A shaky start by Will Ethridge and lack of late-inning offense sunk Ole Miss in a 7-4 loss in game one of its series against the Auburn Tigers on Thursday.
Ethridge, who has not won a road start this season, looked sharp in the early going but began experiencing control issues in the third, where he allowed two singles, a hit and walked a batter.
Although Ethridge only gave up 3 hits, he was pegged for 5 earned runs as he walked four men over five complete innings. Thursday also marked the third-straight SEC loss for the Rebels after they dropped both seven-inning games in a Sunday doubleheader last weekend against Kentucky.
Following Ethridge’s departure, Tyler Myers inherited a mess on the base paths in the sixth where Auburn took the lead. Myers surrendered a run of his own in the seventh via a solo home run by Edouard Julien. Myers was also credited with a run after his departure in the eighth.
Ole Miss’s offense got to Auburn lefty Garrett Wade early, going against a season-long trend of the Rebels struggling against left-handed pitching. Wade surrendered 4 runs on 5 hits, only one of which was earned due to two fielding errors by the pitcher himself.
Grae Kessinger stayed hot at the plate, going 2-4 with an RBI. Outfielder Anthony Servideo also had a decent night at the dish, going 2-5 with an RBI to his name, as well.
Following Wade’s stint, however, Auburn gave the ball to Richard Fitts who dominated the Rebel lineup for 4.1 innings, giving up only 4 hits, no runs and striking out three. Fitts’ neutralizing of the Rebel bats gave Auburn the opportunity to figure out Ethridge and push across 2 more runs in the sixth, giving the Tigers a lead that they never relented.
Auburn’s bullpen success didn’t stop with Fitts. The Tigers threw righty Cody Greenhill, who shut down a Rebel threat in the eighth before closing it out in the ninth with a scoreless frame, helping combine for a shutout of the Rebels after the second inning.
The weekend does not get any easier for the Rebels as they will face Auburn’s ace Tanner Burns. Although Burns is a right-hander, he is the best arm Ole Miss will see this weekend before facing another lefty on Saturday.
For a team that needs a strong back half of the SEC season to earn a bid to host a regional, a loss like Thursday’s could prove costly for the Rebels down the road. If Ole Miss doesn’t manage to backend a series win in Auburn this weekend, this will be the third SEC series loss of the season, matching last year’s season total.
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 6 p.m. with a 1 p.m. start slated for Saturday.