OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Brady Feigl led the Rebels to the series win in Friday night's victory, but Will Ethridge slammed the door shut Saturday afternoon, going a career long 6.2 innings out of the bullpen and shutting down No. 16 Auburn en route to the series sweep.
The sweep marks Ole Miss' first of the year against an SEC team, moving them into third place in the league, and second in the West, remaining a half game behind Arkansas.
Ethridge carried the Rebels (39-16, 16-11 SEC) from the second inning all the way until the ninth, allowing just one unearned run, while tying his career high in strikeouts with 10. His 6.2 innings pitched is a new career high for the sophomore out of the bullpen, a role he has embraced this year and flourished in long relief appearances.
The game was locked in a low-scoring affair for most of the matchup, but Tyler Keenan's solo shot in the seventh inning followed by a powerful six-run eighth ended any chance for an Auburn comeback. Three doubles in the eighth inning helped the Rebels solidify the series sweep, with Nick Fortes, Chase Cockrell, and Michael Fitzsimmons each earning at least one RBI off a double in the inning.
James McArthur started the game for the Rebels, but immediately faced issues with his command. He walked four batters in his 1.1 innings of work, allowing two runs, one from a leadoff home run, the other an RBI single, before being lifted for Ethridge.
The Rebel reliever hinted at his strong appearance early, entering with the bases loaded and just one out, but exiting after two strikeouts without allowing a runner to cross the plate.
Ole Miss struck back after the early 2-0 Auburn lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Anthony Servideo, starting at second base, recorded an RBI single to score Golsan after the latter reached on a walk. A Grae Kessinger double plated Servideo, and Ryan Olenek followed it up with another two-out RBI, scoring Kessinger from second base.
Auburn would take one back in the fifth inning on an RBI double, Ethridge's lone run allowed, but it would turn out to be the Tigers' last offensive action of the day.
With the game knotted at three for most of the middle innings, the Rebels needed some firepower at the plate, and they found it in Keenan. Appearing in the seventh inning, Keenan hit a solo home run over the right field fence to break the tie and give the Rebels' a one-run advantage heading into the final two innings. Even with the lead, the Rebels were not satisfied, and squashed any chance of blowing a lead in the eighth inning that all nine hitters reach the plate. Thomas Dillard and Will Golsan opened the inning with a pair of singles, and a Keenan hit-by-pitch would load the bases for Cockrell.
Cockrell narrowly squeezed in a double that bounced over the head of the third baseman, scoring two, before Fitzsimmons had a double of his own, scoring Cockrell and Keenan. A Kessinger single would plate another, before Fortes hit the final double of the inning, a right-center shot, to score the game's final run and cap the six-run eighth.
Parker Caracci slammed the door shut in the ninth inning, getting a six-three double play to seal the deal and give Ole Miss its first SEC sweep of the year.
The Rebels will be back in action Tuesday night for the final midweek game of the year, traveling to Arkansas State to face the Red Wolves at 6:30 p.m.
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