OXFORD, Miss. – Sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers worked a career-long 8.2 innings and looked masterful for most of it, but a two-out Tiger rally in the ninth turned things as No. 12 Ole Miss (15-5, 1-2 SEC) fell to Auburn (12-8, 2-1 SEC) by a score of 3-2 on Sunday.
With the loss, the Rebels dropped the weekend series in the opening weekend of Southeastern Conference play. Ole Miss will host Southern Miss on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. before traveling to face Alabama next weekend.
Holding a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, Mayers retired the first two batters, but back-to-back doubles from Auburn’s three and four-hole hitters tied the game at two and sent the Rebels to the bullpen for closer Brett Huber. Huber then gave up a single to Garrett Cooper that drove in what proved to be the game-winning run.
Mayers (2-2) finished the day allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts through 8.2 innings of work.
Cory Luckie (1-0) picked up the relief win, working 2.0 innings with a walk and a strikeout while holding the Rebels hitless. Justin Bryant picked up his second save of the season, entering the game with a man on first following a lead-off walk by the Rebels in the bottom of the ninth and held onto the win for Auburn.
“What a tough way to end the weekend for us,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “You have to credit Auburn. They played extremely hard and found a way to win. They got hits when they needed them. Mike (Mayers) pitched a great game and up until 26 outs and 2 strikes on a hitter you really thought it was going to be a great day for us. We have Southern Miss here at home Tuesday and that is going to be a huge in-state game for us.”
Auburn got on the board first, pushing home a single run in the third inning when Caleb Bowen scored from third on a sac fly to left from Jay Gonzalez. Bowen doubled to open the inning and moved to third on a sac bunt from Zach Alvord.
The Rebels answered in the bottom of the inning when Blake Newalu notched his first home run of the season to start the inning, sending the ball over the bullpen in left field. A triple to right field in the next at bat from Tanner Mathis and an RBI grounder to second from Alex Yarbrough got Ole Miss its second run, and the Rebels were on top 2-1 after three innings of play.
Mayers then retired 18 of the next 20 batters faced, allowing only two singles in that time until Auburn’s Ryan Tella came up with his two-out double on a 2-2 count in the ninth to spark the Tigers’ come-from-behind win.
Auburn tied things with the back-to-back doubles from Tella and Cullen Wacker, before taking the lead when Wacker crossed home on a single up the middle from Cooper. The Rebels got out of the inning with a strikeout of Bryant – who was serving as the designated hitter for the Tigers - before the bottom of the ninth.
Ole Miss got a lead-off walk from Andrew Mistone and sent in Senquez Golson as a pinch runner to start things off in the home half of the final frame. Golson took second on a sac bunt from pinch hitter Austin Anderson, but Auburn was able to get a strikeout and a pop out in the next two batters to claim the win.
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