BY MATT SIGLER
After rallying late to win 8-7 in extra innings Wednesday at home against Saint Louis, No. 24 Ole Miss will hit the road with momentum this weekend to take on Southeastern Conference opponent Auburn. The Rebels (32-14, 11-10 SEC) currently sit in fourth place in the SEC West, while the Tigers (25-18, 7-14 SEC) are scratching to get out of last place. The trip will not be an easy one for Ole Miss with Auburn holding a 17-9 record at home this season and having won three straight series against the Rebels.
“There is a lot to play for,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “We are playing for postseason. Certainly, we’ve talked about the top four seeds, we’ve talked about hosting. Last I checked, we had an RPI of 20 and 11 games left and if you play well you could lower that. So there’s not a lot to play for, it’s the season to play for.”
Ole Miss will send junior right-hander Bobby Wahl to the mound to start the series Friday night. Wahl is 8-0 on the year in 11 starts with a 1.22 ERA, which is a team best and ranks second in the SEC. Opponents are hitting just .182 off the Springfield, Va., native. Wahl was also recently named to the 2013 midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player by USA Baseball.
Auburn will counter with left-hander Conner Kendrick Friday night. He enters the series with a 3-2 record in 15 appearances, five of those being starts, and holding a 1.94 ERA. He has pitched 55.2 innings on the season, second most on the team, and is limiting opponents to just a .252 batting average.
The Rebels will go with junior-right hander Mike Mayers on Saturday, who is attempting to get his fourth win of the season. He is currently 3-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 11 starts so far. He has pitched 63.1 innings on the year, second most on the team, and is holding opponents to a .225 batting average.
The Tigers will send another left-hander, Michael O’Neal, to the mound for Saturday’s game. In 11 starts, O’Neal is 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA through a team-high 69.1 innings pitched. Opponents are only hitting .220 against him, and he has also thrown complete games twice this season.
Sophomore Sam Smith will close things out on Sunday for Ole Miss. He will be making his 11th start of the year and currently holds a 2-0 record with a 3.53 ERA in 43.1 innings pitched. Auburn’s Sunday starter is to be determined.
At the plate, Ole Miss is hitting .279 as a team and is averaging 5.41 runs per game. They are led by junior catcher Stuart Turner, who continues to pace the Rebel offense. He was also recently listed to the Golden Spikes Award watch list. Turner leads the team and ranks fifth in the SEC with a .389 batting average to go along with a team-high 63 hits, five home runs and 45 RBIs.
The Rebels will also look to continue to get consistency from senior third baseman Andrew Mistone, who recently eclipsed the .300 mark in batting average, putting him second on the team. Mistone also has racked up 30 RBIs this season.
Auburn has a team batting average of .267, and the Tigers are averaging 4.74 runs per contest. Senior infielder Garrett Cooper and senior outfielder Cullen Wacker lead the way with .347 and .340 batting averages, respectively. The duo is tied for the team best in hits with 50, and Cooper leads the team with 33 RBIs, while Wacker is a close second with 29. Cooper also leads the Tigers with six home runs.
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