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Ole Miss baseball dismantles Auburn in a perfectly-timed sweep

The Rebs are knocking on the door of the National Seed Clubhouse.

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss had a tough go of it last weekend in Columbia against a red-hot Gamecocks club that is playing for their postseason lives. And after salvaging one on Sunday, all was not lost. They just needed to handle business against Auburn, which they have done so all season long at Swayze, and things would stay on track for regional host, national seed, and top four seed in Hoover.

Handle it they did.

And it’s the third-straight sweep of the Plainsmen in Oxford, dating back to 2014. Y’all remember that one, right?

If you’re keeping score at home then you know that the good guys finished the regular season 28-4(!) at home and won ALL FIVE conference series at The Sway this season.

The No. 6 Rebels improved to 39-13 overall and 16-11 in the Southeastern Conference now that they have practically destroyed the visiting No. 19 Tigers (35-17, 13-14) in games two and three, outscoring them 18-6, after winning a close one on Thursday.

And despite Butch Thompson saving projected No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize for Friday’s game, the Rebels were not phased. Mike Clement’s offense blitzed Mize for six runs (all earned, mind you) on eight hits in just five innings.

That was all she wrote for Mize’s performance in front of 40 or so scouts and a few general managers. Matter of fact, it was Brady Feigl who dazzled in front of the professional visitors at Swayze Field.

Brady Feigl has career day on the biggest stage.

Mize was supposed to be the main attraction Friday night. But Torch was having none of that. While the Rebel offense was running circles around the Detroit Tigers’ newest prospect, Feigl had the Tiger offense chasing their own tails.

Brady tied his longest outing of his career and struck out a career-best 12 in the Rebs’ series-clinching victory. The starting pitching has been suspect the last few weeks but Torch made sure there was zero doubt in game two. He worked both sides of the plate and the depth of his slider was absolutely untouchable.

If this is a sign of things to come, Mike Bianco has to be very pleased. It has long-been thought that Feigl has had the best stuff on the staff for a few years now, he has yet to be it all together. But, he did on Friday against the expected No. 1 overall pick. If Feigl goes eight innings in any form or fashion like he did this weekend in the weekends to come, Ole Miss will be playing meaningful baseball in May and maybe even June.

Is Will Ethridge the key to stabilizing the rotation?

Look, I know it’s just one outing, but Godzilla was incredibly good on Sunday when Ole Miss really needed a sweep. It was another lackluster start for James McArthur who lasted just 1.1 innings. And he hasn’t been able to make it through the 5th inning in four of his last five starts. But no biggie, Ethridge was masterful on the bump in game three. This was just another impressive long relief outing for Will who went 5.2 innings and surrendered only one run against LSU two weeks ago.

Will trotted out of the bullpen and dove headfirst into Saturday’s game, throwing 6.2 innings, allowing just two hits, walking just one, and striking out 10. Godzilla was impressive, running his fastball up there in the low-to-mid 90’s with late life to it and a wipeout slider that had Auburn spinning all day.

Will Mike Bianco move Ethridge to the starting role next weekend against Alabama? Probably not. He is about as “by the book” as it comes. But if Tex continues to struggle and barely make it halfway through a game does he have much of a choice? Ryan Rolison and Brady Feigl were great this weekend so the bullpen was extremely fresh. But, that may not happen every single weekend from here on out. Can Bianco risk that? Or will he shake things up and let Will spin?

Tyler Keenan is the SEC Freshman of the Year. Deal with it.

Tekken has been making his case all season. Whether it’s blasting a big-time oppo taco bomb against top five Arkansas, snagging hot shots down the line at the hot corner, or driving balls into gaps to score runs in huge situations, Tyler Keenan has been outstanding for Ole Miss in 2018.

The North Carolina native is hitting .317 after the weekend with seven home runs, 31 runs batted in, a slugging percentage of .547, an on-base percentage of .409, and an impressive .978 clip in the field. The only guy in the neighborhood of Keenan vying for the SEC FOTY honors is Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad, who is hitting an impressive .351 for the Hogs who are also fighting tooth and nail to maintain their SEC West lead over the Rebs which now sits at just 0.5 a game.

When the game was still in doubt on Saturday, Keenan walked up to the plate staring down Auburn and a tie game. But, that didn’t last long. In fact, it lasted barely five seconds once Keenan connected in the 7th inning.

It’s not very often that you’re compared to Rebel greats like Chris Coghlan (All-SEC Freshman in 2004), Zack Cozart (All-SEC Freshman in 2005), and Zach Miller (Freshman All-America in 2007), but that time is now. Keenan has been a big bat in Clement’s lineup this season and not only has he been a big bopper in opportune times, he has been a pleasant surprise to everyone since arriving in Oxford.

Tyler was the fourth-highest rated commit to arrive in the Velvet Ditch last season, behind Tim Elko, Golston Gillespie, and Jordan Fowler. Naturally, folks expected Tyler to be good, but this quick? I’m not so sure. Nevertheless, he falls in line with the impressive lineage that Bianco has developed over at third base and should be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC for the next few years.