11 strikeouts.
– Max Cioffi has now recorded back-to-back scoreless performances out of the bullpen. Cioffi hasn’t allowed a run, hit or walk in 5.0 innings, striking out six in that span.